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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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Arm Your Athletes With Real-Time Data

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In the mind of the experienced endurance sport athlete, “pain” can be just another way to describe the the sensations which lead to achievement of one’s goals. Throughout this dance with discomfort, the athlete is engaged in an inner dialogue, and the topic of conversation is whether to keep the foot on the throttle and tolerate the discomfort a little bit longer or let off the gas and seek a slightly more comfortable intensity level.

The athlete is constantly collecting a combination of objective and subjective feedback in order to determine the optimal effort. These data may include power, cadence, heart rate, distance to the finish line, elapsed time, rating of perceived exertion (RPE), respiration rate, proximity of fellow athletes, and more. 

All of that feedback has a powerful impact on performance. If an athlete is struggling midway through a hill climb, but feels like the effort is going well, perhaps in the form of encouraging words from a spectator or viewing favorable performance metrics, they are far more likely to continue at a high intensity until the top. On the other hand, without that supporting data, and given that the body’s central governor is constantly sending messages designed to keep the athlete from doing damage to itself, the athlete is far more likely to succumb to the negative sensations and slow down, thereby falling short of a “peak performance.”

Having convenient access to meaningful data in these moments can make the difference between persevering or pulling the plug. As coaches, our job is to provide our athletes with both the right tools and the training guidance to understand what the numbers mean in the moment; having one without the other is almost useless.

We all know athletes who have resisted technology, and instead prefer to go with their gut. Unfortunately, many athletes simply have poorly calibrated perceived effort monitors (PEMs), and need both the technological tools and the coaching in order to improve calibration, and, in turn, their ability to rely on RPE. To help those athletes, I’ve had success with an “art and science” conversation, which lets the athlete know that they don’t have to be slaves to these tools forever, but rather move through alternating art and science phases.  

While novices are often the best candidates when it comes to seeing the value provided by objective data, such as power, heart rate, and speed, sometimes it is the more experienced athlete who could benefit from a periodic “science” phase. This is especially true if they have plateaued or set a uniquely audacious goal this season.

My challenge to you is to explore new ways to incorporate that real-time feedback into the workouts that you are already prescribing. Whether it is with new tools like the Solos Smart Glasses or just encouraging your athletes to consistently make a “system check” during a workout, building a relationship with that data is sure to increase your athletes’ ability to push through the hard times with objective knowledge.

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CoachCast: Brand Building with Jen Rulon

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Endurance coaches have a lot on their plates already. They are physiologists, psychologists, nutritionists, motivators, voices of reason, scheduling experts, and friends. So, how are they supposed to fit “marketer” onto the list, too?

Dave sat down with triathlon coach, social media influencer, and business coach Jen Rulon to find out how she helps other coaches find their voice online while maintaining her own. They discussed how she built her online coaching brand, how she fits marketing tasks into her coaching schedule, and why she is dedicating herself to help other coaches build their businesses.



Jen Rulon CoachingInstagramTwitterFacebookMaster Your Coaching Business course (20 percent discount code: MYCBTP)

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6 Reasons Why Open Water Speed May Not Translate to the Pool

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After writing 9 Reasons Why Pool Speed May Not Translate to Open Water, we heard from a lot of athletes that felt they suffered from the opposite phenomenon. That’s not uncommon, so I set out to make the opposite case and explain why you might be moving more quickly in open water.

As always, before you read too much into this please be sure you are comparing like for like. Are you really faster in open water? Did several of your teammates measure your last course, river, or local lake facility and get an accurate time for “x” kilometer which then proved to be quicker than your best ‘x’ kilometer time trial in the pool? Was there a current which left you with a more flattering result? Was it especially windy that day?

In my experience, I find a that a 100 meter swim in a wetsuit to be approximately ten seconds quicker than in other apparel. I am consistently seven to eight minutes slower over five kilometers when racing in a swimsuit (FINA-approved open water suit, ankles to neck, textile based) compared to a full wetsuit. But, 100 meters of what exactly? Depending on the quality of your turns, a 100 meter pool would be quite different than 25 meter pool.

For the purpose of this article, let’s assume simmers are in a non-wetsuit, open water swim. Saltwater is also a consideration so, in the interest of fairness, we will assume we are swimming in freshwater. Rather than concentrating exclusively on equipment or environment, we will primarily address stroke and mechanics in the article to explain possible discrepancies.

1. Tempo and turns

To be fair, pool-based swim training and racing is a whole lot more than just swimming. For instance, the legal 15 meter underwater kick results in vastly different times depending on the length of the pool. With similar swim speeds, an athlete with great turns will beat the swimmer with average turns in the 25 meter pool, but might not be as competitive in the 50 meter pool.

Turns are a huge part of any pool race. Without a fast turn, pool swimmers just cannot be competitive in a race. If your turns are not great you might benefit from swimming in open water where your swim velocity will remain unchanged. As mentioned, performance in a longer, 100 meter pool may result in a similar pace as open water.

Stroke tempo is also linked to pace and probably the most important aspect of stroke mechanics in open water. For most, open water tempo is higher compared to pool swimming resulting in a faster overall pace. Typically, tempo is higher due to the lack of wall push-offs resulting in fewer opportunities to glide off the wall and rest. Also, in triathlon, swimmers sometimes compensate for the future bike ride by kicking less and shifting more to the arms.

2. Drag and body position

Swimming in saltwater or in a wetsuit will cover up a multitude of sins. In freshwater pool conditions, your tight ankles might point the toes down or your knee might send the lower leg up which both contribute to drag compared to the hip-lifting effect of a wetsuit and extra buoyancy from saltwater. You might feel a similar effect when swimming with with a pull buoy.

Water punishes us severely when for minor issues with streamlining which can be compounded without the help of wetsuits or saltwater. If you do not perfect your technique for the pool, then your pace will suffer. If you improve your technique in the pool, then this will only enhance your open water pace resulting in a win-win for overall performance.

3. Mindset

I feel swimmers are often braver when it comes to open water racing. For some, the physical barrier of a wetsuit protecting you and your body offers a sense of invincibility. Many approach the start line ready to do battle in the throng of open water. The addition of wetsuits might explain why some swim starts get so aggressive.

Even without a wetsuit, many athletes have a different mindset when swimming in the open water. Standing on the starting block about to race a 1,500 meter course in a 50 meter pool is quite daunting. Meanwhile, jumping into the water for the Henley Mile on the River Thames and racing just one length to the mile rather than 30 seems more approachable. I attack that race from the gun much differently compared to the pool event.

At our Saturday morning lake session which has a one kilometer loop, I notice the difference in swimmers’ attitudes. Most of our swimmers who join us for this swim quite happily knock out four laps whereas a four kilometer session in our local 50 meter pool brings a very different response. Try being a little braver when in the pool to increase your pace.

4. Breathing pattern

I breathe every third stroke to the best of my ability in training. I like the rhythm, the balance, and the ability to inspect the surroundings on both sides of the London Aquatic Centre. Bilateral breathing stops my arms from getting lazy and being “thrown back” to the front of the stroke as my head returns from breathing. I also know it contributes to a better technique that will help me swim straighter on race day.

Even though I train with this strategy, on race day I drop to every second stroke to compensate for the extra effort. For many, this change would result in the equivalent of another seven to eight breaths over 25 meters. Your body is receiving a whole lot more oxygen which might contribute to the improved performance in open water compared to pool swims.

5. Drafting

It is possible to benefit from drafting in both open water and pool swims, but unless you are working on pool-based open water skills you are unlikely to be swimming at the hip or right on the feet of the swimmer in your lane during a 6×400 meter main set. If you are, you are unlikely to be making friends.

The benefits of drafting are well documented, and if you do it well in open water you will travel at speeds you would struggle to replicate in the pool. You can be towed at faster paces and maintain a lower heart rate at your usual pace. Either way, your pace will be faster.

There is a towing effect in the pool when behind someone with about a five second gap (usual protocol), but not nearly as much. I can recall sitting at third or fourth in the lane and coasting to times I would be working hard at when leading. Always be careful what and how you are comparing your performances.

6. Adrenaline

At my first IRONMAN event in Lake Placid 2003, the National Anthem played as the mist cleared and 2,000 people treaded water in anticipation of the day ahead. The hair stood on the back of my neck and the butterflies were churning in my stomach. It was a spellbinding moment. When the race started, I was shocked at the pace. It made no sense to be working so hard so soon in the day, but for the first kilometer I was amazed at how aggressive and how fast the start was.

Did it last? No. Things calmed down, but not until much later. Unless you are being cheered by a packed gallery before you start your next pool-based time trial, it is going to be hard to get that excited about a swim.

If you are faster in open water compared to the pool, it is not the end of the world. You should be faster on race day in an open water environment because that is probably what you have trained for. Your highly-tuned skills should come together to deliver you your best performance. All aspects of technique, drafting, the possible addition of a wetsuit, the adrenaline, and your finely-honed sighting techniques should leave you swimming at your highest pace. There is, after all, a reason why most world records are set during races.

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Should You Be Evaluating Your Cyclists Using Critical Periods?

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In cycling and triathlon, the discussion is often about Functional Threshold Power (FTP). But, what does FTP actually mean for a cyclist and is a “high” FTP enough to win a cycling race?

In this article, we will dive a little deeper into why FTP is not the end-all for cyclists. Alternatively, you should train to perform well during the critical time periods that are decisive in cycling races.

Functional Threshold Power

Simply put, FTP is the highest average power that a rider can maintain during 40 to 60 minutes. FTP is a measure for “sustainable power” or the ability to produce that amount of power for the designated period, and is a good predictor for performance in a long time trial.

FTP is synonym for anaerobic threshold which is the highest intensity the cyclist can maintain in a steady state in anaerobic glycolysis and aerobic glycolysis. Above this threshold, the ability to use the produced lactate as an energy source is not sufficient.

Advantages and Disadvantages of FTP

One of the most important training principles to learn for any new coach is that athletes get better at the activity they train, also known as the principle of specificity. In addition, it is known that if you train more, it will become more difficult to increase performance with the same training stimulus.

FTP is important because it not only reveals current endurance power, but also allows coaches to build effective power zones. These different intensity zones can help a cyclist train different energy systems like aerobic glycolysis and fat oxidation, aerobic power, anaerobic power, and neuromuscular power.

FTP, however, says little about how well you can sprint and whether you can close the gap quickly to the leading group. It is therefore not wise to only focus on improving your FTP as a cyclist.

Critical Periods

So, if FTP isn’t always the best predictor of performance, what should coaches use in addition?

Cycling is distinguished from other sports by the fact that you can benefit greatly from the hard work of others. At high speeds, air resistance is the biggest barrier to overcome, and that a rider “out of the wind” can maintain the same speed with less energy.

Bert Blocken from the Technical University Eindhoven recently demonstrated that the air resistance rider experiences in a big peloton may decrease 5 to 10 percent compared to the air resistance of a solo rider. This means that if a peloton rides at a speed of 54 kph, a rider in the middle of the back of the peloton only encounters air resistance equivalent to 12 kph!

Since riders are able to use the benefits of the peloton strategically to their advantage, races are often decided in the final minutes during “critical periods” as riders increase speed at high intensity. For example, a critical period could be defined as the moment a rider attempts to close a gap, accelerate away from a group, stay in front of the leading group, or participate in an explosive final sprint.

This is why it is very important to save your energy in cycling. A race can be won by riding in the slipstream, having a lower overall FTP than other cyclists around you, and excelling in critical periods.


Critical periods are race-specific. This means that the intensity and duration of critical periods are different depending on the type of race and type of course. For example, there are even situations where variables such as wind on the course will determine when a critical period occurs.

We can divide the critical periods, on the basis of specific competition situations and the energy systems used, into three periods: short-, medium-, and long-critical periods.

Short-Critical Periods

These critical periods last between five seconds to one minute. Performing well during in short-critical periods is often the difference between winning and losing. Training for these periods is becoming even more important as about one-third of the stages in the Tour de France, Giro D’Italia, and Vuelta a España are now designed for sprinters.

Medium-Critical Periods

These periods last between one and ten minutes, and are often decisive in road races. Most commonly, a medium-critical period lasts four to five minutes. You might see medium-critical periods in situations like the climb of the Paterberg in the Tour of Flanders (about one minute), Carrefour de L’Arbre in Paris-Roubaix (about three minutes), or Côte de la Redoute in Liège-Bastogne-Liège (about five minutes).

Long-Critical Periods

These efforts are longer than ten minutes and may last up to one hour. The average power over an hour is rarely decisive in a race. Exceptions include long time trials or long climbs; however, performances at long-critical periods are important parameters. First, a high FTP indicates that athletes can recover better from intensive efforts. In addition, pacing in the race conditions is often already very high before the final starts and the critical periods are coming. To keep up with this intensity athletes need a strong aerobic engine, otherwise you will not make it to the front of the peloton or lead group when the final surge begins.

Building Your Power Speed Profile

Knowing races are often decided during critical periods, it is important to identify which critical periods are strong or weak for you athletes. You might already have a good idea whether you are a sprinter, time-trialer, or climber, but how do these qualities relate to each other and how much do you need to improve to get to the top of your category? To answer these questions, Marco van Bon and Guido Vroemen developed a simple test that gives you direct insight into your sprint, climbing, and time trial abilities.

Take the Power Speed Profile test.

Performance Index (PI)

After you fill in the required information, the Power Speed Profile will produce a Performance Index (PI) for each critical period discussed above. The PI is calculated using power values in the Power Speed Profile test compared to the power needed for a world-class cyclist to maintain the same speed. Speed is calculated using the power of the cyclist and the length and weight of the cyclist in order to find the cyclist’s drag area or CdA.

PI Index

In the table, you can see how well you may perform compared to world class cyclist.

How To Use Your Power Speed Profile

The Power Speed Profile test will calculate an athlete’s strengths and weaknesses, and areas of talent should be easy to spot. For example, Figure 1 shows the profile of a very explosive sprinter with some weaknesses during longer periods. This sprinter excels mainly at lengths of 5 and 15 seconds. Alternatively, in Figure 2, you can see that the cyclist is also strong sprinting for longer durations around the 30-second value.

TrainingPeaks University

Interested in WKO4?

Use the Power Duration Model in WKO4 to explore similar performance patterns in your athletes’ abilities.

After your initial analysis, you should be able to plan your athletes’ training to based on the information in order to develop specific talents. For example, the athlete in Figure 1 may want to improve their performance in longer critical periods while maintaining their explosiveness in short critical periods. The values ranging from four to 60 minutes are also important for a sprinter because they will need to maintain contact with the peloton to reach the final important moments of the race. Concentrating on specific, longer critical periods during training could push the rider’s Power Speed Profile to look more like Figure 2, resulting in a more well-rounded and competitive athlete.

Figure 1

Very explosive sprinter (length: 1 meter 76; Weight: 73 kg)

Figure 2

Sprinter with good anaerobic lactic power (length: 1 meter 76; Weight: 73 kg)

One important note is that the Power Speed Profile should not be used to identify talent. After all, any test is strongly influenced by how much a rider has trained and recovered. Moreover, you do not know how a cyclist will develop in the future. A better application of the Power Speed Profile test is to measure training progression and evaluate the effectiveness of your training.

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How to Build Zone-Based Workouts in the Off-Season

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As coaches and athletes continue to work through the base building season, it’s time to refine your game plan and decide what to focus on. Intensity is important during base-building periods, but how often and how intense are always a question.

Let’s start with the basics. Base training is meant to build aerobic endurance and longer efforts on the bike are needed to achieve that. Length depends on the training zone you’re working in. In this article, we will take a look at each training zone, discuss how to get the most out of each zone in terms of duration, and learn more about how you might combine zones within a workout.

During the base season, sub-maximal efforts should be the main focus. Heart rate and power are both great tools to make sure you’re getting the most out of your workouts. I recommend using Joe Friel’s heart rate zones and Andy Coggan’s power zones for reference. Keep in mind that there are thousands of ways to combine these zones to create a workout. For this article,/ we will focus on intensity and how long your athletes can sustain that intensity so that you can build better workouts for your athletes.

Breaking Down the Zones
Zone 1

Zone 1 is essentially recovery. As your athletes work toward the upper end of zone one, they should begin to feel some effort, but for the purpose of this article we discuss Zone 1 only as a recovery zone.

When the aerobic system is pushed to the limit, Zone 1 spinning is necessary for recovery. Entire days can be dedicated to zone one. These days are great recovery days after a hard race or within a recovery week. It is fairly easy to maintain both power and heart rate for these efforts.

Zone 2

Zone 2 training plays an important role throughout the base season. These days allow you to break up your week with easier, steady efforts that are not too effortless. Meaning, a steady spin in Zone 2 for several hours or more will allow some recovery from your harder workout days but still provide some training stress to promote aerobic gains.

You should be able to sustain a Zone 2 effort for hours. These days are great for building capillary density to increasing the amount of fat you burn for energy. Spacing harder Zone 4 or 5 efforts with a Zone 2 spin is a great endurance builder. This again allows some recovery but not full recovery, helping to build that aerobic engine.

It’s very achievable to work with both heart rate and power in this zone, unless greater fatigue is present. If either power or heart rate is low and perceived exertion is high, that is a good sign to back off and go easier for the day.

Zone 3

A Zone 3 effort with both heart rate and power is a place where you can really test your form for the day. Achieving both heart rate and power goals or reaching high power while keeping heart rate in check, means you’re having a good day. This is often called a sweet spot for building your aerobic engine.

You can build greater aerobic power here from working efforts ranging from five to ten minutes and up to over 30 minutes. Spacing these efforts with Zone 2 spins will provide a great base-building day.

Perceived exertion may vary when in Zone 3 depending on the level of fatigue, but as long as you can achieve the desired power and heart rate then it is all systems go. Additions to these days can be powerful 30 to 60 second Zone 5 or 6 efforts before or after the Zone 3 effort.

Zone 4

Zone 4 efforts are ideal for long climbs, group rides, and low cadence force work. These efforts, especially in the lower end of the zone, can be sustained up to 15-minute periods or longer depending on level of fitness and fatigue. Race days contain a lot of these efforts so it is a good idea to work these into the build periods.

When you combine Zone 4 with other zones and have base building in mind, keep the Zone 5 efforts short, limiting them to just minutes in length. This reduces muscle fatigue and allows you to work longer and more powerful in Zone 4 and 3 efforts.

When working Zone 4 efforts, you will start to see a greater disconnect between heart rate and power at times, especially at the top end of this zone. If aerobically fatigued, heart rate will lag even if you can reach the zone with power immediately. If fresh, heart rate may drift higher into Zone 5 while in Zone 4 with power. For this reason, it’s good to use all three main sources of feedback: power, heart rate, and perceived effort. A good rule of thumb is to gauge zones by at least two of the three sources of feedback.

Zone 5

For the base season, Zones 5 and above efforts should be incorporated into training, but sparingly. This is where power becomes the most precise tool to gauge the effort. The best use for these ranges during the base period is with short efforts up to several minutes in length, combined with Zones 3 and 4.

Focus on longer Zone 2 and 3 spin efforts for your hard workouts early in the base season. As you progress into build periods, work more Zone 4 and 5 efforts, incorporating force work and sprints.

Keeping your focus on aerobic power gains through the base season will set you up with a system ready to handle the high intensities of race day.

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