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...No idea where I'm headed in 2016, but I can't wait to get there...

So you've landed here on my iWillNotBonk.com Triathlon Training Blog and you're probably wondering who the hell this Tavis guy is and what iWillNotBonk is all about.

I'm just an average age-grouper / weekend warrior blogging about Ironman Triathlon Training and this complex puzzle of juggling life, having fun and reporting on my various feats of strength and endurance adventures!

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TrainingPeaks Success Story: The Data-Driven Athlete Finds Balance

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Today more than ever we are surrounded by (and virtually drowning in) information, data and metrics in all aspects of our lives. All it takes is a click of a mouse, a flip of the wrist or even a spoken word into a phone and the answers to all of our questions are right there in front of us.

This is particularly true for the triathlete, who tends to be an early adopter of the newest technologies feeding us this information. Functional Threshold Power (FTP), VO2max, Heart Rate (HR), Training Stress Score® TSS®, etc., are all acronyms triathletes, especially the data-driven triathlete, are familiar with. The issue isn’t the need for more information, but rather what to do with all that data.

In my experience as a coach I tend to see three types of athletes. First, there is the Luddite, the individual who knows nothing about data, what it means or how it applies to racing and training.

Next there is the Neophite, the athlete who dabbles in metrics, has a vague understanding of the numbers but not necessarily how to use or apply those numbers.

And finally, there is the Obsessor, the athlete who looks at each and every segment of training and is often obsessed with taking those numbers to an extreme, sometimes to the detriment of their overall training plan or racing goals.

To help you as an athlete better understand data, not only so you can train better but also to have more success in racing, I would like to use one of my athletes, Mark, as a case study. As a Level 2 TrainingPeaks Coach, I have had the pleasure of working closely with the TrainingPeaks staff and their Coach Match program to aid athletes in finding the best coach to suit their goals and level of ability.

Mark and I were matched together through the Coach Match program, and have enjoyed much success as the result of our mutual affection for data-driven training, but also because of my ability to help temper his obsession with raw numbers and instead focus on his training plan as a whole.

In my work with Mark and other data-driven athletes, I have discovered some tips on how to balance your love of data with your overall training program.

Don’t be a slave to data, nor let it control all aspects of training and racing.

Mark was the third type of athlete mentioned above; he obsessed about his numbers. As his coach the first thing I did was take away his data, forcing him to regain the intuitive sense of training.

There was a little hesitancy at first, but after the first week of training by feel Mark said it was one of most enlightening things a coach had done for him. We still recorded the sessions, reviewing afterward, comparing his perceived sense of the session versus the data in order to help him regain that intuitive understanding of performance.

Don’t chase numbers.

It is easy to get caught up in the hoopla of Peak Performances, Strava KOMs or just to brag about your FTP, but if these don’t align with your race goals, you are simply exercising rather than training.

It took quite a while during the beginning of our relationship for Mark to understand this. If you have a good coach with a well thought out and organized plan, the numbers will come, but more importantly you will also be able to achieve the goals you’ve set come race day.

Understand what the numbers mean and how to apply them.

Once you are equipped with a better understanding of how to link your intuitive sense of training to what the numbers reflect, it is time learn what the numbers mean and how to apply them to your training.

As a coach, I do more than simply write the training plan. In my opinion, a coach’s responsibility is to educate the athlete as to the whys and wherefores regarding the numbers and how they integrate into their training.

Mark had a heavy race schedule, which was set up before signing on with me. He also had a lot of stress outside of training. Knowing this, I kept a keen eye on certain numbers, particularly heart rate, both average and max during key sessions.

A trend started to develop where Mark was unable to meet expected heart rates, leading me to believe he was overreaching. We took an unscheduled recovery week, focusing on form, decreasing duration and intensity, then returned back to regular training once he was more able to meet the goals of each session.

Use the numbers to your advantage.

As a data-driven athlete, there are many tools out there to help you perform better on race day. One of those tools is Best Bike Split (BBS). For those who may not know what BBS is, take look at it, as it could be your “secret weapon” on race day, especially for long course athletes.

For Mark, knowing his FTP, his chosen race and a few other metrics, we were able to come up with a predicted necessary output come race day for him to meet his goals. Additionally, I was able to build a file using info from BBS to simulate the course on his trainer. I was able to use this in specificity training sessions during his race build, making him very prepared for the demands of the day.

Don’t be a slave to the numbers; make adjustments when necessary.

Armed with all the info we had garnered during his months of training, race simulations and BBS data, Mark and I felt well prepared for race day. However, as the adage goes, “Best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” we were thrown a wrench in the days leading up to the race.

Race day was going to be extraordinarily hot and humid, not something we planned on for a late October race. So in a pre-race phone call we decided to back off the race-day predicted bike wattage output by 10 watts. While this would cost Mark time on the bike, it would leave more fuel left in the tank come the run.

Well, a happy post-race call is what all coaches dream of, and during ours Mark stated he had the race of his life—that the plan was perfect and he felt strong despite the unusually hot conditions. In fact, he bested all three of his training buddies, even though he was at least 15 years older than they were.

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In conclusion, don’t get lost in the data. Data is exactly that—data. We can use data to become better athletes, but we are not better athletes just because of what those numbers say.

Also, a coach, especially one who knows and understands the data, can be your biggest asset, not only in training but also come race day. And finally, the athlete and the coach have to work as a team to dig into the meaning behind the data and then use it to not only improve training but also race day results.

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

The post TrainingPeaks Success Story: The Data-Driven Athlete Finds Balance appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

Enjoy More Workout Flexibility With the New and Improved Workout Builder

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Since we released the Workout Builder in late 2016, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Coaches are using it to save time by creating customized workouts based on athletes’ individual thresholds, providing athletes with a visualization of what the workout will look like, and assisting in Planning with Training Stress Score. Athletes are using it to train with more structure and see how closely they are hitting their interval targets, thereby helping them achieve noticeable results faster than ever before.

However, one thing we heard was that these workouts worked great in a controlled environment (i.e. a trainer or treadmill), but that once you took them outside more flexibility was needed. We also heard that sometimes workouts had a secondary focus and there was no way to provide that with the current system. Well, we heard you loud and clear and have been diligently working on finding solutions for your structured workout needs. Enter the new and improved Workout Builder.

Intensity Ranges

Anyone who has ever trained with power or pace will tell you that the numbers jump around—a lot! So, it is not a very easy task to try to hold your pace or wattage to a single watt or pace, especially when training outside with varying terrain (hello hills!). With new intensity ranges, you can now prescribe a range of intensity (85 to 95 percent of FTP; 235 to 262 watts) rather than a single target (232 watts), allowing more flexibility in how the workout is executed.

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Cadence Targets

Often times a workout can have a secondary focus such as spin-ups in which you are trying to increase the athlete’s ability to turn the cranks quickly or big gear intervals where the goal is to push a big gear at a relatively low cadence in order to aid in muscle fiber recruitment.

Now you can add a cadence target for running or biking in addition to the intensity target. This will allow you to put a “cap” on the intensity while providing specific instructions on the desired cadence.

NOTE: Exported workouts with cadence targets will only be displayed on certain compatible devices [learn more]

Open Ended Intervals

The real world does not always cooperate with your intended workout. Sometimes you may have to extend a warm up to account for an encountered stop light, chicken crossing, important phone call— or it may take a little longer to get to your favorite hill for those repeats.

With open ended intervals you can now create intervals which will keep running until you hit the “lap” button on the device. This means that you can create a flexible warm up and the first interval will not begin until the lap button is pressed.

You can also create flexible recoveries, such as “full recovery” in which the next interval should not begin until the athlete feels fully recovered. Once they are ready, they can simply hit “lap” to start their next interval.

Or, rather than having a super structured interval set, perhaps you want to prescribe some fartleks in which the athlete starts and ends each interval based on how they are feeling, the terrain, or some other limitation? Now you can do that!

Get Results

There is no disputing that training with structure leads to results, but we understand that sometimes you need flexibility to accommodate the unforeseen, variable terrain or secondary workout  focuses. With the new improved workout builder, you can now build highly effective workouts that are also flexible enough in nature to work in all types of conditions and for all types of workout sessions.

Build your next workout with a free 14-day trial of Premium.

Unlock Premium

The post Enjoy More Workout Flexibility With the New and Improved Workout Builder appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

Pro Triathlete Matt Chrabot’s 6 Tips For Building a Solid Training Foundation

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When it comes to planning your season for a key race in the latter part of the year, one of the key points is longevity. If you can make it to the event without over training or injury due to lack of strength you’re a select few.

The theme for my training throughout the year in general is “strength.” Hill reps on the bike and run, big gear work (low cadence) on the bike, and heavy lifting in the gym. Having access to hilly, rocky terrain is also a great way to develop run strength.

1. Focus on Building Strength in the Pool

I’ll occasionally swim with a band around tied my ankles in the pool after warm up to help increase upper body strength, but not more than a 400 or so. Some coaches and athletes are advocates of swimming extensively with a band, but I prefer to kick a little when I swim.

If anything, I much prefer a Swim Cordz belt with 20 feet of tubing tied to the end of the pool. Once I can’t swim any further, I stop, let the cord pull me back to the wall and repeat. Having access to a Power Tower or Vasa Swim Trainer can be helpful for working on specific swim strength, too.

2. Don’t Shy Away From the Weight Room

One of the staples to my program is making sure I’m lifting heavy in the weight room throughout the season. My key focus is either front squats or back squats, roman deadlifts (RDLs), and deadlifts.

Some athletes prefer to only lift heavy in the early part of the training year, but I typically do this all year round and have been since 2009. In fact, anytime I’ve ended up with a preventable injury the last time I lifted heavy was at least three weeks prior to seeing symptoms, meaning most of my injuries stem from overuse and not lifting weights.

This includes shin splints, tendinitis in my feet/ankles, various hamstring/low back/glute/piriformis issues, a torn calf muscle … the list goes on. Going to the gym to do core work is completely separate and doesn’t substitute lifting heavy, at least in my experience.

3. Take Some Time to Recharge Mid-Season

Secondly, plan on taking a mid-season break. Two and a half to three and a half months before your key event is ideal. It doesn’t have to be a full week off from training, but maybe a throw in a few easy sessions just to stay loose if you’re feeling up to it. I would generally do this after an early summer race because it’s easy to switch to recovery mode without feeling like you are slacking off on your overall season goals and training.

4. Make Recovery a Part of Your Training Routine

Make sure to roll out your legs on a foam roller a few times a week and use either a golf ball or spikey ball on your feet. Getting a massage a few times a month and up to twice a week when training hard is a huge help.

A good massage therapist can also help you identify potential injuries or areas you should be focusing on in the weight room. For example, if they ask if your left glute medius has been bothering you because it isn’t relaxing, that could mean you have some tightness and/or weakness in that area that should be focused on to prevent pain or injury down the line.

5. Take Days Off

Get into a habit of taking a day off once a week, or if you aren’t into taking days off some kind of active recovery like a super easy 60-minute bike ride, 5K easy run, or even a “swim only day.”

If I’m in the middle of a training block and haven’t had a down week in a while, I know to either find a race that fits my schedule so I can have a mini-taper, race, followed by a few easy days. Or I just go ahead and dial it back on the volume and intensity for a week so I don’t run myself into the ground.

6. Include High-Intensity Training Year Round

Lastly, as long course athlete, I’ll continue to include high intensity training (VO2 Max efforts) throughout the season. More so in the first half of the year than during a 12-week IRONMAN block, but I find it to be important. Once under a heavy training load, the trick is not to over do it. A little goes a long way in this regard.

Say what you want about Floyd Landis, but he’s right when he said, “There’s no such thing as over training; you were undertrained to begin with.”

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Behind-the-Scenes at an Early Season Pro Cycling Camp

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The new year is well and truly underway. After spending most of the fall recovering from and reflecting upon the 2017 season, I had some time to begin to plan my training, race program, and begin to set goals for 2018 before heading to camp.

2017 was a year I’m proud of. I’ve found a stable and happy home at UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling that’s provided me the platform for consistent performance. My consistency in Pro Road Tour (PRT) races from March through August netted me the overall PRT title.

My major disappointment from last season stems from not winning any stages or GC titles and that’s where my goals and motivation lay for 2018. With that being said, my training approach and build up remains similar for 2018.

My first key period of the season begins in late April with the Tour of the Gila and continues with Redlands, and hopefully the Amgen Tour of California. I was able to go into training camp fairly relaxed but fresh and motivated to start putting in the hard work to turn those dreams into a reality.

In mid-January I set out for training camp with UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling just outside Medellin, Colombia. “Why Colombia?” A lot of people ask. “Wouldn’t it make more sense for an American team to have training camp in Arizona or California like most other teams?”

Before heading there for camp last year I had similar questions. South America poses international travel, potential traffic hazards while training, and an increased risk for food-related illnesses.

That said, Medellin is the perfect location for training camp for a few reasons. Travel from the U.S. is fairly straightforward, being only three hours from Miami and on the Eastern Standard Time Zone.

Weather is consistent year round and mostly between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Terrain is ideal, with a balance of rolling, flat, and mountainous terrain to choose from. Altitude is also a key factor; our hotel was situated at 7,200 feet with most training occurring between 4,000 and 9,000 feet. With the focus of this camp being primarily aerobic base training the adaptations that occur from doing this at altitude are much greater than at sea level.

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We’re also able to take over an entire family-owned, small hotel and have a team of Colombian women prepare all of our meals for the entire three week camp. There’s a feeling of comfort and homeliness that would be difficult to replicate at a U.S. hotel.

That said, we spend most of our days out on the roads and not in the hotel! Here are some examples of how much mileage and effort goes into an early season training camp like ours:

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When I was getting packed up to head south for a month my girlfriend asked me what I was looking forward to most, to which I responded “Doing nothing.” What I really meant was doing one thing, and doing it to the best of my ability.

That’s really the beauty of a training camp, the total focus on training for a defined period of time. Some people think that professional cyclists train like this all the time but that’s not exactly accurate.Training at home has to be more sustainable.

A pro cyclist needs balance all other aspects of life: family, significant others, pets, and maintaining a social life off the bike. The idea of a training camp is something that athletes of any ability can really take advantage of.

Whether it’s a long weekend or a 10-day vacation to the Alps, the practice of doing an intense, focused block of training that you couldn’t or wouldn’t do normally can have huge benefits. The fact that you know you only have to focus solely on your training for a specific period of time allows you to push harder because you know you’ll have time to rest and recover on the other end of the block.

Routine is an important part of any athletes life. Good routines lead to good habits. which are the cornerstones of consistent training and good recovery. Our routine at camp was pretty dialed. We worked in three day blocks with one day of recovery before the next block.

Our training rides began promptly between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., depending on the intended duration of the ride. The training blocks typically included two standard endurance rides of four to six hours, followed by a specific day where riders could do their own intervals or other focused work.

Here’s an example of a typical long endurance day during camp. To go more in-depth, you can click on this image and get access directly to my power file for this ride:

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Breakfast was typically 90 minutes before training, giving us enough time to digest and let the morning caffeine buzz kick-in. Having a follow car on long rides is a huge benefit, especially when temperatures and humidity are high. The immediate access to bottles, all the Honey Stinger products we could want, and whatever delicious treats the soigneurs whipped up that day makes six hours of riding a lot easier.

Perhaps, the nicest part of training camp life takes place once the training is over. After a quick shower and recovery shake, the team would meet for lunch. I don’t know how our cooks managed it but each afternoon meal included a delicious soup, rice, and varying vegetable and meat option.

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From there it was either time to lapse into a brief carb coma or hop on to the massage table. Afternoons were some of the nicest times at camp. The lack of internet made for ideal reading and hammock-laying time until dinner was served.

Beyond the physical benefits of a training camp, a big part of the reason for a team camp is to spend some time with your teammates off the bike. Almost every night of camp ended with a card game and stories from our Belgian Director Hendrik Redant. There was no shortage of laughter, even as fatigue set in and post-dinner cereal intake increased.

All in all training camp was a great start to 2018, and I think I speak for all my teammates when I say UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team is ready for a great season! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more throughout the 2018 season.

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Early Season Swim Workouts For Improving Race Pace

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Getting back into a decent training routine can be hit or miss this time of year. I tend to feel sluggish and underperforming to randomly having a great session, then back to a state of mediocrity.

In triathlon, or any sport for that matter, consistency is key. But it’s hard to have consistently good workouts when your fitness isn’t where it would normally be once  you’re back in good form.

As I’m bringing my fitness levels back up in the pool, I can’t hold threshold paces very long for 200s or above. When this happens, I simply make some adjustments to my workouts to accommodate for my early season fitness level. These workouts put an emphasis on shorter, higher effort outputs I know I can sustain (however they are not easy by any means!).

My swim workout strategy falls into two approaches: A hard threshold set (20×100 with about 10 seconds rest). During these sets, I ignore the times, and instead focus on a generally hard effort (whatever that looks like on that particular day).

The second type of early season set I do involves keeping the intervals very short alongside a max effort, followed with a long pull set where I make sure to negative split halfway through.  

Here is an example of an early season set with some max efforts but short distances:

40×50 as follows:

16×50, with every 4th fast (10 seconds rest)
12 x 50 with every 3rd fast (15 seconds rest)
8×50 with every other fast (20 seconds rest)
4×50 fast (25-30 seconds rest)

This is quite a common set to do as it focuses on speed and high stroke rate.

The aerobic 50s in between fast bouts could be completely easy or what I would call “slightly faster than warm up pace.”

Within 30 seconds of finishing this set, I like to roll right into a 1,000 pull with a 10-second negative split at halfway. This means if you were to swim a 1,000 and split eight minutes at the 500 mark, shoot for 7:55 to 7:45.

Don’t stop even for a few seconds, just make note of your time on the clock or your watch. Picking the pace up two seconds per 100 could take a lot of effort if the first 500 are swum too quickly.

If I’m short on a time, I’ll do what I call an “express set” which is generally 30 to 40 minutes or less. After a short warm up, do 20×25 all out with 15 seconds rest, every 5th is easy, then right into an 800 with paddles descending by 200 with the last 200 fastest.

A key component to my swim training is following up threshold or VO2 Max work (the main set) with an 800 to 2,000 worth of pulling. Sometimes it’s just a strong 800 followed by easy swimming, other occasions it can be 2×800 faster than IRONMAN 70.3 race effort on the first one, the second is the same or faster.

Compared to running workouts, swimming long and strong after a main set is like adding 10 to 15 minutes at tempo after a run set. Even as fitness levels come back up, I’ll continue to add a straight 800 to 1,000 once a week and a broken 1,600 (4×400) or 2,100 (3×700), with short rest throughout the entire season.

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