Sunday, December 08, 2013

Performance


If you want to improve, shut out the noise. This was Brett Sutton's most important messages to his athletes. As great as social media is - as great as all the different articles are - most of the time they will take away from the belief in what you are doing and therefore your results will be compromised. I see it a lot amongst athletes who don't surround themselves with others/things that support their journey.

Some things to help you:

- Be selective about who you follow on social media. Personally I don't follow very many outside of family, friends and athletes I train with or coach. This keeps me focused, motivated and engaged.

- Surround yourself with individuals who support your path and who don't pull you away from it.

- Write out your goals/objectives and post them somewhere. Preferably a place where you can see them often. BE CLEAR.

- Pay attention to things that add to your performance, as well as things that take away from it.

- There has been a massive influx of articles, technology and data in the last few years. However, take a look at the results out there and you will find that they haven't improved THAT much. This bodes the question, what is important when it comes to improvement? Perhaps it's more about what the individual needs and less about 60sec versus 75sec rest, a VI of 1.01 or 1.03 or the latest shoe or bearings that have been released.

- Take care of the details... eat, sleep and focus on making choices that enhance your recovery.

- Mind over matter. Remember that the mind gives out before the body. It's a protective mechanism that's built in. We will convince ourselves we can't go any longer, when the reality is we have much more in us. Remember this next time you start to think about taking your foot off the accelerator.

- Acceptance. Remember that you will have workouts, days and weeks where you aren't at your best. Expect and accept this. Don't get frustrated, take care of the details and know the body will come around.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

That's a wrap!

2013 is coming to a close and it's that time when I reflect on the last year. Even with mixed results, this year was largely deemed a success. Most notably I overcame some hurdles regarding execution at destination races, as well as making some large gains in the run department. Both of these are important and are ultimately what is required to win an Ironman title.

Here is how the season played out:


Finding The Legs

I started the year off with a PR 20km in 68minutes within a pretty large training block. This was something that I felt good about considering I had been in the 70min range for years. This, however, is still a full 10minutes slower than the best guys in the world...perspective is always good, right?!?!

A PR in Brazil

Next up was an Ironman PR of 8:38 down at Ironman Brasil. Though the placement was not my highest, I was happy with the result. I had a good swim in 48min, rode a very respectable 4:38 with a strong group of riders and though my run wasn't great, I came away with a paycheck. Check the box of being able to execute in a country I have never been to.

Summer Slump

My mid-season racing didn't go as well...AT ALL. Infact it barely existed. I had a few cancelled races due to being over committed and fatigued. I ended up racing at Muncie 70.3, which I probably shouldn't even have mentioned, except I DID make the front group, just a few seconds off the lead. Sometimes it's about the little things.

Hanging In There For The Hometown

Ironman Wisconsin was about like the weather that day; overcast, cool and windy! I felt strong but lacked the speed and snap that I needed. I was on a treadmill that was going slightly slower than I needed. What I did feel good about was that I was able to keep my head in the game to run the fastest split of the day in 2:56 and keep my male crown in the Badger/Gopher Ironwar that Devon Palmer and Thomas Gerlach love to participate in so much. I usually don't hype it up too much, but I do have an undefeated 2-0 record here in Madison and it feels good! Nothing like a little wood on the fire, right boys?!

Bigger picture, I finished just a few minutes off the podium and with a good swim/bike, I'll be right there to contend for the win in 2014.

Fried For Florida

Any time you put a lot of energy into one race, you need strongly consider a break afterward...or a nap, or something! That's been my experience anyway. This year I did not take heed to that thought and as a result found myself lacking the focus needed to execute, I simply needed a break after September and my race could be chalked up to a vacation on the beach with a long swim, bike and run mixed in.


So that's how 2013 played out for me. A lot accomplished and a lot more desired. I want to give a huge thanks to all of those who have supported me throughout the 2013 season including; friends/family, coach Cliff English, Trek Bicycles and Trek Store Madison, Blue Seventy Wetsuits, Peak Performance Massage and PowerBar.

Since the end of the season I have taken what could be viewed as a 4+ week break from training with only about 20hrs of easy exercise mixed in. I still have not planned out 2014, but as soon as I decide on what direction I am going, I will post a schedule, a list of new sponsors and some more details.


I hope everyone is having a great Holiday season.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The 2013 Edition of Ironman Wisconsin

2013 IRONMAN WISCONSIN 
8:58:53 - 6th Overall

56:43 - 5:00:07 - 2:56:18*
*Fastest Overall Marathon



I really can't believe that this was the 12th year that I have raced Ironman Wisconsin. I thought about it in the water before the cannon sounded; some of the first races I did here felt like they were yesterday. Each year proves to be a time when I learn something else that I can apply to future races, with this year being no exception.

Training leading into the race had been good for the most part. I got sick 5 weeks out with cold/flu and it knocked me down pretty good. Training started back terribly, but each week since that time had gotten better and I was confident that the silver lining would be a perfectly timed fitness peak on race day. I thought I could be in the swim pack like I had doing all year, ride slightly better than the past and run a low-mid 2:50's marathon. With some luck, this would be my year to win...sounds simple right?!

Race day rolled around and somehow we sandwiched a cloudy and windy 70* day between two hot and humid 90*+ days. This didn't bode especially well for me, since I tend to like the heat and knew it would have helped knock the uber bikers down a bit. 

The swim was probably the toughest of all Ironman Wisconsin races I have done, it could generally be classified as a 76* washing machine. The cannon sounded and I got dropped....by everyone really. I was a bit flat and just stuck to trying to stay relaxed. At the first turn I found myself in the second pack and though I started to feel better, I didn't feel great enough to break away just yet. Once we got to the halfway point of the swim, I started to find my stroke and that in combination with my sleeveless Blue Seventy Helix allowed me to go off the front. I caught 4 more swimmers on the backside and then assessed once I caught the last 2 that I thought were within reach. I knew that we were about 4minutes down on the front and I decided that was fine, so enjoyed the draft in.

I actually used the wetsuit strippers this year and had the fastest first transition of the race in 3:45 to get to my bike only 3:30 down on the front. I got on the bike only to look down and realize I had clipped my shoes into the wrong pedals. My first thought was "SHIT!" My second thought was "How do I fix this without anyone seeing me?" So on the first loop around the helix, I stopped, got off, took my shoes off and put them on my feet, then continued on. This all only took 15-30seconds, but I had a good laugh.

Once onto the bike and out of town, Thomas Gerlach pulled around and asked if I wanted to ride up to the next guy who was just up the road. I agreed and he stepped on the gas, the only problem was that I didn't have any gas. I felt ok, I just didn't have my usual legs. I let him go and focused inward asking myself what the best thing I could do was. I decided to go on a combination of experience, feel and watts. I rode what I thought I could maintain and still run well.  This was tough, because I was losing a lot of time, but I knew it was the best option.

Once at mile 60, the legs started to feel a bit better, especially on the hills, but I still didn't feel comfortable getting too aggressive here; my watts were still low and knew that we'd have a headwind to finish. I kept telling myself that I just wanted to be as even as I could on the bike and could make up time on the marathon. I continued on without too much excitement and finished the bike in 4:59...ok 5:00:07 thanks to my shoe.

I got off the bike and my experience told me that even at 20+minutes down from the front, a good run would move me up into the top 8 or maybe even top 5. I felt very average, but hung onto the slow end of my pace range. I just ticked the miles off and waited to see what would happen. I got to the halfway turnaround at just over 7hrs 30min and was still back in 9th place. About this time, the legs came around like they did on the bike and like the arms did in the water and my PE lined up a bit better with my pace.

I got a split to the last paycheck (6th) at mile 16 and knew I could get there if I maintained pace, maybe even 5th if I pushed. I elected to maintain, so I held back...you never know when the wheels are going to fall off. A few miles later, the gap was coming down, but I had to pick it up a bit to ensure a catch. I pushed at about mile 20 and it was nice to see the pace coming down. 6:30's were pretty much what I was clicking off with a little slowing in aid stations. I caught 7th a few miles later and with a mile left I made a successful charge to pass 6th. "My effort would be rewarded with dollars, yes!"

I ended with the fastest marathon of the day at 2:56, which is solid for this course. I am still learning how hard I can push while staying strong to the end, but a sub 20minute last 5k tells me that perhaps I can push a bit earlier and a bit harder.

Though I ended the day a long way from where I wanted, I can say it was most controlled Ironman I have raced to date and I got the most out of what I thought I could do on the day.

Thank you to everyone who supported me into this one; my great team of athletes who I coach, you have turned into my passion over the last few years, my family for religiously watching this race every year, my friends outside of the sport who somehow understand what I do and my sponsors for helping me get the most out of my training and racing (Trek Bicycles and the Trek Stores of Madison, PowerBar, Blue Seventy and Peak Performance Massage).

Congratulations to everyone who raced, thank you to all the volunteers, Ryan Richards for putting on a great event and the Madison Area Sports Commission for helping keep Ironman in Madison through 2018!

The rest of the year is still up in the air, so stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What's YOUR Plan?



Many athletes are great about planning their day/week/month/season, but what about planning their off season? ... or maybe next season?


POST "A" RACE PLANNING:

Most individuals find that without planning, things do not happen. This is most likely due to how busy our lives are. While it's great to have some unstructured time post "A" race, it's important to only let that period last 2-3 weeks and to have a plan for what lays ahead after that time is up.

Here is what I recommend, assuming you don't have anything else on your calendar.

- 2 weeks off of training. Yes OFF. You can exercise if you WANT to, but in my experience the athletes who skip this, end up regretting it 6 weeks later. YOU NEED A BREAK.

- 2 weeks of exercise. This is unstructured, but a good plan of attack is to shoot for some endurance exercise on most days, even if for only 30minutes.

- 2 weeks of aerobic re-introduction. A lot of athletes want to get back into intervals and training hard. While the mind might be ready, the body is not. Spend 2 weeks just going through the motions and keep the intensities easy.

After the above 6 weeks, THEN it's a great time to get into your off season goals and focuses.


OFF SEASON PLANNING:

My recommendations for the off season is to focus on your biggest weakness as an athlete. This is the time when you can afford to have a little imbalance within your training plan to improve your weakness.

Take a look back at your races and training sessions; what were you lacking and what do you need to do to improve? I will write on single sport focus later this fall, but this time is a great opportunity to make gains in these areas.

Cross-training and fun. This is a great time to make sure to have some fun. Cyclocross, XC skiing and some destination run races are great motivating factors that can contribute to overall fitness gains.



NEXT SEASON:

Many athletes don't want to think about next season right now, especially if racing an Ironman. However, what if you finish your big race and are faced with registration the next morning. You have to register or you lose the chance. Don't try to sort this out the night after doing a race, have a plan ahead of time and STICK TO IT!

If you are volunteering or spectating, it's equally important to have a plan. It's easy to get wrapped up in an over-enthusiastic friend who is going to race next year. Before you know it, you'll be registered, even if you really didn't want to.



COACHING:

I see it a lot, athletes wanting help for their upcoming races in January, March, June, even August. As a coach, I do the best I can with the time available, but when faced with 12 weeks to prepare an athlete for a race, how much can I actually do? The answer is not much more than race specific training and focus. What about improving weakness or doing an appropriate progression of training? Remember that each season builds on the previous one and that each season is different depending on the athlete, goals and races.

Remember to choose a coach who fits your needs as an athlete. If you are someone who needs and likes communication, make sure your coach is strong in that area. If you want a lot of technical data to look at, choose a coach who provides that. If you are a someone who likes perfect grammar and spelling, then you probably shouldn't choose myself ;)

In all seriousness, remember that you are a team with your coach and it should be easy to work together. It will sometimes it takes a month or so to get in sync, but you should feel like a team after that point.

Do yourself a big favor and give yourself a full year to prepare for next season. Remember that coaching is most effective over the long term.


I hope the above advice helps all of you make your best decisions regarding the off season and 2014!

Have a great week.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Ironman Wisconsin Racing & Training Update

Well, it's been a long time since I have blogged and that is mostly due to being very busy. While I am a Professional Triathlete, I also consider myself a full-time coach, since that is what I spend the majority of my time doing. I tracked the hours for a while and it came out to around 35hrs of coaching per week versus about 20-25hrs of training. If you combine that with recovery, sleep and some fun here and there; it's easy to see why I have let the blog side.


That doesn't matter here, because I am posting an update. The summer has been great!

I raced at Muncie 70.3 in July and accomplished my goal for the day, which was to make the front swim pack. This has left me fairly confident in my ability to do so again, since doing it at both Ironman Brasil in May and at Muncie in July.

Post Muncie, it was all about getting two spastic bengal kitties (Gizmo and Calvin), as well as supporting my athletes at a number of events and races around the state, as well as running a camp for 25 athletes from around the country and Canada. It was by far the largest camp I have run...AND the most fun. With all that fun came a lot of work and I wore myself too thin. At the time I was training quite well, pushing hard and ended up getting sick a few days post camp (beginning of August).

Saturday Swim Start - Ironman Camp
While I thought it would be a quick turnaround on the sickness, it was not in the cards and a cough lingered for weeks. Despite the sickness I only missed a few days of training, but did have to go slightly easier on a number of key sessions. What I have found out is that this has not been a bad thing for the most part. I typically push a bit too hard in training and therefore have had trouble absorbing the work. So there lays the silver lining.

We are now 13 days out from Ironman Wisconsin and things have come full circle and fitness timing for this races feels near perfect. Here are the highlights as we get ready to race in 2 weeks.

- I have been running A LOT.  Most of this stems from the fact that I believe in most Ironman races you bike for show and run for dough. Most "on" weeks have hovered at 65-80 miles, with much of it being quality. I have had some combo's of 45miles in 3 days and 30miles in 2 days, all averaging out to just faster than Ironman pace. This is a nice step up from last year.

- On the cycling side I have had a few longer quality rides and a shorter hard ride each week, with volume right at about 15hrs. This last week I hit what would have been just under 6w/kg for 5minutes on the last one of my vo2 intervals which has shown me that the bike fitness is also here.

- Lastly, I am entering this race 8lbs lighter than last year. While weight loss can sometimes be unhealthy if done too quickly, this has been a gradual process and I am strong.


Like everyone who races, I can't control what anyone else brings on the day. The start list on the men's side is impressive to say the least and if some of the guys are "on," they could have a day like Ben Hoffman did last year. However, I am also at my best and ready to lay down a race on my home turf (I literally live ON the bike course) that will be very difficult to beat. If it happens, then hats off to those who do it.

Thank you to everyone who has gotten me ready to rock and roll for this race including the Trek Stores of Madison, Blue Seventy and PowerBar. I also want to thank all of my athletes who have been as much of a support to me, as I have been to them.

I am looking forward to seeing all of you out there whether you are racing, cheering or volunteering!

+++

On the coaching side, I am proud to say that everyone who embarked on the Ironman Wisconsin journey and has wanted to race, has made it to the start line ready to give 100% on the day. As a coach, this is always a something to be proud of. You are all ready to have one of the best days of your life out there, so enjoy every minute of it.

Some of the BBMC Ironman Crew

BBMC Pardeviller's 

Wednesday Night Hill Repeats


I likely won't blog again before the race, so thanks for reading. I hope everyone is having a great end to their summer.

I'll leave you with one last picture of the new additions to the house. Note that this is one of their calm moments which don't seem to exist much any more!



The Bengal Brothers - Gizmo (white) & Calvin

Monday, July 15, 2013

Attention Ironman Athletes


IRONMAN ATHLETES:

This is the time of the year when you start to see that others are riding 947 miles on saturday and sunday, as well as running 650 miles on monday after swimming 6 miles.

OK, well that was inflated, dramatic and likely untrue, but it will work for this blog.

My point is that everywhere you look, IM FB page, friends, lane partners, riding buddies, etc. you will probably hear someone brag about the training they did over the past day, weekend, month, etc. People love to do epic things and then tell you about it. This is likely because they are proud of what they have done and sometimes to seek affirmation from others that what they are doing is either more than everyone else, or impressive to everyone else.

Despite the insecurity you may feel when you hear someone say when they have done xyz, you need to let those words go in one ear and out the other. Remember that you have your plan and your that plan was created with your best race in mind. What other athletes do has no bearing on your race, your fitness and your training.

My best advice. When you are training, don't pay attention to it; unfollow those who simply post numbers, workouts and their training logs. Don't visit FB pages for races, don't visit forums and if you feel insecure about what you are doing, consult your coach.

Lastly, unless this is your first Ironman, remember that it's not always about MORE. The distance is not  your limiter any more. If you push the distance and time further than you can recover from when you also have pretty hard interval sessions within your week, you may just fall into the category headed by my favorite quote:

"Train slow and you will race slow."

There is a place for slower workouts, but remember that your body does what you train it to do.


Remember: Believe in your plan, your coach and your approach.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The 3 P's of Coaching & Becoming A Better Triathlon Coach

I thought I would write a blog geared towards other coaches out there.

I have coached for 11 years now and the one thing I hear from other coaches as they explore this career path is "I am SO busy! I don't know how to get everything done."

Busy = good! Right? I mean it's better than the alternative of not having enough work. Sometimes though, over worked can lead to burn out, cutting corners and perhaps even not enjoying what you do. This is just like anything in life. So what do you do?

I thought I would break down the blog into two categories. So here you go:

+++++

THE 3 P's OF COACHING

I came up with these 3 P's that I believe that you MUST have in order to be a successful coach.

PASSION - You must be passionate about the sport that you are coaching. The work required typically is more encompassing than a normal 9 to 5 job. If you aren't passionate about it, don't expect your athletes to stay that way.

PATIENCE - I have found a lot of similarities between what I learned by going to school for education and my years coaching triathletes. It's a hard sport for most people, that's one of the reason's they get usually get into it, have patience with everyone you deal with. Questions, learning, improvement...be patient.

PERSISTENCE - You need to support yourself. To be successful in any career, you need this one...BIG TIME. I started out coaching 4 athletes for $50/month. After a few year's it might have been 8 athletes for $100. It takes a long time to get where you are going...keep your head down, have a vision/goals and keep on believing in yourself no matter what any one else thinks.

+++++

BECOMING A BETTER COACH


Here are a few things that will help.


#1 - Set up a schedule for yourself...and STICK TO IT!

This is hard for most people who are self employed. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want. However if you don't watch out, you'll find yourself trying to do a weeks worth of work in 2 or 3 days. I recommend that you write out a schedule that integrates everything that you need to get done relating coaching (in person, writing plans, emails, invoicing, accounting, errands, continuing education, etc), your own training (if you do it) and your personal time.

1a - Over-budget for time because stuff always takes longer.

1b - Plan ahead. The night before, the week before, the month before.

1c - Don't do your own training when you coach, it will only lead to mediocrity at both.

1d - Schedule time to do NOTHING. This is my biggest weakness and it tends to be looked down upon by some, but DO IT!


So how do you decide what to schedule??? ...


#2 - Goals.

Like everything, we need something that we are hoping to accomplish. A certain number of athletes, a certain income level....goals that you can structure your business around. Decide what's important to you, decide what you need to live the way you want and use those goals to help with your planning.


#3 - Consider the cost-benefit for each.

The benefit can be financial, potential athlete recruitment, benefit to athletes or something completely different...your choice. Remember it's NOT always a benefit to yourself that you are looking for.

When I am deciding where I am going to spend my time, I always consider the above. I write down all of my potential obligations/avenues and the pro's and con's, in addition to the time required for each. Then I decide.

2a - There are some things that are non-negotiable that I always have because I feel they are that important. These things get scheduled FIRST.

2b - Next, schedule your down time. Yes that's right. If you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of others.... I think a therapist told me this a long time ago ;) In all seriousness, personal time is next.

2c - Then go down the list and integrate obligations with the most pro's. Make sure to integrate both activities with pro's for yourself and your athletes.

2d - You decide what you want to do. You will likely have to draw a line... I only want to work "x" number of hours. You could work more, but you have to decide what is best for your own situation.


What's Else??? ...


#3 - Maintain a level of professionalism.

Triathlon is a closely knit sport. Everyone typically knows most everyone else in each community and friendships develop. As a coach, there are times that it's important to be a friend, a listener, a life manager, a sport's psychologist and probably a lot of other things...but above all, remember that your job is TO BE A COACH. You are hired to help each athlete accomplish their specific triathlon goals. Make that and keep that priority as #1 at all times.


#4 - Listen & Learn

I learn something from every athlete that I coach. Some coaches are so set in their ways that they often would not be able to see "teaching moments" (a little term from education background) if they existed with a sign right in front of where they were standing. Use your knowledge and apply it to the individual and then adjust based on the response. Lastly, listen and observe...body language, voice inflection and what they are saying.


#5 - Stay in Touch

Do you know what is going on in your athlete's lives?  Make sure you do and check in regularly, even if the athletes are not filling out their training logs. Life is busy and sometimes the time is just not there to sit down post workout and download data or type in how a workout went. A simple email per week or so will suffice nicely in this department.


I could add to this list, but this is a good start and will help you manage your coaching profession a little more enjoyably and easily. It's a great career and one that I am certainly thankful to have chosen.



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Success...


Personally I have had varying degrees of success within the sport of triathlon and have seen the same with athletes in regards to their personal goals. I have spent some time reflecting, reading and thinking about what exactly goes into the best recipe for success.  What I have come up with is below. What you will also see is that they are inter-related and I might go so far to say that if you don't have one of them, it will be difficult to have the others and your chances of success decrease significantly.


- Enjoyment.

You first need to have an high level of enjoyment in what you are doing. Not just in training, but also while racing. If you are not enjoying what you are doing, the chances of you sticking to it are much less, especially when the going gets tough or when you face a set-back. I suggest that you reflect and find what gives YOU enjoyment with the sport and make those "things" a primary focus. Remember that this is different for everyone.


- Setting Goals.

We all need goals in life because it helps give us direction and passion. There has to be a reason why WE do things. Goals can range from race times, to weight loss, to just "x" number of workouts per week. Give this some thought, incorporate what you enjoy and write them down.


- Routine.

Routine is something that helps athletes be better at what they are looking to accomplish, it also helps them make sure that they spend ample time focused on other areas of life when they need to. Creating a routine will help with the following:

* In staying present in whatever you are doing.
* In making sure that your lifestyle is sustainable.
* In being consistent with training on a weekly, monthly and annual level.
* In helping you stay organized and keeping you from feeling overwhelmed.


- Motivation.

Once you find enjoyment, you have goals set for yourself and you have a sustainable routine, you will likely find that the motivation takes care of itself. I see a lot of athletes try to pull motivation from sources other than from within and I can tell you that it doesn't work.  Most athletes need to find intrinsic motivation; no coach, no training partner and no else can provide that for you.


There are many other components to succeeding, but these are some of the important ones that I wanted to share. Happy Training (literally!)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Ironman Brasil Race Report

It's the day after Ironman Brasil and I am quite tired. Yesterday was a good race, not a great race, but it was just what I needed heading into 2013. I definitely learned a few things, solved some problems and gave myself a few things to work on during the year.

The preparation for this race was great. Weekly runs well over 23miles, many rides over 115mi and a few tests here and there, as well as a 20k run race in 1:08 to make sure my top end was in good shape. I had a little set back about two weeks before with a pulled hamstring, but with a little TLC, it healed up quickly. 

The trip down was LONG...almost 24hrs if you include the bus rides. Once here I got settled in the midst of the Brazilian culture. Petr V. Hillary Biscay and Haley Chura were my neighbors and we hung together the majority of the week. I've gotten to know all three of them pretty well and have become friends. I always feel that the destination Ironman races are what really bring people together because there isn't a lot else to focus on besides the race and who is around you.

Race morning dawned and the weather was great. No wind, 63* and pretty clear. I took care of my pre-race work and headed down to the water for a warm-up. I got in about 10-15minutes of easy swimming (mostly in the dark) ending with a few builds.  They then pulled us out of the water about 20minutes before the start so they can line us up.

I was very anxious about this swim because the pro's start in the water standing still and the age groupers (AG's) start on the beach and have a downhill run in behind the pro's. The distance separating the two groups is about 20m. 

The horn sounded and I went out pretty strong, but controlled. I got clear of most of the pro's, besides the few who were off the front. At about the 300m mark, the fast AG's start making their way through.  By about the 500 or 600m mark, they start to fade. As that happened, I picked a group of red caps up ahead and swam up to them. From that point on, I just worked with them, knowing that we were moving, but not exactly sure how fast. As soon as I made it into T1, I knew I was in good company when I saw Amanda Stevens and Keegan Williams.

Once out on the bike I decided to ride strong to the first turn around to see how things were looking. The day before the race, I accidentally stripped out an aerobar bolt and as a result I had to lower my front end a little less than the width of my finger nail. At the time I consulted with a few who thought it would be ok and that I wouldn't notice much of a difference. For the most part, they were right, except I was definitely already at my limit and it showed in the form of some lower power numbers.  The only upside is that I had to be more aerodynamic, right?!?! That's what I told myself anyway.

At the first turn-around, we were 3:55 off the lead with only about 4 or 5 others between us.  Things were looking good.  I rolled along, trading pulls with the eventual 4th place finisher, Mario De Elias. Edwardo Sturla made it up to the group and he went straight to the front per usual. For the next 60km, nothing changed. The 3 of us were at the front 95% of the time and about 5-6 other athletes were mixed in behind us.

At the second turn-around, we were more than 10minutes off the lead and had lost 7minutes in about 30 miles!! There was nothing we could do, but a note to myself for the future is that the leader here in Brazil typically gets a 3 motorcycle escort, preceded by 2 SUV's....bottom line is that to win, you typically need to be THAT athlete.

A few other local rule highlights included the fact that there was essentially no marshaling on the bike; there was a pullout at 120km with 5 race officials chilling out next to a guard rail with the moto's parked. Not sure what that was about. There was also a bit of local support with vehicles handing nutrition to some of the riders in our group. As this all happened I just told myself there was nothing I could do and focused forward.

I definitely had some low points on the bike... first at about 80 miles I slid to the back of the group and almost got dropped heading into the tunnel, then again at mile 92 when I did get dropped on the first of 2 short climbs.  I was the only one in the small chain ring I think. Both times I just kept my head, rode within myself and suffered my way through the low point. Each time after a few miles, I came good again and made my way back up to the front of the group.

At mile 100, the group started to split and I thought that perhaps we could make a break heading into the final few miles. However, my legs had other ideas. I was content right where I was at.  Then just to make sure I was paying attention, a black lab ran across the highway and nearly took me out. After that, I was definitely ready to run.

Once onto the run, I started in 6th and eventually made my way up to 5th. I was feeling confident and controlled that a run of 250-252 was in the cards. This course is a tough one for the first half with several hills that are over 20% grade and though they aren't long, they do bite.  I took it easy through this section and got through it just fine. Coming into the end of big loop (21km), I found a good rhythm and knew the toughest part was behind me. All I had to do was run 2x10km flat loops at 7min per mile and I would just sneak under that 8:30 mark (This was my target for the race).  

As I got to about mile 14, it was starting to get warm and I needed to get some pick me up if I was going to stay on pace. I grabbed special needs and was taking in everything I could at each aid stations...gel, salt, coke and sports drink, all washed down with water.  The pace was hanging on, but just barely... 6:56, 6:55, 6:57.  I reached 27km and could see 3rd and 4th fading fast, but also saw Mario DE had regained his legs and was running quite well, a few km later he came by again and I was back in 6th, 7:02, 7:07, then right at the 30km mark, Petr V came roaring past with a few words of encouragement...I was sliding backwards, but was determined to keep pushing, as I knew I had a PR in the bag.  

Onto the last loop I rolled along without my pain at all in the legs, I just couldn't get myself to run any faster. I passed the last out and back and could see everyone struggling, the only problem was that so was I. The only person close who wasn't hurting, just happened to now be in the 8th spot. 7:35, 7:47, this was not going well. I got to the 41km mark, only to realize that we had more than 1km to run. The course was long due to a last minute change, which meant an extra 4minutes of running for me. As I rounded the last corner, there was nothing I could do but watch 7th slip away as I was passed.

As much as it was hard to watch 7th slip away so close to the finish, it was overridden with a sense of accomplishment that I haven't felt since 2010.  I FINALLY hung tough at an Ironman that wasn't going ideal outside of Wisconsin and came away with a new PR of 8:38. Keep in mind that this has been 11 years in the making. Was it a perfect race, not even close, but was it what I needed? It was exactly what I needed.  I swam well, I didn't fall apart on the bike and I kept my head in the game when I knew things weren't going well. All these things will serve me very well on the day when everything comes together for that great performance!

A huge thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout my years and who has continued to believe in me. Trek Bicycles and the Madison Stores have been high on that list, as well as Peak Performance Massage, as well as my family. They have always supported and never doubted. Also thanks to PowerBar for keeping me stocked.  I need it on days when I go through 30-35 gels, like I did yesterday.

Now it's time for an early season break for a few weeks. The goal is to lose some fitness, gain some weight, focus on a few other things and catch up with friends and family. My next race is TBA, but I won't be racing an Ironman again until September!

Thanks for reading, I appreciate all the support that I receive from each one of you.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Ironman Brasil Update

- IM Brasil Update -


The resting part is almost done and tomorrow I will embark on a tough 8.5hrs +/- of suffering at Ironman Brasil.  At the end of this last year I decided to forgo the usual North American Ironman because...well frankly because I had done most all of them numerous times and they just weren't that exciting for me. It's important to be excited to do whatever you do within your season. Sometimes it's a change in race distance and sometimes it's just the race itself. So I looked around and tried to find an early season race with a similar climate to WI's spring and also one that I would be excited for. What I decided on... IM Brasil (For all you spelling geeks, the country is spelled with a "z" and the race is spelled with a "s," now you can relax).

If you have considered doing a destination Ironman, I highly consider IMBrasil and coming with Ken Glah's Endurance Sports Travel group.  Everything is provided and it makes things much easier in a country where there aren't too many who speak English.  The beaches are amazing, the people are genuinely kind and the excitement is embraced by everyone surrounding the race. I am definitely staying slightly off the beaten path, but it's nice being a part of the local culture in some ways...it adds to the sense of adventure.

The bike and body have made it down in one piece and healthy.  The sleep as been good and all systems are a go for the race tomorrow.  The weather looks pretty ideal on what is a fast course, but with a few challenging sections thrown in.

I am going to keep this short, but here are a few highlights for you.

- Swim is a mass start with Pro and AG.

- Penalties are 10minutes, 2nd penalty is a DQ.

- The event is "carbon free," which means no waste at all.

- There are no gels or bars on the course.

- If you want special needs on the bike, you need to pull off, rack your bike and get your own. You also need to get your own on the run.

- There are only 4 buoys on the swim course. They are 20-25ft tall orange beacon turn buoys.


That's about all from Floripa for now. I hope those of you back in the US are enjoying Memorial Day weekend and in Madison you are having fun at the Madison Half Marathon and Bratfest!

Thanks to everyone for their support, I wouldn't be able to do this without it. You can follow the race starting at 5:00am Central Standard Time over on Ironman.com They should have text updates and an athlete tracker.

Until after the race...

Blake




Thursday, April 11, 2013

2013 Madison Triathlon Season Kickoff Event - PRESENTED BY: PowerBar & Trek

Set aside the evening on Tuesday, April 30th from 6:00pm - 8:00pm at Trek Store Madison West

The 2013 triathlon season is upon us and if you are like most, you still have a lot of planning to do, questions to get answered and maybe even need to decide on which events to enter.  If you need any of the above, or maybe just want to get excited about racing and meet others, this event should not be missed.

OVERVIEW:

Come spend an evening with the folks from PowerBar & Trek while enjoying a beverage, some food and a little music.  Reps from both companies will be on hand to provide samples and answer your questions. There will also be mechanics and a number of other Professionals from the area who will be on hand to provide information on how they might be able to help make this a great season for you.

Professional Triathlete & Coach, Blake Becker will give a few talks on a variety of topics, which are listed below.

The evening will then end with a raffle.

This is a fun and free social event open to the public.  Spread the word and get ready for a great night of fun!



SCHEDULE DETAILS:

Date: Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Time: 6:00pm - 8:00pm

Location: Trek Store Madison West (8108 Mineral Point Road)


Cost: Free

Who: Anyone interested in swimming, cycling, running and triathlon


TOPICS TO BE COVERED:

- TRAINING & RACING NUTRITION - Finding what works for you.

- HOW TO DESIGN YOUR BEST TRAINING PLAN - Volume, key workouts and when to rest.

- PACING YOURSELF - How to use a Power Meter, GPS and HR within your training

*There will also be time for an open Q&A.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ironman 70.3 San Juan Race Report


Every race that I line up at proves to be a learning experience. No matter how many races or years that I compete, there will always be something to take and apply to the next one.  

I was really looking forward to starting off the 2013 season. I have made a lot of progress in many departments. I started my training a bit earlier on and it showed. I went down to Tucson for my annual outing with my coach, Cliff English and trained very very well. I was enjoying the process again and just clicking off my 20hr indoor weeks.  In my experience, 20-22hrs of indoor training is about as effective as anything.  Mentally I was in a very solid place, focused inward, getting rid of negative influences within my life and looking to the only thing I can control...the moment.

Thursday before the race I woke up to a scratch throat and sinus’ that weren’t all that clear. This at least explained my lower than average levels of energy throughout the week. I knew that if I could stay on top of taking care of myself, I may be able to beat it in time before the race. 

Everything went smoothly on my travels and despite feeling poorly, I was still very excited to suffer and race. I met my long time friend JD at the airport, only to find out that he was also sick with a cough...you could pretty much label our room the sick ward.  A funny mention relating to our room was that we only had a bed to share, After learning the hotel was full and just before I was about to make him sleep on the porch, we were able to order an air mattress. It was pretty comical. The nights leading into the race were not ideal, but eventually we got to race.

The race brought out a very strong field and I knew that any paycheck this weekend was going to need a special effort. I felt that there was an outside chance with how well I had been riding, in addition to a new bike position.

Race morning started with my usual 15-20min jog, followed by some relaxation time.  If you haven’t raced in San Juan, one of the great things about the race is that the hotels are directly next to the race site.  So retreating up to your room before you get in the water is done pretty easily.

As soon as it was light, I made it down to the water for as much warm-up as they allowed.  We eventually lined up and I found a spot next to a few guys that I thought would be good company for me. The gun went off and the usual washing machine started up. I held my line and eventually got in a position that felt good. At about the 400m mark I realized that the guy who’s feet I was on got gapped. This is moment where I needed to make a choice, which was clear. The next 300m consisted of a best effort swim to bridge up. Crisis #1 averted.

The next few hundred meters were uneventful and though there was a small group about 10-20sec ahead of ours, I didn’t feel that an effort that late in the swim was worth that time we would have gained.  

T1 was as quick as I could make 500m of running on concrete and bricks.  No glass or nails in the feet, so mission accomplished.

Once onto the bike, my job was to TT for 10-15miles to see what was going on at the first turn.  About 5miles in, I could clearly see that I was gaining on a small group of 5-6 riders ahead of me. I then navigated through some tight corners where I lost sight of them.  What I did see was a police moto take an off ramp from the main road where there looked to be no blockage from cones. I was immediately confused and looked back to see if anyone could help...luckily there was a race support truck that was coming up the road. I flipped around to ask and though I was a bit pissed at myself for not trusting the course I knew to be right in my head, the 30-40sec that I lost, were a lot better than making a wrong decision and losing minutes or more. Crisis #2 sort of averted.

The mishap allowed JD to get up to me. We worked nicely together for about the next 5 -8 miles until I got sight of the group about a minute up the road, along with another group about 90sec ahead of them. It was clear that I needed to be in that first group if I was going to have a shot at making a check.

This was where the new position showed it’s speed. The effort was definitely high, but needed to get up the road as quickly as possible before the gaps got larger. At the first turn around, I was happy to see about 30” on group with JD, Michael Lovato and Pat Evoe. I kept the pedal to the metal and made it up to the group ahead, trying not to pay attention to anything behind me.

“Perfect, now onto the next” I thought. I assessed the situation, then asserted myself to the left and made my way to the front of the group about the time we hit a headwind section of the course.  I pushed and realized that the last 30’ were a bit tiring. I took out a Power Gel before seeking to push again and was repassed while washing it down.  About this time we were were heading into the second turn around when a moto pulled up and gave me a drafting penalty.  “Where?” I asked. “Back there,” I was told.  “Back where? I have been with this group for a mile and was at the front the entire time.”  I was then given an incorrect explanation of the rules before the motorcycle sped off. 

I was quite upset and deflated after this point.  Had my goal been to go as fast as possible on the day, perhaps I could have kept my head in the game, but my goal on the day was to make a check and that wash dashed. After serving my 4’ penalty, the rest of the day was just about finishing what I started, enjoying the tropical race setting and cheering on fellow competitors, which I did without getting penalized!!


In hindsight this race was not a success, but it was in terms of what I can better do in the future to avoid confusion with race officials, as well as some things I want to tweak with my nutrition in warmer race climate. The race itself is amazing, the course is both historical and breath-taking. The race is also backed by a city that embraces the event with open arms.  I definitely plan to be back in 2014.  

Next up for me is hoping that spring shows up in WI sooner, rather than later :), then Ironman Brasil on May 26th.  I have many sources of motivation for this race and am very excited for a new adventure. Thanks for reading and thank you for the support of the Trek Stores of Madison for making sure that I have everything related to triathlon taken care of.  Thank you also to PowerBar for helping to fuel me to be great.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

2013 CEC Pro Camp - That's a wrap!

The last day of camp was a 4.5k swim day that ended with....No, NOT a 1000 or 2000 TT; Cliff was generous and had us do some relays!  My diving was laughable, but somehow we still won.


This year was much different for me at camp.  I trained well throughout camp and felt good about where my fitness is and the timing for upcoming races.  I still have plenty of work to do, but I wouldn't be in the sport if there wasn't, right?!?!

So now it's time to get back into a solo groove....


That would have to wait a day though, today was a bit of a bust on the training front.  I had a lot of other things to get done, plans to write, etc. So I elected to swap Monday's session with today's.  I headed over to Mt. Lemmon for 3hrs of fun on the lower slopes.  Note to self, do NOT ride up Mt. Lemmon on the weekend, a few days after it snows. It was definitely a superhighway of cars going up.

Next up, long run tomorrow.  Followed by a few more solid/big days, before I get 5 days of adaptation, with big rest.

Thanks for following along this year at camp.  I will continue to post periodically.  My schedule may change a little bit, from what many of you are expecting. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

2013 CEC Pro Camp Day 9

Today, as you may have gathered through social media, it was not very "Tucson-y."

However, the training was.


Swim - 5km

Warm-up:

800 choice

3x
2x50kick, fast between the flags on :60
100 easy swim on 1:45

4x through on 2:45
25 build
25 easy
50 build
100 easy 

Mainset:

Graduated to Laurel Wassner and Lauren Goss' lane. Just happy to be swimming with the front group.

12x100 HIM pace on 1:15 (1:05-1:08)

400 easy

8x100 on 1:15 (1:05-1:08, then cracked a bit in the last few)


Longer easy cd


Run - 1:55 - 25km


Pretty good run around Reid Park today. This is a flat 2.85mile loop. 

Warm-up: 
1 loop plus pick-ups and functional work.

Mainset as follows each on 21minutes with some active recovery between.
1 loop HIM pace (5:45's)
1 loop a bit faster than HIM pace (5:30's)
1 loop HIM pace (5:45's)

CD:
1 loop 

Here is the fun in the form of a file for you. Thanks to Cliff English for being out there in full support mode!


Back at it with a long ride on tap for tomorrow.  I hope this amazing weather we're having, breaks!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

2013 CEC Pro Camp Day 7 & 8.

Day 7 - Leg's off!!

Today was a great day off the legs, which were definitely thankful. We did get a good 5k swim, which I followed with some quality time at the coffee shop; first for breakfast with friends and then for some plans and a little wasting time.

Today's swim:

Warm-up:
5x400 mixed :15

Mainset:
3x
- 200 on 2:35

(224/223/221)
(223/219/219)
(217/219/217)

- 200 on 2:50

Easy longer cd after.


Day 8 - Back at it.

Strength swim 4.5k

Warm-up:
600 swim
500 k/swim
400 d/swim

Mainset:
2x
6x50 band on 50 (:33-36)
2x300 pull with pads on 3:45 (3:20/3:17/3:16/3:18)
300 moderate on 4:00

Easy longer cd after.


3.5hr ride up Mount Lemmon.  It's a great climb that lasts about 25miles (the real climb is only 20.5).  You start at 2810' above sea-level and climb all the way up to 8420. Not bad.  The legs were pretty worked from the get go and I almost got dropped at mile 3 of the climb.  Luckily a few power gels  and some refocusing words from Cliff, I got back up with the lead bunch.  The wind was howling today ahead of a big storm.....I was tired and just tried to stay on as long as I could...the legs were says no, but I just kept saying "1 more mile"..."1 more mile."  Eventually I couldn't cover JD and Chris Bagg any more. Both of them were riding very well and I said my goodbyes at mile 18.5 and just conserved while trying to not get blown off the road.

Here is the power file from the climb, not impressive by far, but that's not what it's about...it's about putting in hard work day in and day out and knowing that you will have good ones and not so good ones... You just keep on rolling!


Now just an easy 30' jog before dinner if I can muster up the mojo, then back at it tomorrow!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

2013 CEC Pro Camp Day 6

Long run day in the bank.  JD and I usually run pretty well together. Similar thoughts on pacing, similar ability and it makes for good company.  Total run was just under 25km with a good main set of 3x5km on 4minutes recovery. We had a nice descend throughout from about 6:25 through the first mile to 5:50ish for the last few.  Not too challenging, not too easy, a great way to end the first week.

Here is a TP graph of the main set if you are interested.


The afternoon consists of some easy cycling and swimming, before group dinner.  Then we start things all over again in week 2.


I have noticed that this year I am quite a bit more relaxed, confident in my abilities and pretty centered all around. It could be that I am a year wiser, it could be all of the work I have put into the psychology side of things in the last year, or that I am just a bit more fit.  Whatever the reason, it's very clear to me that I love this sport and am thoroughly enjoying the process and meeting great people. Needless to say I am looking forward to the season ahead.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

2013 CEC Pro Camp Day 5

Today was a bigger volume day for all of us.  I was unsure how the legs would feel after a pretty solid week of training, they had been quite sore on Friday.

Soon enough we were off and it was nice not having to wear 4 layers of clothing to warm-up. The temps were in the 50's and the forecast was for 75* as a high.

The plan for the day was to ride out and climb Madera Canyon.  On windy days like today, it's a challenging ride, so pacing and fueling is very important.

For the first 30miles we rolled a double pace line at a fairly steady pace.; 50w under IM was the goal.  Once we reached 30 miles at the end of Mission Road, we rode through Green Valley and got ready to climb.  It was 13 miles up to the end of the road at about 5500'.  This isn't nearly the top of the mountain (that's about 9500), but it's a honest ascent with a VERY VERY steep last 1-2miles.

To my surprise, the legs felt pretty good and I was able to build nicely throughout the climb.  I am always unsure what power numbers indoors translate into outdoors, so days like these are good.  I knew that I had regularly ridden indoor intervals at HR's of 183-187, so building up to 180-181 on this climb left me feeling pretty good.  CP-30minutes for the climb was 334 watts and CP-20minutes was 340 watts.

Here is the ride file:


After the descent from the climb it was a mix of easy/steady/moderate riding home. Total ride was right at 100mi (need to calibrate my SRM wheel circumference) and just over 5hrs.

Post ride I hit up Wendy's for a Chocolate Frosty and then a massive sandwich. A late afternoon nap was a perfect way to recover. Then an easy 40minute evening run before dinner....which was an awesome pork roast made by my roommate Casey. She used a pressure cooker and had it done in 45minutes (normally takes 4hrs)...Of course, now I am going to have to get one.

Camp is rolling along nicely and I am happy with my fitness at this point of the year. Next up is long run day tomorrow.

Friday, February 15, 2013

2013 CEC Pro Camp Day 4

Today was a welcome day of R&R on the training front.  The afternoon has been great, spent at a U of A coffee shop. With the sun and temps of about 65*, I have no problem working on training plans for 4hrs.

This morning we did have a good swim, followed by a better breakfast. So here are the details...hopefully there aren't too many pic's of my amazing dives, floating around out there.

Warm-up:
800 choice

Transition:
6x25 sprint on :20
200 easy
10x25 from a dive on :45
300 easy

Mainset:
3x
400 on 5:10
300 on 3:50
200 on 2:35
100 on 1:15
50 on :20

Easy longer cool down to 5.5km


Have a great weekend, everyone! Big day coming tomorrow.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

2013 CEC Pro Camp Day 3

Happy Valentine's Day...

Today was a bike/run/nap day for me.  The legs continued to feel pretty good and the new large Speed Concept is performing well.  For the past two seasons I have been on a medium frame and have had some terrible handling issues, mostly while descending over 35mph.  I would get a speed wobble that was uncontrollable.  In the short time I have been on the large, I have had it 40-50mph on a few pretty technical roads and have had zero issues. Good to know and to remember for both myself and athletes I work with.

Back to the day.  Cliff has been fantastic this week and we are all having a great time...from what I can tell.  Everyone has a different focus, background, goals and it makes for a great environment.

Today's set was done out on Sandario Road.  It's a flat road that's about 12 miles long.  Total ride time was 3.5hrs, about 68 miles or so.  Mainset was 30/20/10.  30min at 320, 20minutes at 330 and 10minutes at 340w. All were done on 10minutes recovery.  Warm-up and cd was pretty chill over Gates Pass.

Off the bike was a short run on the track with a few efforts at IM and HIM effort (1:31, 1:25) Nothing long, nothing fast, just getting the legs to feel good.


After training was done, I failed on my mission for Jamba Juice, so went back home, did my recovery thing and hit a massive nap.  After a nice chill evening (minus the Badger loss), I'm ready for a legs off day tomorrow. The plan is for a bigger 5k+ swim and then some quality coffee shop time; partly to work on coaching plans, partly to make sure that the world isn't ending with my athletes and partly to talk some $#*! with a few friends.

Have a great Friday, everyone!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

2013 CEC Pro Camp Day 2

Solid day all around today with temps in the 60's.

Here is a recap....

Swim 90minutes 5500yards

Warm-up:
3x400 easy warm-up w/some kicking and drilling.

Mainset:
3x4x50 draft practice alternating formation w/3 others on :45
3x400 drafting practice w/3 others on 5:15
300 easy

10x100 best average on 1:20.  Didn't have my best day here, but still held 65-69.

Longer easy cd after.


Bike to and from the track. 75 minutes

Run at the track. 90min 18km

Longer warm-up, then into the following.  Nice descend from 5:20-4:40/mile pace.

2x
1600 on 7:30
1200 on 6:00
800 on 4:30
400 on 3:00


So far so good. Day 3 ahead, along with some warmer temps!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

2013 CEC PRO Camp Day 1

Today was a first good day of camp, though it SNOWED here in Tucson and the surrounding areas.  As a result, Mt. Lemmon was closed, so we improvised today. Here's a recap.

75minute swim. 4500 total

600 choice swim
400 as 25drill/75swim
600 as 150free/50choice

4x25 band on :30
200 ez
4x50 band on :60
200 ez

4x400 pull with pads moderate on 5:00

600 choice cd


Then onto the bike for 3:20 through beautiful Saguaro National Park. 5 loops through the park with a solid climb on each loop. As you can see, the ride got a bit hot during the last two times through.



Easy 15' run off the bike to wrap up the day.  

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Will Cross-Training Benefit Your Triathlon Performance?

When looking at what makes a successful athlete in any sport, there is more than single sport training that goes into maximizing potential.  But how much more is the question, what should we do and how does it apply to triathlon?
 
 
First, let's look at single sport athletes. Take just about any sport and look at the top athletes.  Then look into their training programs.  Typically you will find that the MAJORITY of the work is done in their primary sport.  Then the athlete usually spends a much smaller amount of time doing exercises that compliment their sport.  Benefits may help build cardiovascular fitness, improve power, agility, mental acuity and speed.  
 
Examples - Think running for boxers, plyometrics for runners and agility training for football or hockey players.
 
But what about triathlon?  
 
That statement usually gets a few laughs because most single sport athletes would look at a sport with three disciplines and ask why an athlete would want to add any MORE variety. But assuming we do, here are some thoughts for some of the following questions.
 
 
QUESTION 1 - Does any one of the three disciplines in triathlon (swimming, biking and running) help me become better in another?  
 
ANSWER - Generally not.  There is a small cross-over from an increase in bike training to improved running. However, running does not help cycling, neither helps swimming and swimming doesn't help either one of those.
 
There is generally one exception and that is the new athlete. When athletes first get into endurance athletics, general aerobic conditioning will give them small gains across the board, regardless of where the training is being done. This is usually because the individual is coming from doing almost nothing, to something.
 
 
+++
 
QUESTION 2 - Does cross-training (outside of swimming, biking and running) help triathlon performance? If so, what are the best cross-training methods to implement into the training?
 
ANSWER - That answer is: it depends.  There is an improvement in performance for some work done in a sport specific manner, assuming the athlete is still swim, bike and run training. 

Here is a short list with exercises and benefits.
 
EXERCISES:
 
- Functional core strength. This helps limit breakdown of form, improves flexibility, which can improve economy.
 
- Plyometrics. The easiest way to understand this is think about this giving us more returned energy from our foot strike.  This also improves motor skills, agility, power and economy.
 
- XC skiing and snowshoe running. This is a great way to improve general cardiovascular fitness, increase strength within your running and maintain core strength.  XC skiing tends to help cycling and snowshoe running tends to help running. This doesn't mean you cut out biking and running, it just means that it can complements them well.
 
BENEFITS:
 
- Outside of the benefits from the exercises listed above, cross-training can improve:
 
- Agility
- Handling of the bike
- Mental acuity
- Motivation
 
 
FINAL THOUGHTS - 
 
Consistency and motivation are huge keys to success in endurance athletics and there is a lot of success to be had by integrating them appropriately within an athlete's year. 

Generally speaking, athletes who are cross-training should not take their focus away from swimming, biking and running. By doing so, the fitness lost will outweigh any benefit made.
 
Keep in mind that the above is geared toward the performance oriented athlete.  If you are a social butterfly type of athlete, then by all means, pay attention to that and cross-train with the seasons, you will be much happier in the end.
 
Lastly, for those performance oriented athletes, there are no short cuts, if you want to be better at something, you need to do more of it. This is of course, assuming that you recover from the work that you are putting in.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Note To My Athletes On Recovery

Below is a note that I sent my athletes today.  I thought you could all benefit.


Recovery - 

As driven individuals, it's easy for us to all focus intensely on getting every single training session done.

"Did I hit the watts? Did I run fast enough? Did I go long enough?

The above are all things that I hear or have thought, more than one time.  While it's important to push hard, focus on the intervals, etc during your "key" training sessions, it's just as important to be as focused on your recovery.

An analogy that works well for people is to view a key workout as Point A and view your next key workout as Point B. The objective for you as an athlete, MOST of the time, it recover as well as you can between those training sessions.  If you arrive at Point B with more stress and fatigue than you are suppose to have, your session will either not go well, or you will see the effects down the road during subsequent key workouts.

I believe that you should view your key workouts as your focus sessions and then make sure that you enjoy the in-between.  A run or rides to/from a coffee shop is a perfect example.  Social runs are another example.  With sessions like these, the focus is on actively recovering. 

This also means that if you have a recovery day with 15 other things to get done and a training session is only going to add stress to your life. You are likely better off skipping it.  This is hard sometimes for type A personalities, but if you can remember that you ONLY get faster if you are recovering and absorbing the sessions, you may just switch your focus.  This also adds value to the quote, "it's better to be 15% undertrained, than 5% overtrained."


Beating Training Sessions - 

I see it a ALL the time.  I give intervals at 7:00 - 7:20 per mile and see the athlete go 6:57 and then 6:45 on the next, when they feel good. 

It's important to remember that faster is not better in the training picture.  Each week and in each training block, we have different focuses.  It might be in zone 2 and zone 3. If you decide that it feels to easy and you do everything in zone 4, you have neglected a key component to your training (especially because I find athletes who do this, do it chronically) and we cause you to underperform on race day.

The point that I am trying to make is that the interval/zone you have within your training is there for a purpose and going harder will mean that you no longer accomplish that purpose.

Lastly, this relates to the first topic of recovery.  Going harder on a consistent basis, will disallow your body to recover. Which means injury, sickness and the dreaded under performance.


So remember that it's about working hard, but it's also about recovering harder.  It's about taking it easy on the days in between your key days and it's about knowing that your training is there for a purpose, to accomplish a specific goal that will contribute to race day success and consistency within your training.

It's going to be a great season for everyone. Have a great day!

Blake

Saturday, January 05, 2013

2013 Ahead, Enough Said!

I have thought a lot about what I wanted to say in this year-end recap and there is no way to get it all into one blog, so I am going to grab the highest, lowest and most powerful happenings of the last year. Throughout it all, this year more than any other, I have learned more about myself as a person, as well as what I need to be happy and lead a fulfilling life. 

So let's get into it...


Coaching -

My athletes have become an even bigger passion for me; whether it's creating their training plans, being at practice, listening to or reading about their breakthroughs, it's become something else that gets me out of bed in the morning.

I have found I have a gift and a passion somewhere that I never would have guessed. I have also found that I learn far more from my athletes, than I could ever teach them, to me they are the definition of greatness.  

There are big things coming this next year and I couldn't be more excited; athletes doing it for their first time, athletes breaking through to the next level, athletes breaking into the top level and athletes just doing it because they can!  All I can do is try to hang on for the ride.


Racing - 

The year started out with a new coach (Cliff English), as well as a renewed belief and desire to reach the highest level. I trained very well per usual and then got into racing season and WHAM!!! I had 3 terrible races back-to-back-to-back.  These weren't just local races, these were races that I had trained hard for and showed promise to make the podium. Following these races, I considered retiring from professional racing. I felt as though I had lost that fire and all desire to do what I had always said I wanted to.

Then, following Ironman Coeur d'Alene in June, on a whim, I entered a local race because...I don't know why.  I had done nothing but eat like crap, drink beer and get down on myself during the week prior. However, to my surprise and out of no where, the gun went off and it was fun again. I got it handed to me on the swim, but I put out power on the bike like I had back when I was firing on all cylinders. "It WAS still in there," I thought. I just needed to let it out. That is where it all started...

Two weeks later I showed up at Racine 70.3 and had a TERRIBLE swim once again and did not have legs on the bike, but I battled it anyway.  Once on the run I didn't listen to voice inside my head and just ran... before I knew it, the fire was raging and I was doing what I had tried so hard to and failed to do earlier in the year... compete.  To my surprise, I passed the world champion on a VERY off day and finished 8th... I was over the hump....2 for 2.

I then showed up to the Dairyland Dare, a 200k VERY challenging ride with over 10,000ft of climbing, I PR'd my best 6hr average on the bike and set a course record by over 20minutes. Best part is that I felt great after. 3 for 3.

I showed up to my biggest race of the year, Ironman Wisconsin. Fast forward to the end of the race...I didn't swim great, I had a very poor ride, but the most important part for me, was that I kept pressing and COMPETING out on the run. What resulted was a 5th place, 90sec from the podium and a marathon that was finally under 3hrs (2:58). 4 for 4.

The rest of the season didn't go exactly as I would had liked, but in hindsight, I probably raced a bit too long and had some non-race related happenings that impacted my results.


Family - 

Family and spending more time with them is becoming increasingly important to me.  They are the support, centerpiece and one constant that I have in my life, no matter what else happens.  

My brother graduated with a PhD from Yale and landed his first job out in California.  His drive to work hard, to learn and to be his best, are all things which make me proud to be his brother and I am looking forward to learning a lot from him in the years to come.

Also, my parents. They have each taught me new things this year.  I am very lucky to have such a great support system and set of role models as I go through life.


Wrap-Up -


The highlight of this year was not the results, it was not the success of my team, it was not any one happening... It was what I have learned about how I am motivated, what's important to me, what my mindset needs to be to succeed and how I deal with adversity. It has also been having a new openness to happenings in my life, which has lead to renewed passion for just about everything and the feeling that I am privileged to lead the life that I do, while also impacting so many other's, along the way.

Next stop, 2013... BRING_IT_ON!!!