Mark on Monday: Get the memory effect

Photo credit aboutmodafinil.com

By Mark Cathcart

If you’ve ever commuted to work the same way, the same time, day in day out, you’ll know that sometimes you arrive at work with no real memory of how you got there. I used to drive from North London to Basingstoke in the UK, 64-miles each way. I’d leave by 6:30am to avoid the traffic, and sometimes I’d find myself in the parking lot by 7:05, with no real idea how. I’d been on “auto-pilot”, the repetition and familiarization had kicked in.

In this month’s Pragmatic triathlete, I’ll discuss the “memory effect” and why some things seem easier than others and how you can use this in your racing and training, and how to use your subconscious to your advantage.

Repetition ftw!

Remember how when you got your first pair of clip-in cycle shoes, you set out with some trepidation, worried you wouldn’t be able to unclip them when you had to stop, or to clip back in when you had to start again?

Now you’ve clipped in and out hundreds and possibly thousands of times, and now you know when to push your foot down as the pedal reaches just-before dead-center. You automatically move your other foot forward, and mostly ever even look down when clipping in.

That’s repetition. Your brain is great at recognizing patterns and being able to recall what is often a complex series of actions and process them without having to call on your conscious brain. In software engineering terms, we’ve just executed a method on an object in a parallel thread.

There are literally dozens of ways you can use this in triathlon.

Image Public Domain. Credit . U.S. Air Force Photo/Austin Thomas

Swim stroke

Over the winter, get a swim coach, or someone you recognize as a great swimmer and get them to video and critique your swim stroke.
Write down comments about hand entry, arm height, head position, body roll, leg kick, etc. Don’t try to correct all the problems at once.

Pick one improvement, concentrate on it at an easy pace for 50-lengths. That’s hard, you have to concentrate on a single corrective action. Do it over a few sessions, when you can do it without concentrating, get feedback and move to the next improvement.
Once you’ve addressed all the improvements, you’ll have no doubt developed the memory effect for a better, faster swim stroke.

Helmet time

Probably the easiest of all the things here. How quickly can you get your helmet on and done up? And yes, I mean the right way around… It takes me precisely 7-seconds to get away from my transition spot when everything goes right.

This is almost entirely attributed to picking up my helmet, and doing it up. Stand in front of a mirror and put your helmet and sunglasses on a table or the floor in front of you. Head-up, go!

Pick-up the helmet, put it on your head and stop. Notice where the straps are; reach up, do the straps up; undo; repeat five times without removing the helmet. Put the helmet down, pick up, put on, do up, take off, put down. Pick up, etc. Do the full cycle at least 50-times.

Make sure you hold your head up straight and breathe. When you come into transition in a race you’ll be out of breathing hard, now is no time to try to put on and do up a helmet while doubled up. By standing up straight, it also means the straps will mostly likely fall in the same place, making them easier to find and do up.

Once you think you can do this, try it with your eyes closed.

Clipping in

OK, so you have not mastered this yet? You look down, your shoes slide over the pedals, your bike wobbles all over the place. This is asking for trouble when you come out of transition in a race. You want to be clean, fast and away from the chaos that is the mount line.

Find somewhere quiet and practice. We all have a preferred leg, a “strong one”. Clip this one in first, leaving the other foot on the floor. Start cycling and try to clip in. Concentrate on remembering where your strong leg was in the pedal rotation and if you didn’t make it, try again.

Try not to look down while doing it. Once you’ve mastered it with one leg, switch to the other. Eventually you’ll be able to do it without thinking about it. I do not recommend learning while on a trainer. Part of the memory effect you need to develop is the balance required to do it without wobbling.

T2 Dismount

I’ll dedicate a whole future article to being fast in transition. The whole mount and dismount is a massive time saving opportunity. My T2 time at my last transition was just 40-seconds, in the top-10 overall.
For the remainder of this season though you can transition much more effectively by mastering the dismount.

Again, find yourself some space, and quiet, somewhere you can afford to fail. School parking lots in the evening are good. Use the lines as the dismount line. Cycle around the parking lot, and as you approach your dismount line, about 150ft out, don’t slow down; don’t look down; reach down, undo one shoe, take your foot out, place it on top of the shoe and cycle a few turns to get back up to speed; then repeat with the other shoe/foot.

The first few times you might overshoot the dismount line, go back do it again. If you are really uncomfortable doing this on tarmac or concrete, take your bike with some talcum powder to a park and practice there. Shake the talcum powder to make a line.

Mark Cathcart

With your feet on your shoes, holding the handle bars, take your “strong leg” over the saddle and leave it hanging behind the other leg; 20ft out of the line, brake with both hands, a split second later drop your “strong leg” and simultaneously, grab the saddle, with the hand on the same side as your “strong leg”, let go with the other hand, and drop the other leg to the floor.
This should be practiced until it is one fluid motion, and you should be running just short of a sprint.

Once you’ve mastered getting out of your shoes, and can do it without wobbling and looking down, move on to the next step, the dismount. There are two distinct alternatives to doing this, one has your first leg to touch the ground going in front, the other behind. I firmly believe the latter is safer (see picture).

Again, practice until you can do this without thinking about it.

When it comes to race day, walk out to 150ft past the dismount line and just walk through the whole process. Visualize your speed, slowing down, taking your feet out, lifting your first leg over the saddle, dropping your first foot and then running to your transition spot holding the bike only by the saddle.

Running arms

If you watch a 10k track race, you can clearly see the difference between the leaders and the followers. Leaders have great form, and from about the 2km-to-go mark the followers form will start to fail, while the leaders maintain form.

The leaders have running arms. Shoulders back, arms only making a smooth back and forward motion, never coming up across their stomach, never punching the air in front of their chest, never getting wider to try to get faster. Your arms act as an imaginary set of brakes when you run. If they have a crisp back and forward motion, they will set the cadence for your legs and propel you forward. As your arms go faster, so will you.

Be economical with your arms. You are not a sprinter, but using a smooth back and forward motion close to your body will make you more aero.

That’s it, my top-tips for exploiting the memory effect. Building on the brain’s ability remember and reproduce sometimes simple, but often complex set of actions and reactions. Each of these tips will individually save you a few seconds. Together they add up, and make you faster and smoother during your race.

Most importantly, once you’ve mastered them, you can focus on the parts of the race where you can make the biggest differences, conveniently arriving at the finish line without thinking about your transition.

Next time, I’ll look at facing your fears and how to be ready for them.

Mark Cathcart took up triathlon in the late 90’s to get fit for adventure racing, which to this day he has never done, and has since taken part in 170+ events. His pragmatic approach to training, racing, and life have lead in from being the Chairman of one of the bigger UK Triathlon clubs 15-years ago; British Triathlon volunteer of the year; a sometime race organizer; The organizer and ride leader for Austin Texas award winning Jack and Adams triathlon shop; doing sometime Sports Management for development and professional triathletes; he has attended all the Triathlon Business International, and Triathlon America conferences, where he usually asks the questions others won’t; moved to Colorado in 2016 and is a co-owner of Boulder Bodyworker

How to Handle Every Sticky Situation Your Outdoor Workout Throws at You

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

Author: Jason Lewis

Most of the time, getting active outside is a blast. You get to work on your fitness while taking in the sights and sounds of your neighborhood, and it’s a great way to get your dog a workout too. But exercising outdoors isn’t all sunshine and cool breezes — sometimes, some seriously sticky situations can happen. Here’s what to do when the worst hits.

Muscle Cramps
You’re pumped up for your run, but after two miles you’re doubled over in pain from muscle cramps that aren’t going away. The key to stopping cramps is to understand what caused them in the first place.

Cramps arise from a combination of dehydration, electrolyte depletion, and muscle fatigue. When one stops you in your tracks, listen to your body and take a few moments to rest, take deep breaths, and stretch the area that’s spasming. Sip some water and ease yourself back into your workout, walking home or calling for a ride if you need to.

Getting Lost
If you realize you’re lost, stop where you are. Retrace your steps if you’re confident where you came from, otherwise stay put. If you’re running in the city, this is the time to consult your phone’s GPS to find your way home. But if you’re trail running and don’t have cell service, it’s a little more complicated.

Use your trail map determine where you veered off-trail and your compass to direct yourself back. If the ground is soft, you may be able to retrace your steps using your footprints. Don’t take a different route than the way you came, even if it seems like a shortcut. And of course, avoid getting lost in the first place by knowing your route, taking note of landmarks, and staying alert.

Heat Exhaustion
Headaches, nausea, dizziness, muscle spasms — these are all signs of heat illnesses that can range from mild to life-threatening. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, stop exercising immediately.

Move to a shaded, cool area, indoors if possible. If you’re feeling faint, elevate your legs and pelvis. Replenish electrolytes with a sports drink and salty foods, and put something cold on your head and neck. If you’re somewhere that you can’t pop into a store for air conditioning and a cold drink, seek shade, remove tight clothing, pour cool water on your body, and call for help.

Street Harassment
Perhaps the most demoralizing thing that can happen while exercising outdoors is harassment. Athletes of all ages, genders, and fitness levels experience street harassment, although women arguably have it the worst. Attacks can range from catcalls to mockery to aggression.

Exercise with a partner, either human or canine, and skip headphones so you’re aware of your surroundings. Run against traffic so cars can’t drive alongside you to heckle, and if someone engages you, either ignore them or respond assertively and calmly. Carry a charged cell phone so you can call 911 if a harasser won’t quit or becomes aggressive, and consider carrying pepper spray just in case.

Animal Encounters
If you’re a trail runner and take your dog along, run-ins with wildlife are inevitable. Most of the time it’s harmless woodland creatures, but there’s always a possibility you’ll encounter a bear, coyote, snake, or even mountain lion.

If the animal hasn’t spotted you, back away slowly until it’s safe to return the way you came. If you’re running with your dog, keep it on leash to protect your pet and avoid provoking a wild animal. Don’t approach the animal, turn your back to it, or run away. Shout or speak in a firm voice and throw rocks, sticks, or other large objects at a coyote, bear, or mountain lion to scare it away.

Urban animal encounters happen too: If you come across an aggressive dog, stop running and assume an assertive stance with your arms across your chest. Keep your eye on the dog, but don’t make direct eye contact. Keep your dog restrained and calm, but if the two dogs start fighting, don’t try to intervene. Instead, find someone to help and have each person pull a dog away by its back legs, wheelbarrow-style.

 

 

Mark on Monday: Making Triathlon Easier

Photo: Vox Efx on Flickr

By Mark Cathcart

With the race season well underway, and hopefully a few more races ahead this year, you’ll have gained a lot more experience. No doubt you’ll have had a chance to put to the test some of the tips you’ve heard from other triathletes, and read here on 303 Triathlon.

In this month’s Pragmatic triathlete, I’ll pass on five less well traveled tips aimed at making the remaining races of this season, and your training a little easier.

MAKE IT EASIER… on your head
No more chaffing! After a couple of months of sweating your helmet straps will start to get stiff. The best and easiest way to clean your straps is simply to get a bowl or dish that is narrower than the width of your helmet. Fill the bowl with hot (not boiling) water and add a tablespoon of vinegar. Sit your helmet on the bowl, allowing the straps to hang in the water. Leave it there overnight; capillary action will draw the water up the straps. Next morning throw the water away, rinse the straps under the cold tap, dry the straps with a towel and leave to dry. Then give a light coating with olive oil or similar, making sure you include the plastic retainers etc. which will aid in stopping them from cracking.

MAKE IT EASIER… on your feet
Clean shoes, clean mind! Many people regularly throw their running shoes in the washing machine with a load of towels to get them clean(1). You probably shouldn’t do the same with cycling shoes; even though these days few cycling shoes are leather, they have lots of other components and screws for cleats that you wouldn’t want to submerge in water and soak with soap.

You can overhaul them in a more traditional way with shoe cleaners and polish, but this can be tricky. One of the simpler ways to protect and clean cycling shoes is to get them a wipe down with a wet cloth, then a light spray with WD40. Once you’ve sprayed them, give them a wipe down with a soft dry cloth (old non-tech race t-shirt?)

This will both revive fading and grubby leather/pleather; it will also polish up and help protect any synthetic pieces and give the shoes a coating that will help protect them.

MAKE IT EASY… on your back
Core strength! Now your cycling and running are up to speed, doesn’t your lower back feel stiff from time to time? Try some specific stretches for your hamstrings, shoulders and lower back. The lower and upper halves of your body and anchored in your lower back and the more flexible and strong it is, the more fluid you will be.

Learn to love a foam roller, Boulder Bodyworker has some videos to help you get started.

MAKE IT EASIER… on the bike
Less rattle, more roll! You don’t need any special mechanic skills to keep your bike chain clean and lubricated. Even if you only use your race bike in the summer, when it’s dry, your chain will still pickup dirt and dust from the road which will make you less efficient. You should probably give your chain a quick clean weekly, and definitely after any ride where there was a lot of dry dust.

Serious cyclists will recommend buying expensive chain specific tools and brushes, and even removing the chain. You can do a basic job with it still on the bike. Use an old toothbrush or other stiff brush; use an old rag doused with some white spirit to remove old oil and dirt. I use bleach wipes for simplicity and speed; change the rag, drip oil around the chain and then gently remove any excess oil. The real trick is NOT to oil a dirty chain, it will make things worse, any dirt will just stick to the oil.

Don’t use WD40! Specialist oils are best, but if you don’t have any, you can use almost anything, baby oil, cooking oil, olive oil, just don’t over apply, wipe off the excess, and make sure you clean it thoroughly next time.

MAKE IT EASIER… in transition
Less stuff, more speed! Over recent years there has been a huge increase in the amount of “stuff” people take into transition. Athletes regularly tote huge plastic boxes into transition full of stuff, most of which they won’t need. To me this just says, “Novice: lacks confidence in race plan.” Take only the minimal stuff you actually need and will use during the race(2). Arrive early, set-up transition, and take everything else back to the car. With less mess, you’ll be faster in transition, no matter how orderly your stuff is, it will become a mess, it takes up valuable space and will slow down decisions.

Enjoy your upcoming races, next time I’ll take a look at some challenges to change things up.

1) Both cycling and running shoes will benefit from having their insoles removed and washed, especially running shoes, which will potentially have grit and talc after races. Pay attention to wear and tear of insoles, you can replace them, but they are also a good indication of the overall condition of the shoes themselves.
2) When you are out on the bike, the only things left in transition are swim googles, wetsuit and cap; and the equipment you’ll use on the run.

Mark Cathcart took up triathlon in the late 90’s to get fit for adventure racing, which to this day he has never done, and has since taken part in 170+ events. His pragmatic approach to training, racing, and life have lead in from being the Chairman of one of the bigger UK Triathlon clubs 15-years ago; British Triathlon volunteer of the year; a sometime race organizer; The organizer and ride leader for Austin Texas award winning Jack and Adams triathlon shop; doing sometime Sports Management for development and professional triathletes; he has attended all the Triathlon Business International, and Triathlon America conferences, where he usually asks the questions others won’t; moved to Colorado in 2016 and is a co-owner of Boulder Bodyworker

Mark on Mondays: TIME TO TRANSITION

By Mark Cathcart

In last month’s column, “Triathlon on a budget” I included a picture of myself at my first triathlon, waiting for the all clear to go out on the bike. I was wearing a tennis shirt, run shorts, and gloves, all very non-PC.

I remember my 3rd triathlon in the fall of 1999 more. It was a pool based race, with age group wave starts. That meant everyone in the age group started within a couple of minutes of each other, 8-lanes, 6-people per lane, 400m swim. I’d worked really hard in training since my first race, learned not to change clothes in T1, and there I was sitting in T2 putting on socks for the 5k run, I was in 3rd place.

Then it happened. A guy in my age group came into T2, racked his bike, removed his helmet, jammed his feet in his shoes and was off. A few seconds later I got up and started running. No matter how fast I tried to run, I couldn’t catch him. There went my first podium, I can’t remember if I finished 4th or 6th, I can remember I didn’t finish 3rd because I was putting socks on.

By the summer of 2001, at the ITU Age Group World Championships, I’d honed my transition skills to the point where I had a top-10 T1 time. To this day, while I rarely win my age group, I always strive to be the fastest in T1 and T2. At last year’s Boulder Sunrise race, I was over a minute faster in T1 and T2 than anyone in my age group, and just a few seconds off the overall winner.

How to do transitions somehow is one of the most controversial subjects in triathlon, usually because no one actually teaches transitions, people just develop their own ad-hoc, sometimes shambolic, other times dangerous, ways of doing it.

WHY BE FAST IN TRANSITION?

 If I told you that you could save 90-seconds in your swim for an hour practice you’d be out doing it this afternoon. You just need to apply the same to transition practice. You can save anything from 30-seconds to 2-minutes by having an organized, practiced transition.

WHERE TO START

I’ve always avoided giving coaching advice, mainly because I’m not a coach. My series here is based on pragmatic, practical advice. I’ve demonstrated transition techniques going as far back as 2004 and the two key things I tell people about fast transitions are 1. Always be in control, and, 2. Always be looking up.

No matter how good you get, there will always be other triathletes who make mistakes, didn’t prep their equipment etc. You can find plenty of videos on YouTube with people making fun of bad transitions and transition mistakes, that’s not the point here, it is to give advice and demonstrate some good ways to achieve fast transitions.

Watch this video for how things can go wrong, and this one for just how insanely busy it can be coming out of T1.

Even the best Triathletes could do things better. See “flying leap” to the left in this picture the guy has almost everything right until he leaves the ground with both feet, this is either going to work well, or take the wind out of him, or worse still, he’ll wobble and a potential crash.

In “over stretched” to the right, he has it almost right, except again, there is that momentary loss of control as both feet are off the ground. In both these examples it was no problem since they were the first out of transition, but it could have been.

 

RUN WITH THE BIKE

First, learn to run with the bike by holding the saddle. This takes practice. The secret is to find a field or Astroturf area where you can practice. If you are lucky enough to have access to a Football field marked out with 10-yard lines, each 10-yard line to have to change sides, this will teach you how to steer your bike.

Running with the saddle put’s you behind the front wheel and the pedals. You have control of two thirds of the bike, and generally the front will follow the direction and lean of the bike. Compared to running by holding the handlebars, where you only have control of the front wheel. Holding the saddle allows you to stand up straight, aids breathing, and most importantly allows you to see ahead. Running using the handlebars almost always requires being hunched over, and if the bike or back wheel hit something, you have every chance of the pedal hitting the back of your leg.

MOUNT TIME

I absolutely prefer pre-mounting shoes on pedals. This picture to the right is me back in 2004 at a sprint race, perfectly executing the running mount. I like to pre-mount because:

  1. I use Look cleats.
  2. I use a 2-inch block on the bottom of my right shoe to even up my legs.
  3. If you pre-mount, and your transition run includes muddy run, you won’t get your cleats clogged up and not be able to clip-in.

The downside is you can pick up dirt and gravel, but this will mostly come off before you put feet in shoes.

When you run out of transition, cross the mount line and run 10-20ft beyond it, especially in an Ironman, where at least here in the USA pre-mounted shoes are not allowed. Carry your shoes in one hand, run out holding the bike by the saddle in the other; away from the carnage that can be the actual mount line, stop on one side and take time to put your shoes on and then mount.

For a fully-fledged running mount with pre-mounted shoes, follow these steps, and practice them. Picture Mount 2 and Mount 3

    1. In transition, Put bike in easy gear
    2. Mount the shoes in the pedals
    3. Make sure the pedals/shoes are parallel to the ground, left food forward
    4. Loop a small elastic band through the rear heel tab on your shoes. If you don’t have a rear heel tab you can either buy longer bands and hook them under Look cleats or find some other place to connect the band to the shoe
    5. Fasten the other end of the band for the left shoe around the downtube, probably on the front gear mech.
    6. Fasten the right shoe to the rear gear mech. (or around the lug on the rear stays etc.)
    7. When you race into T1, helmet on, number belt on, grab the bike and run on the left side of the bike holding the saddle with your right hand – to make this easier I always rack my bike by the bars and NOT the saddle when I can

When you are past the mount line get your stride ready and in one swift move place your left hand on the bars and your left foot on the front pedal

  1. A fraction of a second later swing your right leg around the back wheel and saddle and onto the right pedal, releasing your right hand from the saddle and grasp the bars (see the pictures, my right hand is still on the saddle for control when the right leg is already on its way around to the pedal)
  2. Once your foot is on the right pedal start pedaling…. the bands will snap – you need to do this fast enough so you don’t wobble and fall off!
  3. Pedal down the road until you get to at least 16MPH, at a safe point reach down put your left foot in the shoe
  4. Pedal again to regain momentum
  5. When safe reach down and put your right foot in and you are done.

If you are racing out to Boulder Reservoir, you don’t have to complete this until you are past the gate and before the hill. Don’t try to get your feet in the shoes before the first turn after transition.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

It really does. Don’t think you are going to show up on race day and do a running mount without practicing it a dozen or so times.

For the practice, you just need your bike, helmet, shoes and 20-24 1-inch elastic bands and a bucket. The bucket is needed as a transition stand; a chair could also be used. You attach the bands to the shoes either by the small heal loop, or if your shoes don’t have one, the small heel raise on most shoes. Then attach the band to somewhere that will hold the shoes parallel while you run with the bike.

You then rest the bike against the bucket, walk back 50yds, sprint to the bike, helmet on, grab the bike run forward at least 50yds and then step on in a controlled fashion, don’t leap. Cycle for a short distance; get off; walk back; reset your equipment; go back and do it again and again and again until you can make a faultless smooth transition from running to cycling, not stops. It’s important to have a decent run either side of the bike to simulate race conditions.

In this picture you can see USAT Para triathlete Allan Armstrong running holding the bike by the saddle.

Once you can do this, you can then go out on the street somewhere quiet and practice getting your feet in your shoes and doing them up. This has to be done at a reasonable speed 14-18mph, no 8-10mph wobbles please!

DISMOUNT

Again, even if you decide not to do a flying dismount, and prefer to stop, unclip, and run with your shoes on, run holding the bike by the saddle.

Coming back in is basically the opposite….

  1. Well before the dismount line, remove your right foot from the shoe, keep pedaling
  2. Remove your left foot from the shoe
  3. Pedal to the dismount line and just before getting there swing your right foot over the crossbar
  4. Standing on your left foot and gliding in with your right foot tucked behind your left…
  5. When you get to the dismount line, drop your right foot, then your left
  6. Let go of the bars with your right hand, grab the saddle
  7. Let go with your left hand and run holding the saddle…

 

 

Again, practice this until it becomes one single, fluid and smooth transition.

 

 

 

Whatever you do, don’t do what my friend Carlton did, having spent a couple of hundred bucks on an aero helmet, he crossed the finish line and came to a complete standstill as he pressed the lap button on his Garmin, negating the benefit of the aero-helmet.

We both got 2nd in our age group, my transition times were 1:18/1:37, Carltons 2:20/2:58. If Carlton had my transition times he would have won his age group.

SOCKS?

Yeah, almost never ever wear them now. Lesson learned. Look at the numerous videos of Lance Armstrong at the 2012 IM 70.3 Texas. If socks are good for Lance….
I do use socks for the longer races. Well I can’t make up my mind about socks for half-distance, and for full-distance sitting in the changing tent and putting socks on isn’t a big deal.

So, if for a race you are not sure about socks, either because of distance, new shoes, etc. put your socks together with your running shoes in transition. Off the bike, into your shoes and out of transition with your socks in your hands.

Even if you want to do this in an Olympic distance race you’ll be better off sat on a curb 100yds from transition than you will be trying to get them on in transition, especially busy, packed ones.

For half-distance, I tend to treat transitions just like sprints, fast out, fast in, fast out, no socks. The first sign of any foot pain, sit on a curb and put my socks on. Looks odd, but assuming you have elastic laces it really doesn’t cost you much time. And anyone I’ve taught this trick too and timed in and out of transition is always able to put the socks on quicker sat on the side of the road than stumbling around in transition!

GETTING IT DONE

No matter how many times you race, eventually something will go wrong.

This was me back in 2009, I came into the dismount line in the lead, looked down and my bike computer said 24MPH, even I can’t run that fast, I was standing on one shoe ready to dismount, pulled on the brakes and this was the result.

Don’t be like Mark! Slow down before dismounting.

Finally, transition fast!

 

Mark Cathcart took up triathlon in the late 90’s to get fit for adventure racing, which to this day he has never done, and has since taken part in 170+ events. His pragmatic approach to training, racing, and life have lead in from being the Chairman of one of the bigger UK Triathlon clubs 15-years ago; British Triathlon volunteer of the year; a sometime race organizer; The organizer and ride leader for Austin Texas award winning Jack and Adams triathlon shop; doing sometime Sports Management for development and professional triathletes; he has attended all the Triathlon Business International, and Triathlon America conferences, where he usually asks the questions others won’t; moved to Colorado in 2016 and is a co-owner of Boulder Bodyworker.

Alison Freeman’s bike phsyio testing at CU sports performance center

WHY IS A LAB LACTATE TEST WORTH THE PAIN?

I recently went to the relatively new and categorically state-of-the-art CU Sports Medicine and Performance Center (CUSMPC) for some physiological and metabolic testing. Before the testing, I was taking on a tour of CUSMPC. I had *no idea* that I had access to a world-class sports performance facility practically in my backyard. In addition to physio and metabolic testing for bike and run, CUSMPC houses orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, an AlterG (anti-gravity!) treadmill, two methodologies for high performance bike fits, running gait analysis, swim stroke analysis and physio testing, and cycling classes (think spin classes but BYO bike). All of which is open to the general public. Who knew? Clearly not me.

But back to the matter at hand …

WHAT IS IT?
The physiological and metabolical performance testing done at CUSMPC measures your heart rate, blood lactate levels, fat and carbohydrate oxidation rates, and VO2 across a spectrum of workloads – either paces on the run, or power outputs on the bike – with the goal of scientifically determining your individualized heart rate, pace, and power based training zones as well as establish ideal racing paces. The tests are conducted by Jared Berg, a certified strength and conditioning specialist as well as a former pro triathlete and current coach, and have been tailored by him to reflect the physiological demand of endurance events.

Even if your eyes glazed over as I described the testing, what should have jumped out was the idea that your ideal racing paces can be scientifically defined based on your physiological and metabolic profile.

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
If you’re looking to run and ride recreationally, and participate in triathlons for fun and fitness, then maybe you don’t care about your dialing in your training zones and race paces. But, if you’re starting to get serious about improving your performance, these pieces of data are pretty critical.

Many of us do field tests (such as 20 minute time trials for the bike and 5k time trials for the run) to estimate our lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR), functional threshold power (FTP), and run threshold pace. We then use these results to determine our training zones (more on that here). This is an easily repeatable and cost-effective approach – and a good start.

The results of field tests aren’t going to be as precise as a lab test, but typically – about 80% of the time, according to Jared – are reasonably accurate. What tends to be less accurate / less personalized, are those standard percentages that you use to set your training zones. Just check out how drastically my heart rate zones (left) and power zones (right) changed in the chart below. The blue zones are based on the standard percentages, and the green zones are the personalized zones set by Jared, based on my testing. Training zones are definitely not one-size-fits-all.

HOW DOES IT WORK?
Your time with Jared at CUSMPC will start with a weigh in and caliper test to measure body fat percentage, and some guidance on where you’ll want to be by race day. (Compared to my scale at home, I weighed in a few pounds heavier but my body fat came in a few percentage points lower, so: Win!)

We then set up my tri bike on CUSMPC’s Wahoo Kickr and I warmed up at a super easy effort level for a solid 30 minutes. (You can also use their spin bike with a built-in perfectly calibrated power meter, or you’ll be on a treadmill for the run test.) Once I was sufficiently warmed up, Jared had me don the only moderately annoying mask, necessary to measure oxidation rates. We then kicked in with the test: intervals of either five or ten minutes, at increasing power levels, and ear pricks for blood samples every five minutes. Just ‘cause sweating your ass off while breathing through a mask isn’t quite enough fun for one day. All-in-all, I was on my bike for well over an hour, and given the effort level of the test was totally able to use that as my bike workout for the day.

After the test was over, I cooled down and Jared used that time to run all the numbers. That’s where the real insight comes in. Once you’ve changed out of your sweaty, smelly bike clothes, you’ll sit with Jared in a consult room and review your test results. Jared first takes the time to provide background on things like typical lactate profiles across a range of athletes before diving into your specific results. Then he’ll show you your data through a series of graphs, explaining and interpreting all the details and answering questions as you have them. In addition to providing your lactate threshold heart rate and functional threshold power, Jared will dial in your training zones, suggested race targets for power and/or heart rate, and race-day fueling guidelines tailored for your glycogen stores, race intensity and race distance. He also provides recommendations for your training – how much time to spend training in each zone to achieve your desired race results.

HOW DO YOU GET STARTED?
Signing up for physiological and metabolic testing at CUSMPC is beyond easy. Just go to the CUSMPC website, review the services, pick a time slot, and – viola! – you’re good to go. Wondering whether to do the testing on the bike or the run? Interesting question. I prefer the testing on the bike because the uncomfortable mask doesn’t drive me crazy as much on the bike as when I’m literally gasping for air on the run. Also, if you bike with power then you will definitely want to test on the bike so you can get your FTP checked as well as your LTHR. If you still can’t decide, I’d go with the discipline in which you’d most like to improve.

Final tip: I highly recommend adding a sweat test onto your physio and metabolic testing. The sweat test will reveal your sweat rate and concentration, which then determines your fluid and sodium requirements during training and racing. That’s the kind of information that can save your race – it’s a no brainer add-on.

7 Reasons Cycling is better than Running

From Cycling Magazine

Not to dis our sister sport, but let’s face it, cycling rules. We can prove it.
By selene yeager

There’s a lot to love about running. It’s cheap to get started, great for torching calories, and works well with nearly any cross-training regimen you may have. But in the ongoing bar bet of which sport is best, we believe cycling is still the overall winner. (And, we think we can prove it.) Here’s why.

 

Get Fit & Build Endurance

True running burns more calories per mile, but most people can’t run as many miles as they can ride, especially if you’re a little out of shape or have some weight to lose. Blame gravity. When you run you need to lift your body weight up off the earth to propel yourself forward. Then you have to come back down, striking the ground and absorbing those impact forces. Both of those things make it considerably harder to run five miles than to ride twice or even three or four times as long. Running is also less forgiving of extra pounds with every excess pound slowing you down. Excess weight makes hills harder on a bike, but on the flats? Because gravity isn’t really a factor, you can motor along with the skinniest of ‘em.

 

Pain Points

Running beats you up more than cycling, even if you’re hammering super hard. One study that compared trained, competitive cyclists and runners exercising 2 ½ hours a day for three days found that the long distance runners had substantially more muscle damage (between 133% and 404% more), inflammation levels (up to 256% higher) and muscle soreness (87% more) in the following 38 hour recovery period than the cyclists. “We knew running places more stress on the body, but how much more damage and inflammation there was was surprising and greater than anticipated,” says study author David Nieman, MPH, professor of public health at Appalachian State University. “There’s just a lot more muscle trauma involved with running. It’s harder for the immune system to handle the damage.”

Go Places!

The ability to ride for multiple hours means you can cover a lot of ground and see some amazing sites in a relatively short period of time. You don’t see many running tours of California wine country or through the Italian Dolomites. But there are literally hundreds of amazing bike tours you can take all over the world. You also can carry far more things far more easily on a bike than you can on foot. You not only can stuff your jersey pockets to the gills, but also wear a messenger bag or backpack and even add carrying capacity to your bike. That frees you to use your bike for commuting, day tripping, bikepacking and as everyday Earth-friendly transportation.

 

Read the full, original article here

 

37 Reasons Running Is SO Much Better Than Bicycling on 303cycling here

Breaking News: IRONMAN forming “Team Colorado” for IM Boulder

Thinking about IRONMAN Boulder? Already signed up? Look here on 303 to find out about IRONMAN’s new Team Colorado to make this your best and most memorable Ironman ever! Opportunities for exclusive training with professional triathletes, one-of-a-kind IRONMAN Team Colorado gear, and more. Stay tuned this week for big announcements!

8 Tips to Make Your Long Run a Bit Less Hellish

From Shut Up & Run by Beth Risdon

Let’s talk about the long run. Let’s talk about the mental fortitude needed to complete the long run.

When I woke up on Saturday morning, my head wasn’t in the game. It was kind of a cool, grey morning. But, that wasn’t really the problem. The problem was wrapping my head around the distance and how long I would be out there. It had been along time since I had done a 16 mile long, steady run on the road. I wasn’t worried about finishing the run, I knew I could that. I was more in my head about the number “16” and how that seemed so far. I’ve run 16 miles so many times before, but it just felt different. I think it’s because I wanted to nail a certain pace and that would mean plodding along, steadily, without many walk breaks like I find on the trails.

There’s no magic to getting motivated for the long run. You just do it. It can be mundane. You are out there a long time. It can get lonely. But, it can also be a time for reflection and zoning out. The long run is a test in perseverance, discipline and determination. And, believe it or not, there are some tips that can make it just a tad easier.

1. Plan a Route You Can Get Excited About. I like to use Map My Run to get creative. There’s nothing like starting a 20 mile run already bored to tears with where you are going. I’d rather drive a bit to start somewhere that inspires me versus following some old worn out route that puts me to sleep. Here was this weekend’s run. I do love the back-roads of Boulder County.

2. Drag Someone Along. Distraction is a wonderful tool. Bring a friend and talk about every mundane thing you can think of like Beyonce’s even fuller breasts since getting pregnant or how long it takes corn to move through your system (this is very easy to figure out. Just keep a diary of when you had corn chowder and when it showed up later). A good friend will also share supplies with you like toilet paper, an extra gel, a tampon or condom (now that really would make your long run more fun).

3. Bring Happy Fuel. If you hate the taste of gels, but you eat them because you are “supposed to” or they were on sale, that’s no fun. Bring along your most favorite candy or gel flavor. Maybe companies should market cocktail themed gummy treats for runners (jam packed with electrolytes and carbs of course) like Rum Runner (get it?), Sex on the Beach (for the wild crowd), Bloody Mary (for those running in the morning or during Sunday brunch time) and Mint Julep (for the Southerners).

4. Tell People Even If They Don’t Care. I like to let a few friends know if I’ve got a really long run (say 16-20 miles) because in my head I think they are cheering me on and that they really care if I finish or not. Somehow it holds me accountable. Ok, maybe my mom just cares, but so what?

Read the remaining four!