Dave Scott’s Perfect IRONMAN World Championship Taper

From TrainingPeaks

By Dave Scott

Over the years I’ve seen many athletes not achieve their full potential in races because they failed to execute a proper IRONMAN taper.

I’ve witnessed triathletes who have not backed off enough and were tired and flat at the event; I’ve also seen those who have dialed back their training far too much, and dulled the fitness that they had taken months to hone.

Follow my prescription as we countdown to race day in Kona, and you’ll arrive at the starting line with that perfect mix of expansive aerobic capability and sharp, high-intensity output that will propel you to an optimal performance.

While this is written with the IRONMAN World Championship in mind, it will work for any IRONMAN you may be racing. Tapering is an art form, so above all else, listen to your own body.

22 Days to 10 Days Before The Race

1. Maintain your schedule. Maintain the same number of training days per week and follow your typical schedule. If you normally run on Tuesdays, then continue to do it! Don’t alter things.

2. Long training days. Your training is nearly complete, and so you should resist “cramming in” your final long workouts too close to the event. If you’re planning a long run, schedule your last one 18 to 22 days before the race. Your last long bike should take place 14 to 21 days from race day. Your long swim: Nine to 10 days prior.

3. Maintain “race-like intensity,” but reduce the segment length of repeats. There is a great physiological return on reducing your sub-threshold and threshold training to between 90 second to 3.5 minutes per repeat.

These shorter segments—even with complete recovery—will not leave you whipped after the workout. By resisting the temptation to lengthen the repeats, you’ll maintain the adaptive stress of the session and enhance your day-to-day recovery.

An example set is: 3 x 3.5 min + 3 x 90 sec + 3 x 2.5 min + 3 x 90 sec. The rest interval between repeats should be long enough to maintain the desired intensity throughout the workout.

4. Notice improved performance. One characteristic of a proper taper is that you’ll begin to feel a bit fresher during and after the workouts, while experiencing a 2 percent to 5 percent increase in performance (either by comparing tangible measurements or Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)).

For example, all of your training sessions might feel easier with a concurrent increase in speed, watts or simultaneous reduction in heart rate.

Simply, you should begin to feel like you’re flowing at less effort. This sensation is a positive affirmation that your training has been effective and you’re on track for a good race.

Additionally, niggling stiffness or sore spots should subside. Acute soreness means you need to rest more or consider a combination of modalities to expedite the recovery (see #8 below).

5. Reduce overall training time. A reduction in total training time should start during this taper block. Looking at weekly training volumes, my suggestion is not to reduce the volumes by a fixed percentage.

The problem with this math is that the athletes who train 11 to 14 hours per week (i.e. most age-group athletes with full-time jobs and families) cannot compare themselves with those training 30-35 hours weekly (i.e. professional athletes and elite age group athletes).

The following are my percentage reductions based on your hours per week:

  • For those logging 11 to 14 hours per week, reduce your volume by about 15 percent.
  • If you’re typically training 15 to 22 hours, bring the volume down by 20 percent.
  • If you’re at 23 to 30 hours, then reduce that by 25 percent.
  • If you’re training more than 30 hours, then reduce that by 30 percent.

These percentage reductions should be reflected in all disciplines, and particularly in your run workouts. The eccentric load of the run slows the recovery process. Also be sure to look at your personal strengths and weaknesses and reduce accordingly.

6. Maintain your mobility, stretching and strength training. Eliminate the heavy lifts or explosive plyometrics, and reduce the weight and number of reps, but maintain your typical routine.

Take the exercises to fatigue but never to failure. If you’re on a minimal strength program, continue at least twice per week emphasizing core, gluteal, rotator and back strength, plus maintain joint mobility with foam rolling and stretching.

7. Watch your weight. Your goal is to neither gain weight nor hit your optimum race weight during this time block.

Eat nutrient-dense foods with healthy fats and protein at all meals. Cut back on simple carbohydrates.

Don’t alter your macronutrient balance. This is not the time to adjust your diet strategy! If you’re madly driven to lose weight during the final 10 days, then keep this weight loss to no more 0.5 percent of your body weight.

8. Continue your bodywork. Maintain treatments with your physical therapist, massage therapist, acupuncturist or yoga routines. These are all good, but don’t try something new during this period!

Nine Days and Counting to Race Day….

Click here to read the rest of the article, including final taper and race day nerves strategy

IRONMAN Boulder – Up Your Game Train-cation camps great option for out-of-towners

From Boulder, CO Visitors Bureau

Swim, Bike, Run…Eat, Shop, Fun!

Follow the footsteps of the legends to the doorstep of the Rockies.

Pack your bags and head to Boulder and find out why the top endurance sport pros and aspiring (and inspiring) age groupers make this their home turf for year-round run, bike and triathlon training. Are your ready to Up Your Game? Select your 1 to 3-day world-class training and lodging package, starting at $793, and get ready to dig deep!

Now it’s your turn to be a local, as you immerse yourself in the one-of-a-kind Boulder active lifestyle for a memorable training vacation. Treat yourself to world-class training and education facilities, mystical trails, endless road climbs, the foodiest dining, and an amazing selection of shops featuring the very latest lust-worthy gear…all in one magical place known affectionately as the Mecca for endurance sport athletes.

Commit to achieving your very best at your next big race, and come make Boulder your pre-season training destination. Treat yourself to an incredible selection of indoor/outdoor training and educational opportunities over the surprisingly sunny winter and spring months. Planning to race this season in Boulder? Whether your goal is IRONMAN Boulder, Boulder Peak or BolderBOULDER, come to town a few months early to dial in your training and altitude acclimatization, while scoring a sweet dress-rehearsal opportunity on course. Either way, you’ll head home full of fitness and confidence…ready for a bunch of PR’s and the break-through season you deserve.

Be sure to check out 303Triathlon’s Ironman Boulder Resource Page

Achilles under new Leadership

Have you ever considered serving as a running guide? Achilles is a great local group, with weekly runs at Wash Park…

From Achilles newsletter

Amelia and her guide Linn, at the Hot Chocolate 10k

Achilles Colorado’s founder and president for four years, Michael Oliva, has returned to New York, Our new president is Amelia Dickerson. Amelia is one of the earliest members of the Denver group, joining when Lending Sight and Achilles joined forces in 2013.

Achilles Colorado meets every Monday evening at 6pm at the Washington Park Recreation Center at, 701 S. Franklin St.

Achilles International of Colorado welcomes all people with disabilities to the wonderful world of RUNNING!

Our mission is to enable people with disabilities to participate in mainstream running in order to promote personal achievement, enhance self-esteem and lower barriers to living a fulfilling life.

Mark on Monday: Face Your Fears

By Mark Cathcart

A discussion about dealing with events, challenges, unexpected problems, and most importantly, those challenges life throws at you during the race season.

When I first agreed the schedule of articles with Dana for my 303 Column, Face your fears seemed like a good end of season challenge, little did I know what challenges would lay ahead of me.

In terms of fears, no matter what you are afraid of, someone else is probably more afraid but will get over it. That’s what makes a champion, looking fear in the “eyes” and fbeating it. That’s your challenge, take something triathlon or sport related that is really different, something you didn’t think you could do, something you were afraid of and do it!

For me this year it will be very different, after 18-years of triathlon, I’m planning to make the start line at the Without Limits Oktoberfest Triathlon. Last time I was at the Union Reservoir for the Outdoor Divas triathlon, to support my partner Kate in her race, I had a full-blown heart attack and was taken away post-race in an Ambulance (3).

I’ve seen people take on and achieve much bigger challenges. A club colleague of mine in the UK, was training for Team GB, when she was hit and paralyzed from the waist down. Just a year later, Paula Craig was the first Team GB Para-triathlete at the ITU Worlds in Cancun in 2002. You don’t have to look far to see incredible stories. I was amazed to see the progress that BBSC Endurance Sports Craig Towler had already made after losing both his legs after being hit by a driver while out training. (1).

I’ve stood at the start line for many races, both open water, with high waves, and frenetic pool based triathlons and heard people expressing grave concerns about their ability to start, much less finish.

To this day I can remember a race in the UK in 2006, pool swim, all the competitors lined up down the side of the pool waiting for the start. The pool was crazy, arms thrashing everywhere, there were as many as 6-people per lane, the noise was crazy, there were almost waves as the water crashed against the sides.

The guy next to me was, like me, 6ft tall, and he was having serious doubts about the swim. I told him it would be fine. He wasn’t convinced. I pointed out that while racking my bike I’d spotted a prosthetic arm in transition. He looked puzzled. We scanned the line of swimmers and couldn’t see the “owner”. It turned out to be the first ever triathlon for Claire Cunningham (nee Bishop). Claire is a medal winning and Champion paratriathlete for Team GB now and just 5’6” tall.

How must Claire have felt that day?

There is nothing special about these athletes. They don’t have a superpower, they take the challenges and setbacks and find a way of getting past them.

Most of us don’t face triathlon with anything like those challenges. Whatever you decide to do over the next few months, tackle something that challenges you, something that proves you are still alive. No matter if that is taking on a greater distance than you thought possible; going faster and placing higher than you think you can; getting out and becoming the hill climber; the cyclocross athlete and more.

Each of these “fears” can be broken down and divided into constituent parts; each of those parts you can find a way to address. As Claire says on her website “Nothing is impossible, you can find a way”. (*2) Create goals for each part, after you’ve achieved those goals, start combining the parts and setting new goals.

Look for help from coaches, books and videos. With not much of a racing season left, why not pick a fear and set about facing it before next season?

Me, I’ll be working the mount/dismount line for the upcoming 5430 Harvest Moon race, and then I’ll be doing everything I can to start, and finish the Oktoberfest triathlon in a few weeks.

  1. https://www.rhone.com/blogs/collective/my-story-by-craig-towler
  2. http://clare-cunningham.co.uk/about-me/
  3. I can’t thank Gaby and the EMT’s at Rapid Response Paramedic Services, the Mountain View Fire emergency crew, especially Carlos who, coincidentally volunteered with me at Ironman Bouler 2016; Dr Paik and everyone at Longmont Unit Hospital enough. Really!
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

WTF Is My Hand Doing? And Other Thoughts From Swim Physio Testing

By Alison Freeman

As many of us triathletes approach the off-season, we tend to think about how we can improve for next year. The off-season is an awesome time to focus on one sport at the expense of the other two and make some big gains in that sport. And if you come away from your tri season post-mortem realizing that it’s time to step up your swim, I highly recommend booking time at the CU Sports Medicine & Performance Center (CUSMPC) for a round of physiological testing in the swim flume.

I did physio testing on the bike at CUSMPC last spring and found that to be incredibly useful. I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical about whether the swim physio testing was going to have the same impact. I love it when I’m proven wrong!

WHAT IS IT?
Similar to bike or run physio tests, the swim physio test measures your heart rate and blood lactate levels across a range of swim paces, with the goal of scientifically determining your individualized training paces. Beyond that, you also get the benefit of a swim stroke analysis, complete with before and after video of your technique.

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
In swimming, there is a distinct intertwining of effort and technique: if your technique is flawed (and really, whose isn’t?), then you’re less efficient and it’s going to take more effort to swim – at any pace. The swim physio testing begins by identifying your swim training zones, which are cool to know but aren’t game changing. The stroke analysis is where the magic happens.

Jared Berg, CUSMPC’s testing specialist who’s also a certified strength and conditioning specialist as well as a former pro triathlete, focuses on stroke improvements that will reduce your effort level and/or improve your pace within your training zones. In other words, (cue lights and “aha” music) Jared looks for ways to help you swim faster while expending less effort – IMMEDIATELY. Not after four months of hitting the pool three to five times a week, but within just a few workouts.

HOW DOES IT WORK?
Swim physio testing takes place in a swim flume, essentially a treadmill for swimming … which I translated to: bo-ring. I was so wrong. I hopped in, started warming up, noticed the mirrors on the bottom and sides of the flume, and was immediately fixated on WTF was my right hand doing and now I understand why my masters swim coach keeps telling me to straighten my wrist. Seeing yourself swim is about as eye opening as it gets.

Flume Video

The testing itself takes approximately 30-45 minutes and goes like this: after your warm up, Jared takes you through a series of four minute swim intervals at increasingly challenging paces. The first few are endurance to tempo pace, as in: no big deal. But by the third I was sucking wind and by the fourth I was desperately trying to just keep my feet off the back wall. The only reason I survived the testing is because in between each interval Jared has you pause swimming to check your heart rate and lactate levels. I used that time to gasp for air and beg for a countdown during the final interval so I knew how much longer I’d have to suffer.

After you complete the testing portion you move on to stroke analysis. Jared sets up two incredibly high end, super cool underwater video cameras in front and side view positions. You’ll swim for a minute to capture your baseline stroke, then Jared reviews the video with you and provides an overview of what looks good and what needs improvement. Next he’ll pick one element for you to concentrate on, have you swim a minute focusing on this particular improvement, and show you side-by-side before-and-after videos to see how you did. After that he’ll move onto a second point of focus and repeat the process. All in all you’ll walk away with three or four discrete form points that you will have practiced in the flume and can continue to work on after your session. More importantly, these form points are specifically selected to provide near-term results – as in, you’ll swim with less effort and/or faster almost immediately.

How did this shake out for me? Well, it turns out the alternate-side breathing that I thought made me super cool was in fact my undoing. Jared noticed during my physio testing that my lactate levels were unusually high during the initial rounds of testing. He had me change to a single-side breathing, galloping style stroke (a la Katie Ledecky – even cooler!) to improve my oxygen levels and reduce lactate levels, and then gave me some specific form points to concentrate on to maximize my stroke efficiency for this new style.

Think it all sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo? We put it to the test. I came back exactly two weeks later – after only three swim workouts – and re-did the physio testing. My lactate levels started lower and stayed lower during the initial testing intervals, and my heart rate stayed lower as well. My stroke rate was lower across all the intervals, and I was able to add a fifth, faster interval that had been impossible two weeks prior.

I still have work to do to get faster and refine my stroke, but now I know what to work on. And with Jared’s help I will come out of the water at my next tri feeling less tired, and therefore having more energy for the bike and run. #ForTheWin!

HOW DO I GET STARTED?
Just pop on over to the CUSMPC website’s page on performance testing and select “Physiology.” Scroll down to “(SWIM) Lactate Profile,” click to pop up the scheduling tool, pick a time and you’re good to go.

While you’re at CUSMPC for your swim physio testing, be sure to check out their state-of-the-art facility. They offer everything from physio and metabolic testing to physical therapy to an alter-G (anti-gravity) treadmill. It’s all open to the public, and it’s right in our own back yard.

Pacing the Cage: Making the Most of Your Taper Week

By Will Murray

Originally published by USA Triathlon – reprinted with permission

It’s the week before your race and you feel like a caged tiger. While you still have workouts that are short and crisp to stay sharp, your training volume is vastly reduced. All of a sudden you have a lot more time on your hands. How do you make the most of this extra time during your taper period to have your best race day experience?

Training makes you fit; practice makes you fast.
When was the last time you practiced your transitions? Everybody talks about the free speed you can obtain with clean transitions, but that speed only comes with practice. For T2, bike-to-run transition, try this:

  1. Set up a bike trainer and your T2 transition area.
  2. Hop on your bike, yes with your helmet and sunglasses and cycling shoes, ride for two minutes.
  3. Do your transition — changing helmet for ball cap, changing shoes and putting on race belt. Then run 400 meters.
  4. Capture your time for the transition, from the instant you stop pedaling to your first step.
  5. Repeat six to eight transitions until you get your transition time down to less than 10 seconds.

For T1, your swim-to-bike transition:

  1. When you do open water swims, practice running out of the water for 100 meters, then jog back to the water.
  2. Practice your exit of the water five or six times to get the feel of snapping from a horizontal position to vertical and trying to run.
  3. If you can run out of the pool without incurring the (unwanted) attention of the lifeguard, give this a try.
  4. Practice your bike mounts and dismounts at least six or eight times.

“Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.” – Yogi Berra
Your taper week is a great time to practice your mental skills.

  1. Write out your race plan. On paper (or electrons). Include your pacing plan and your fueling and hydration schedule.
  2. Include mental elements in your race plan. Study the course map and course profile to identify specific locations where you will need extra motivation. For example, at two-thirds of the way through the run course, many athletes lose focus and start dwelling on how tired they feel. You might think of two or three people who you know have your best interest at heart. Think of what they would say to motivate you that would really help lift you. Place them along the course map in your mind’s eye and hear what they would say as you see yourself hitting that point.
  3. Rehearse the race in your mind. For specific instructions on how to do this, read “Two Minutes to a Better Workout.”
  4. Prepare for the worst. Ask yourself, “What could go wrong?” Mentally travel through the race, from setting up your transition area to the finish line, and test for things that might go astray. What if I drop a bottle? Make a plan. What if I start to chafe? Make a plan. Being prepared is the best way to put worry away.

Test your gear.
I recently heard an athlete lament that the electronic shifter battery on his bike died during the race, turning his bike into a single-speed. He had not charged the battery in two months. Don’t be him. Go over your bike carefully or take it to the shop. Especially check your tires and shifters. Lube your chain. Clean up your bike.

Do a dress rehearsal, literally. If you haven’t done a swim in your wetsuit in a while, take it to the pool or open water and swim a little. Do a short bike-run brick in your race kit. Practice placing your anti-chafing remedy. Test the drink that the aid stations will be handing out to get used to the taste.

Plan to sleep.
Make plans to get a good night’s sleep the night before the night before the race. Many athletes have trouble sleeping the night before the race, so if you do find yourself staring at the ceiling, use that time well. During your waking period, rehearse again the race you want to have tomorrow. Make a movie, full color, with sound and scents and sensations, of the race going as well as it can. See yourself having a great race, start to finish. If this doesn’t put you back to sleep, then you will put your mind in the right frame for the next morning.

Taper week gives you a lot more time to focus on those things that will help you have a great day for your race. In addition to pacing like a caged tiger, you can also practice those skills that will make your race day smooth, efficient and fulfilling.

Will Murray is a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach and the mental skills coach for d3multisport.com. He is co-author of “The Four Pillars of Triathlon: Vital Mental Conditioning for Endurance Athletes.”

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.

Friday Fun: The Ten Different Types of Open Water Swimmers

By Patricia Dixon

The Ten Different Types of Open Water Swimmers

1. Flamingos – The athletes just trying to get ready for their swim, whether wearing a wetsuit or not, they are the ones you see standing out in the water, hands clasped in front of them, bending over while having one leg lifted and standing on the other

2. Turtles – Those of us who do not have a mission, we have one speed – slow and steady. Our only mission is to swim as far as we can within the allotted time.

3. Seal pups – Beginner Open Water swimmers, they like to hang out near the shore line, go back and forth up and down the shoreline. You will also see the seal pups get out of the water a lot and jump on shore and then jump back in.

4. Jelly Fish – These types of swimmers will swim to the buoys and then float around them, sometimes just hang out by them for long period of time until you go to swim past the buoy and they jump out right at you. Like trying to sting you, then they will continue on to the next buoy.

5. The Seals – these types of swimmers are normally wearing a wetsuit, they may or may not see you, but they will swim right up on top of you as if you were a rock or iceberg.

6. The Sharks – Yep, they are out there. They are aggressive swimmers, they don’t care who is out there, if you are in their way, they will ram right into you.

7. Otters – This group of swimmers, they are cute to watch, they love to just have fun, they hang out with their friends, and they are very supportive of each other and will wait for each other to hit their meeting spot. They will laugh and giggle together and enjoy the morning swim.

8. Minnows – Otherwise known as the toe ticklers. These swimmers will swim up to you, and then tickle your toes non-stop until you move out of their path.

9. School of Fish – These swimmers will swim in a group, much like a school of fish. The one problem with this group, they all rely on the front swimmer to lead them, so if the front swimmer takes a wrong turn, they all follow.

10. Dolphin (Want to be) – Yep, I said want to be… These groups of swimmers are built of amazing athletes (Pros and Elites.) They are fast and they are strong. Watching them swim is just amazing; it’s like watching a pod of Dolphins. The one thing they are missing that Dolphins do well is being agile. The group of swimmers does not know how to change directions quickly to miss obstacles in their path, but instead, they just freight train whoever/whatever is in their path. You really don’t know what hit you until the Pod has completely swam over you and you are able to catch your breath and get your vision back.

Triathlon: DON’T DOUBT THAT YOU BELONG

WRITTEN BY: WILL MURRAY

Shared with permission from D3 Multisport

You look around and see all these superior athletes surrounding you. At the pool, you notice ripped swimmers as they saunter across the deck, slip into the water and motor back and forth at speeds such that you can’t imagine how they are doing that. On the bike, you are tooling along at a crisp pace, and some other cyclist eases by, seemingly without effort, gives you a little nod, and turns into a steadily decreasing shape until becoming a tiny dot disappearing over the horizon. During your run, same thing: you get passed by a couple of young women who are having an in-depth conversation about their physics exam or some term paper coming up.

But the conversation you are having with yourself is not about what they are talking about. You are asking yourself one question that, at that moment, seems like the most important thing of all: “Do I even belong here?” The conversation with yourself continues: “Everybody around here is fast, and they look so fit and they have really nice kits and fancy bikes and the latest swim equipment. I’m just a normal person. I don’t fit in. I don’t belong here.”

And maybe you are right, but it doesn’t matter and here’s why. You are not here for them. You are here for you. Here are three steps for transforming this doubt that you belong, into something useful and powerful and even motivating.

Step 1. Revisit and write down (yes on paper with a pencil or your favorite pen) your reasons for doing your sport. Your reasons and drives for training and racing may be about maintaining your fitness and health, or your body shape. It may be to relieve the tensions of normal life. It may be to knock off a life goal, check off a bucket list item or just see whether you can actually do this. Or it may be to win your age group, to grab a personal record or qualify for some championship race. Whatever the reasons, as many as they are, as big or tiny as they might seem, write them down (all of them) and take a look at them. This isn’t about all those other people, those swimmers and cyclists and runners. This is for you, and they don’t really figure into all this.

Step 2. Pay attention to the actual actions of those around you. When you pay close attention to all these seal-sleek swimmers and speedy cyclists and fluid runners, how do they treat you? You might be tempted to evaluate what you think they think of you, rather than what they are actually doing. When you look for it, you may notice that they are actually behaving toward you in a very supportive way. Notice the little looks of approval, the “nice-work” statements, the little acknowledgements that you are out there training and racing. That you are one of them, that they acknowledge you.

Step 3. Acknowledge other athletes. You could wait around hoping someone will give you a thumbs-up, or a knowing nod or a “good job.” Or… you could initiate those things. See another athlete on a run or a ride or at the pool? Give a little nod of approval. Encounter another triathlete at the gym (yes, you can tell who they are)? Tell them, “Nice work.” Be genuine, be brief. But instigate the continuing culture or letting everyone know that everyone belongs.

There will be strange responses, no doubt. Some athletes are shy. Some are absorbed in their training session and don’t even see you. No problem. You belong, and so do all the other athletes. Help create the culture of belonging. Because you do. We all do.

Mental Skills Expert Will Murray often hears triathletes saying that the sport is at least 50% mental and 50% physical, but I’ve come to notice that they spend very little (if any) time doing mental training. Fortunately, it’s easy and fast to train-up your mind to help you achieve your triathlon goals. I’ve been lucky enough to bring these mental conditioning techniques to first-time athletes and Olympians, kids and seniors, triathletes who want to finish the race and those who are gunning to win.

Why Your Next Run Should be in the Pool

Turn your miles to meters and just wait for the benefits that go beyond killer run-specific fitness.

From IRONMAN

By Holly Bennett
I’m not a coach. I’m not a personal trainer or a professional athlete. What I am is a relatively average age group athlete, here to tell you why your next run should be in the pool.

Without a doubt, water running is no substitute for the satisfaction of pounding out the miles on the road or trail. But for an injured runner who can’t withstand impact, logging laps in the pool is a lifeline to maintaining run-specific fitness. And for any runner—injured or not—water running has a number of lesser-known benefits that ramp up its appeal. I’ll tell you about these, but first, let me tell you a story.

Years ago, six weeks out from racing IRONMAN Canada, I injured my foot. It was a “high-heel injury”—totally unrelated to training, a direct result of walking on a cobbled street in too-tall shoes after tipping back a few margaritas. These things happen.

The penance for my playful night out was relegation of all my run workouts to the pool; I wasn’t allowed to foot strike on land until a few days before the race. So I sucked it up, strapped on an aqua-jogging belt, and ran. And ran. And ran. I completed every single session on my training schedule—even double runs and a three-hour long run—in the pool.

After six weeks of marathon training in the pool, my IRONMAN run flew by.

The night before the race, I talked to my coach Michellie Jones, who just so happens to be an IRONMAN world champion and Olympic medalist. (Jones is also now an IRONMAN Certified Coach.) My coach is an athlete whose lengthy career has weathered numerous injuries and countless hours of pool running. “I feel ready, I just wish I had been able to run,” I said. “But you have,” she replied. “Trust me.”

The next day, I clocked what was, at the time, my fastest of five IRONMAN marathons and an overall PR…

Read the full story including how water running is zero impact – yet mimics the real thing, how it helps your run form, how it helps your upper body strength, and many other benefits.

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