Ironman Boulder is almost HERE! So if this is your first 140.6-mile race or if you are doing Boulder for the first time, this is a MUST-LISTEN podcast Chaskis founder and Dig Deep Podcast host, Hugo Mendez, invited experienced Boulder-based coach Eric Kenney to share his knowledge and advice on how to have a great Ironman Boulder! Eric has great advice on several key topics like pacing yourself, especially if you are racing at altitude, nutrition, the course, logistics, how to have a smart bike ride and solid marathon, key sections of the race, logistics and more.
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from indomitable will.” -Mahatma Gandhi
Triathlon can be an intimidating sport. The idea of training for and completing three sport disciplines for one race can feel overwhelming for many people. Even the most experienced triathletes can let their worries get in the way of optimum performance. With proper training, support and mental preparation, those worries can fade away as you swim, bike and run your way to that finish line. It’s an amazing experience and one of great accomplishment. For athletes new to the sport or ones considering doing a triathlon for the first time, the importance of mental training is often overshadowed by the emphasis put on physical training in swimming, cycling and running. But, the physical and the mental must work together for the best outcome.
As an ambassador for USA Triathlon, when I go out into the community to encourage athletes to try a triathlon, I often hear these doubts: “I’m not athletic enough. I don’t think I can do that.”, “I am not a good swimmer. I’m too scared to try this.”, “I don’t have the right gear. My bike is too old.” But, guess what? As an athlete myself and a coach, I hear the experienced triathletes express worries as well. Every single triathlete in the world has had doubts about what he or she can accomplish. I completely understand this feeling. Testing ourselves in new ways is scary. Fear of failure is real. I said a lot of these same things to myself right before my first triathlon, “What the heck am I doing?? I can’t do this.” But, unless we take that first step towards a new challenge we can never know how that accomplishment feels. As athletes, we train our bodies to be strong but we often underestimate the need to train our minds to be resilient and think positively. We need to teach ourselves to believe in our strengths and follow that road to success.
Whether you have already hired a coach or are thinking of hiring a coach there are certain steps you can take to foster the Coach/Athlete relationship. Each coach has their own style and philosophies, but there are certain expectations an athlete should have when they hire a coach. Setting your expectations upfront is crucial in establishing a mutually beneficial working relationship.
At minimum you should ask the following questions during the selection process. How and when will my training plan be provided? What type of review process do you have in place? If I need to ask you a question what is the best manner in which to reach you? What are your pre and post race notification requirements? A good coach will explain their processes up front but this doesn’t exclude you from communicating your preferences. Following are some suggestions on how to make the most of your relationship with your coach.
Goals: Establish goals and benchmark sessions to measure progress along the way. This is a “given” and I won’t spend a lot of time on goal establishment. Discuss your race plan and ask for your coaches input. Ask what tests and criteria they use to establish fitness gains. At the end of the season how will you and your coach evaluate progress and success?
Timely and Open Communication: The cooperation of both the athlete and coach is required if there is to be effective communication.
Coaches should provide workouts that are clear and concise. What are the duration, intensity, terrain and desired outcomes of your workout? What phase of training are you in and what purpose does your current block of training play in the annual training plan? How will you receive your workouts and when can you expect to have your plan for the upcoming week or months of training?
The athlete can foster the relationship by providing meaningful feedback on how they absorbed the workouts provided. In short, fill out your training logs in a timely manner and be thorough. “Completed” “done” “that was hard” tells your coach very little. Provide information on how you felt before, during and after the session. How did your body feel during the main set of the workout? What was your wattage? Heart rate? Pacing? What successes or obstacles did you encounter during the session? What was your mental state of mind? How did you sleep the night before? How has your diet been? The more relevant information you share, the easier it becomes for your coach to develop a plan with your fitness gains in mind.
The first step towards quality communication with your coach is to realize that you play a key role in fostering the relationship. Many times, important factors which influence performance are left unmentioned. Remember this is a business relationship. Coaches don’t want to play counselor. Share only information that impacts your training but don’t expect your coach to give you advice outside of the sport.
Trust: When you make the decision to hire a coach you are putting your faith in their hands. There are different methods which lead to the finish line of any race. If you hire someone to drive “your bus” for the season then let them drive the bus. The internet, training partners and magazine articles can all provide distractions and plant a seed of doubt in your mind. Don’t give up on your training program before giving it adequate time to be evaluated. Don’t be afraid to ask your coach about different philosophies and methods. A good coach will be fair, firm and honest with you.
What to Expect from your Coach: Realize that not every coach has all the answers. If they don’t have an answer then they should provide assistance on where to find the answer. Your coach has a life and don’t expect them to be available 365/24/7. Respect your coach’s time and ask them when it is acceptable to call for questions and what a reasonable response time should be when you contact them.
What can you do to foster the relationship? If you don’t know something then ask? Coaches love to teach about the sport and like when athletes become life long students. Work hard and be consistent day in and day out. Coaches will work harder for athletes who work hard to achieve the goals established up front.
The dept of the coach/athlete relationship is formed when both parties have pre established goals and expectations and two way communication is established. Make the most of your coach by taking an active role.
You’re probably already aware of the many benefits strength exercises have on your performance. But there’s another group of exercises that often go overlooked: mobility exercises.
According to Rod Murray, USA Cycling coach and owner of Body4Life Training, mobility exercises are anything that brings a joint (where two bones meet) through its full range of motion, improving your overall posture and flexibility—on and off the bike.
“Doing these types of exercises improves your performance so you can ride better, longer, and more comfortably,” Murray says. “You’re constantly adjusting yourself in the saddle—reaching for your water bottle, turning your neck to see cars—so you want to be able to do things comfortably and pain free.”
And while it’s good to start doing mobility exercises at any age, it’s particularly important for those in their 40s and older to do regularly. That’s because the older you get, the higher your risk of injury becomes. Adding mobility exercises into the mix can help bulletproof your joints and prevent such injuries from occurring.
Protein is an essential nutrient that is present in every cell of the body and is critical to supporting athletic training. Protein is responsible for building and maintaining muscles, and is what makes up the enzymes that power all reactions in your body that keep you going.2
Proteins are made of amino acids, which are building blocks that help grow and maintain the body’s tissues. Humans are not able to synthesize (or produce internally) certain amino acids, so they need to be consumed through food. The amino acids that need to come from dietary sources are called essential amino acids.1 This inability to produce essential amino acids is why the consumption of an adequate amount of high quality protein is vital for your health, epecially as athletes.
It is recommended that average adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.3 Athletes, on the other hand, should consume higher amounts due to increased needs for muscle repair and training adaptations. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for athletes, depending on training intensity.4 If you’re not consuming enough protein, your body may be giving you different signs that you need to eat more of it. Some signs that you can look for are decreased muscle growth or strength, getting sick more often, hunger, fatigue, unhealthy hair, skin, and nails, neurological disruptions, and swelling.
1. You can’t seem to build muscle
Do you feel like you’re not getting the results that you want? You may not be consuming enough protein for muscle growth. When you don’t get enough protein in your diet, your body will start to take it from other sources. Primarily, it will take protein from your muscles. This will cause muscle wasting and decreased strength.2 In order to provide the optimal amount of protein and amino acids to allow your muscles to recover and build, protein intake should be spaced throughout the day and after workouts.4
2. You’re getting sick more often
Are you getting sick more often than you have in the past? You could have a weakened immune system due to lack of protein in your diet. Protein is needed for the creation of antibodies, which are proteins that fight off diseases caused by pathogens that enter the body. Lack of protein can reduce the number of antibodies in your blood which can leave you defenseless to different pathogens.2
Zone 1 is commonly known as the recovery zone. We don’t think of it as a “training zone” like the rest of them. Usually zone 1 is described as “extremely easy”, “embarrassingly easy”, “gentle”, and “slow”. It’s basically one step above sitting on the couch. None of these words make us feel like we’re getting any work done so we tend to avoid zone 1 because it’s typical descriptors devalue its training worth.
In a study from the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance*, that compared training intensity distribution during the course of an Ironman season, statistically significant performance increases were shown when training time was spent primarily in zone 1, compared to zone 2 and higher. For the purpose of this study, zone 1 corresponds to heart rates below aerobic threshold, and zone 2 corresponds to heart rates at and above aerobic threshold (but below anaerobic threshold), which is the intensity in which an Ironman is primarily performed. The participants that spent the majority of their training time above their aerobic threshold (zone 2), had comparatively slower competition times than those who trained mostly below their aerobic threshold.
The off season is where the greatest improvements in your fitness can be gained if you take the correct approach during your off season. What you do and don’t do right now will go a long way in how you race when it counts. My experience has shown that most triathletes don’t make the right decisions at this time of year to help them make improvements down the road. Get adequate rest and a solid preparation phase before beginning your base building phase of training. So how do you know what to work on?
There has to be a period of significant rest between your last key race and your preparation period. I’m not talking taking two days off. If you haven’t given both your body and your mind a period of rest and rejuvenation you will end up injured or flat at some point in the future. How long to rest and recover depends on your tenure in the sport, how long your last season lasted and what was the impact on your body and mind from you last race of the season. Adding that one last race of the season i.e. I just did a full Ironman so I might as well jump into this half two weeks post race or I might as well run that marathon 4 weeks later, is common amongst those people new to the sport. That last race typically pushes you over the edge. Know when to call it a season and avoid the temptation to keep adding races to an already long and rigorous season. Significant rest means 4 weeks at minimum of structured training and possibly more. During this time you can do some light activity such as short 30 minutes swim sessions, hikes or shorter bikes up to an hour. Intensity should be limited and you should spend the majority of your time in zone 1.
PREPARATION PHASE :
When you start back with a formal plan you need to allow 4-6 weeks for the muscles to adapt back to a routine. Emphasis should be on lower intensity and form should be emphasized over duration or intensity. Now is the time to really think about range of motion and improving form in all disciplines. It is a great time of year to start working on your limiters.
• Strength training: you broke down a lot of muscles during the race season. Time to build strength. Not only will this help you with power but this will aide you in preventing injuries.
• Yoga/Pilates: Great time of year to incorporate Yoga or Pilates into your routine. Improved strength, flexibility and symmetry
• Pool: Time to focus on improving your stroke, body position, kick and arm turnover. Get videotaped and work with a reputable coach. Join a masters program
• Running Drills: Drills and speed skills at this time of year produce improved running economy. Shorter more frequent runs versus fewer longer runs
• Cycling Drills: Speed skills such as spin ups, higher cadence work, ILT’s,( Isolated Leg Training) improve your cycling efficiencies. Sessions on the trainer are shorter although if the weather cooperate there is nothing wrong with a long slow ride in zone 2.
So this off season get rest, slow down, analyze your form and incorporate the necessary work to make improvements when you don’t have the pressure of getting fast for an upcoming race. If you can be patient, your chances of making physiological gains next race season have just improved.
Peter S. Alfino is the owner of Mile High Multisport, LLC. He is a level II USAT certified coach based on of Highlands Ranch Colorado. Contact him at Pete@milehighmultisport.com
As the 2018 race season comes to a close, it is time to reflect upon all things training and racing. Reflection defined means “serious thought or consideration.” Whether you are an age group athlete or a pro, a middle of the packer or you’re just happy to finish, reflection will provide great insight into the next steps of your journey.
Designate a time on your calendar to sit down for 45 minutes and allow yourself time to reflect. If you are like many athletes, you may need that appointment to be listed on your training plan to add the accountability. Protect the time and deem it to be as important as any of the training segments that you completed. Take the 5/5/5 approach. Focus your reflection on 5 celebrations, 5 challenges and 5 goals from your past year.
As athletes strive to improve themselves and their performances, they often push themselves to the point of injury.
The inherent cross training by multisport athletes can decrease the number of injuries, but unfortunately it does not eliminate them. Overuse bone injuries occur primarily during the running phase of training and racing and are more common with high running mileage and in individuals training for long course events.
Overuse injuries to bone encompasses a spectrum, from bone inflammation (stress reactions) to small fractures on one side of the bone (stress fractures), to breaks all the way through the bone. Stress fractures are a result of accumulative micro damage to bones from impact, which can lead to small or large breaks.
Bone is dynamic tissue with constant bony absorption and deposition stimulated by bone stress. Micro damage is a normal process that occurs with activity and is correlated with intensity and the amount of impact.
The body usually heals the micro damage before it can accumulate, and during the healing process, the body lays down extra bone to strengthen and prevent future injuries. This process is how athletes can improve their bone density. Unfortunately, there are times when athletes overwhelm their body’s ability to heal the bone stress and the damage accumulates to the point of localized inflammation or fracture.
The factors that are correlated with increased bony damage include: high running mileage, training errors, low bone density, high ridged arches, inappropriate foot wear, leg length discrepancies, and other malalignments. The most common of these factors that I see in the office are training errors, too much too soon, and inadequate recovery time, but all of them need to be considered.
The most common sites for stress fractures in runners are the shin (tibia) and foot bones (metatarsals and tarsals). Stress fractures typically present gradually but can also start with sudden pain.
Athletes sometimes are confused when a stress fracture presents acutely. Early inflammation and stress reactions can be pain free until the fracture occurs. Localized bony pain and tenderness is the hallmark of stress reactions and stress fractures. The area of pain is typically small and about the size of a half dollar. This localization is in contrast to shin splints, where the pain is over a much broader area such as the size of a dollar bill.
After the 2018 Ironman Boulder, the biggest complaint I heard from athletes was the heat and its relation to a high DNF rate. We are all aware that heavy exercise in high temperatures can lead to medical emergencies such as heat stroke, but so many tend to brush this off as something that could happen but certainly won’t happen to them.
So instead of focusing on heat illness, I’d like to discuss a heat-related issue that should catch any athlete’s attention: Yes, if your body overheats, your performance will be diminished and you will not be able to race at your full potential. Consider this athlete’s story.
Ironman Boulder second-timer Andrea Greger hit the start line prepared to annihilate her previous course time. The day started off well with a 15-minute PR on the swim leg, but by mile 30 of the bike, she knew she was in trouble. It was hot, she couldn’t eat and her pace suddenly slowed. After stopping three times to vomit, Andrea considered pulling from the race. With encouragement from teammates, she kept pedaling, finishing well behind her target pace.
As she started the marathon it quickly became clear that running wasn’t an option. No cooling effort could bring her core temperature down, and she vomited five more times. Although the task felt monumental, Andrea was determined not to quit and continued to march her way toward the finish.
“I remember at mile 25 of the run, a lady told me I was almost there, and I wanted to kill her!” she said. “It was another 20 minutes.”
Although it wasn’t the race she expected, Andrea learned a lot that day — about herself, about racing, and about the toll of heat.
Negative Effects of Heat on Performance
First, a quick physiology refresher. One of blood’s primary jobs during exercise is to carry oxygen to muscles. To cool the body, blood flow is shifted from muscles to the skin in an effort to dump heat. This process makes blood more difficult to pump to muscles to perform their work. The metabolic system used for muscle-fueling must then shift from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism, and VO2Max will be reduced.