Author Archive

Keeping The Streak Alive….

Written by Jesse. Posted in Race Reports

Yup, this is a race report! I haven’t done one in a while. Having said that, I did the baystate half marathon this past Sunday and thought I’d post about it. This is a flat fast course for the most part.

The day before wasn’t the best in terms of preparation as I decided to rip a hole in the house and install sliding doors to the back yard. On race day, the gun went off and I dialed into my goal race pace based on my recent aerobic training metrics (QT2 Z1 pace). This had been predetermined before the start to be 5:39 on the garmin. I held onto this through mile 3 where the pace started to slide a bit due to a stiff head wind. The weather was 38 degrees, windy and rainy…..just nasty…..typical new england. By mile 6 my average pace was 5:42 on the garmin (after the 3 miles of head wind). Following that, I ran pretty steady through 12 and had a 5:43 pace on the garmin. The last mile I was able to pick it up and crossed the line with a 5:42 average pace. I had a distance of 13.18……so ended up with a 5:45 pace recorded in the results……1:15:13…another PR at the half distance!

This is my 6th open half marathon (ever) and my 6th PR….keeping the streak alive! To reiterate just how aerobic our sport is, I’ll point out that the last time I ran faster than 6:30 pace in training was back in June on this day: HERE. Again, for those geeks out there or for those with too much time on their hands, here’s my garmin file from the race: HERE. Average HR was about 4 beats above threshold HR, which is about right (we typically figure 5 beats at half marathon). I’ll note, HR becomes a great metric to pace your day when hit with heavy winds, hills, or heat like this race. You’ll notice how consistent I tried to keep HR throughout the day once calibrated by expected pace through the first few miles.

I’m getting ready for IM Cozumel (in 5 weeks), and things are going quite nicely…..

In other news, I’m viciously preparing season plans and setting athlete meetings in preparation for next season. Its going to be another great one……

-Jesse

Acclimation

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

This is a topic you hear people talk about periodically but don’t really get many logical conclusions out of. Here is the process I have used successfully with many athletes in regard to these two very similar topics: heat and altitude acclimation.

Before an event that’s either at altitude or in a very hot location, either arrive at the venue greater than 14 days out, or as close as possible.

1) Further than 14 days and you can actually begin to acclimate to the conditions. For heat, this means training outside during the warm part of the day and sleeping without AC.

2) When you arrive closer than 14 days, the intent should be to avoid the conditions as much as possible. This means staying inside with AC and training early in the day. If you arrive in the no-mans-land of 2-14 days, the conditions will typically deplete you rather than acclimate you since your body just doesn’t have enough time to adjust and compensate.

3) For altitude, either come further than 14 days out or as close as possible since there’s not much you can do to hide from it.

For heat, arrive further than 14 days out and train in the conditions, don’t use AC, etc. Closer than 14 days and get workouts done in the morning to avoid the heat, sleep in AC, etc. If it’s going to be less than 14 days, ideally arrive very close to the event and take these measures to avoid being depleted come race morning.

I hope this helps shed some light on an otherwise confusing topic.

-Jesse

Carb Loading

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

As I sat on the plane for 15+ hours today, with a mental block on a new blog post, I came up with this beauty as it relates to IM preparation……more specifically, the carb load!

For many, this is the most fun, anticipated, and exciting thing about IM prep. For others, its a dreadful experience of forcing food with a bloated gut. Let’s first review what the purpose of any carb load is: to make sure you arrive at the starting line with fully stocked muscle glycogen. Now, I can do this quite simply be eating a ton of carbs starting 1 week from race day. Why isn’t this a good approach? Because, any potential benefit you get from the carb load (which is small in the first place), is negated by the fact that you put on 3 pounds through the process (worth about 6 minutes on race day). So, its intuitively clear that any carbohydrate loading program should try to ride the line between these two competing interests. How heavily you weigh either one is based on how critical one is versus the other for your race distance. That is, longer races require a longer carb load since the impact of having fully stocked muscle glycogen can be more significant for those races versus shorter ones. This is important, even if it means putting on a half pound (worth about 1 minute in IM which shows how small an impact we are talking about with this whole discussion).

With those interests in mind, I like to start the carb load for IM at lunch time 2 days out, and shorter than that as the race distance gets shorter and the potential positive impact becomes smaller. Sprints require no carb load while Olympic and longer do. How significant the load is (how long it is) depends on the length of the event.

Another, potentially skeptical addition to the proven carb load, is a 1-2 day fat load prior to the carb load for the real long events like IM. An example may look like this:

Monday: Fat Load
Tuesday: Fat Load
Wednesday: Normal
Thursday: Normal
Friday: Start carb load at lunch (half carb load day)
Saturday: Carb Load
Sunday: Race

Fat load definition – have your body weight (in pounds) in grams of fat that day…..very little focus on eating carbs and protein. These days should result in 0-200 calorie surplus overall which defines the amount of carbs and protein we are talking about. Fat choices should be as omega 3 and omega 6 rich as possible while avoiding saturated fats.

Carb load definition – 4.5 times your body weight (in pounds) in grams of carbs that day…..very little focus on eating fat and protein that day. These days should result in a 500-1000 calorie surplus overall. Carb choices should be very low in fiber and nutrition density. Almost no fruits and vegetables (this is about the only time you will ever hear me say that).

I’ve found the fat load to work quite well (based on real world experience) with it’s length also varied by the length of the event. As I mentioned, this one is a bit skeptical (try to look up some of the research), but for the sake of full disclosure, it is something I have been experimenting with for a while with athletes depending on ability and body composition goals.

Happy eating on race week!

-Jesse

Kona 09′

Written by Jesse. Posted in Uncategorized

Well, I find myself heading to the big island this Thursday for the 3rd year in a row. The funny thing for me is, I qualified to race this year at lake placid, I bought tickets to go, but am not racing! What gives? Well, I’m doing IM Cozumel in November and am taking Kona as an opportunity to support the athletes that I coach who are racing. This was a decision I made months ago. Here are the athletes I’m talking about here:
Pat Wheeler
Michelle Joaquin
Molly Zahr
Jaime Windrow
Caitlin Snow
Hannah Freeman (England)
Chris Casey

QT2 also has racing (under other coach’s direction):
Pam Roesch
Matt Powell

Its a solid group and I’m really looking forward to devoting myself to their races this week. Should be a blast!!!

-Jesse

Specific Flexibilities, Stretching, and Strength

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

This post addresses my opinion on the hot button topic of stretching. I’ve been in the sport of triathlon for about 10 years, and dedicated weight lifting for at least 4 years prior to that with a few year overlap between the two. Based on my experiences as an athlete, and in working with others, this post represents my opinion on the topic of stretching. It IS NOT based on the most recent research paper available in the journals which was crafted to achieve a specific objective. On this topic in particular, you can find just as many papers for stretching as you can against. In these situations you have to rely on your own experiences. In general I think too many people site papers for things rather than making their own decisions….get your own ideas people! Use the papers as input to your decisions……that’s a post topic in of itself. Anyhow, here we go:

First off, when I say stretching, I don’t mean a quick hamstring stretch for 4-5 seconds before you run, I’m talking about yoga style stretching, or 30+ second holds for multiple sets……

1) It never seemed like a natural act to me to stretch…..draping a muscle over a bone and then pulling on it for some prolonged period of time. Tugging on a hunk of soft tissue? Have you ever seen an animal in nature doing this? I’m a believer that this unnatural act creates unnatural muscle elasticity that can actually slow you down due to reduced elastic rebound at the muscle.

2) Having said that, there are specific flexibilities which are required in our sport to achieve proper mechanical efficiency. An example here would be adequate soleus flexibly to achieve proper run form. In this case the inability to achieve proper run form will slow you down more than the loss of elastic rebound in the muscle. The trick with this is to achieve just enough flexibility to meet the objective…..no more!

3) Targeted stretching periodically when you may feel an issue start to arise is sometimes required as a Band-Aid. Realize though, the issue is likely not due to the lack of stretching, but typically the lack of strength. I see this one a lot……someone has a tight calf and is told to stretch it as a fix. This alleviates the problem initially, and then the athlete makes the connection that’s it’s the stretching that they lack in their routine. What they typically then find is a bad Achilles again in 2-3 weeks because the root problem was never addressed….calf strength! My favorite saying on this topic is “a tight muscle, is a weak one.” Basically, when a muscle is too weak to adequately handle the stress it sees, its response is to contract and protect itself…..a tight muscle. My point is that although stretching is a temporary fix for a particular issue, the lack of stretching is typically not the root cause. Typically, the cause is muscle weakness.

In triathletes, there are two major areas where you see chronic tightness which leads to injury….the hips (which can cause it band issues, sciatica, hip flexor pain, etc), and calfs (which can cause calf tears, Achilles tendinitis, planter fasciitis, etc). Many folks think the solution to these issues is stretch the heck out of the hips and calfs….this can work over the short term, but does not address the root cause of the tightness which is typically lack of strength! It’s so common in triathletes, that it’s worth including a standard hip and calf strengthen routine throughout the season as a proactive measure. In many, many cases these same weaknesses are the root cause of run mechanics issues which lead to slower run times.

Bottom Line: hip and calf strengthening can go a long way to reduce common injuries seen in triathletes as well as improve flexibility which both, in turn typically improves run mechanics to some degree. Eccentric calf raises, and the typical hip exercises with a stretch band (glut medias, TFL, psoas) do the trick! Consider this approach next time you go to stretch something that hurts and I bet you’ll find the long term solution as well.

-Jesse

Open Water and Triathlon Swimming

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

This post comes from a realization I made a while back…….just finally getting around to sharing it! It’s really just a bunch of points that I think explain a lot of the uncertainty in swim styles and swim stroke approaches among triathletes. I’d have to say, there is likely more confusion or unknown around swim stroke mechanics in the athletes and coaches I meet versus any other topic in triathlon:

1) High Turn Over – Open water swimming, when choppy, requires a strong back end of the stroke and follow-through (push past the hips). Folks that have a strong glide phase to their stroke (from either TI swimming or lots of pool based technical swimming as youngsters) tend to be slowed down by the open water chop while in the glide phase of their stroke. They then get re propelled with each pull phase. Unfortunately, a long glide phase typically results in a slow turnover and therefore not too many pull phases per minute to re propel the forward motion (that was slowed down by the chop). Based on that realization, rough open water swims require a high turnover. Many collegiate pool swimmers have a very graceful glide and strong front end that results in efficient, fast pool swimming, however results in a major de coupling between their pool and open water swim times. This can be frustrating for many pro’s who have a swimming background since they crush their competition in the pool but then take a lashing in the open water on race day when competing with swimmers who are more open water borne. This is particularly true if it’s a rough (choppy) swim.

2) Strong Back End – Triathlon swimming requires mass starts with people sometimes around and in front of you for extended periods of time. Due to this situation, what’s the first part of the swim stroke that gets lost? The front end! Due to people/feet in front of you, sometimes there is no way to get a strong catch and pull during the front quadrant of the stroke. This leaves the back end of the stroke as the critical piece to keep the forward motion. Since the back end of the stroke and follow-through are protected no matter how crowded the swim is, it makes sense to apply focus here for top level triathlon swimming.

These two points explain why pool borne swimmers can look very graceful and be super fast in the pool. It also explains why many pool borne swimmers have trouble translating their pool swim times to open water. It’s the front end focused swimmers with a long glide, strong catch, and low turnover (cadence) that are the most efficient in calm, smooth, non-crowded water. However, this same group gets out swam, time and time again in open water by the “hacks” who have a high turnover and strong back end to their stroke.

I hope this helps! Again, if you are looking for an efficient comfortable way to swim in training and racing, focus on the front end, a low stroke count, and long glide. If you are looking to get out of the water first in your triathlons, focus on a strong back end, and higher turnover. All of which still require good balance in the water of course.

Different swim objectives require different training techniques and mechanics. So when getting swim advice or looking for a coach, make sure you clarify the type of swimming you are looking to do and make sure the advice matches the specific objectives….many, many coaches and athletes miss this point.

-Jesse

Stress & Diet

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

Many athletes fall into the following trap as it relates to diet and training. Here’s the scenario:

An athlete has a poor diet (low in protein, low in healthy fats, low in antioxidants and vitamins/minerals). They are training at a fairly low level (maybe 8-14 hours per week). They reinforce their poor diet by saying “well, my training is going fine and I feel fine so why change my diet. I’m also training so much that I get to eat anything, right?”. The periodic cold or illness is never blamed on the diet. Rather, its “bad luck” to this athlete.

Let’s say the same athlete now decides to train for the IM. As training volume increases they begin to notice more and more frequency of illness. They may also experience a prolonged period of fatigue and plateaued or declining performance even though they have the best coach in the world writing tailored plans with a very reasonable training approach. What gives? “Why is my luck so bad” is what they say. “It’s just been a bad season for me”. In my mind, this is a year wasted in terms of log term progress.

I’ve seen this happen over and over again where new athletes to IM with very poor diets end up with a major illness requiring antibiotics, or have major physical burnout/fatigue requiring a long lay off. What many athletes (and sadly some coaches) don’t realize is that as training stress increases the quality of the dietary intake must increase as well. If the super compensation cycle is to take form, it must be supported by very, very, sound nutrition (and other restoration methods) as training load increases.

The basic situation is: the athlete was perfectly fine under low training stress given their current diet. They increase training load and they are then in trouble. The amount of training stress one can handle is not a fixed value that can be calculated by all the new gadgets on the market (TSS, CTL, ATL….etc.). It’s greatly influenced by one’s ability to recover well through nutrition and rest. This is why every great training plan must be dove-tailed with an equally great nutrition and restoration strategy. With out one, the other is just not effective at making us go faster.

Although the lime light is always on training methods with nutrition in the shadow, I focus a lot of attention on nutrition/restoration because that’s what I have to do to make my athletes faster. A single pronged approach (training only) is just half as good. Bottom line.

-Jesse

Lift Like You Mean It

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

I’ve been ranting quite a bit recently (sorry)…..for what its worth, here’s another:

What’s with triathletes and weight training? 99 percent of the triathletes I meet are doing (or being told to do) 20 reps of every exercise in the gym. This is not a sport specific activity, period. As soon as you step foot in a weight room, you are not doing anything remotely sport specific in terms of energy production physiology.

Weight training by nature is very unsport specific regardless of how many reps you are doing. As discussed in one of my previous posts, anything with a duration over a 10k running (as an example) is more than 90 percent aerobic in terms of energy production. Given this fact, our sport is primarily aerobic. For some reason, many folks (and coaches) think that because we are triathletes, we should be doing high reps because its more “sport specific” relative to lifting heavy weights (3-8 reps). The reality is that to get to any energy production even remotely aerobic from weight training, you’d need to do 100+ reps. Based on that, this argument just doesn’t hold water and you should be lifting heavy for the best possible adaptation.

Another one of my favorites to hear (mostly from women) is “I don’t want to bulk….I just want to tone” . I’ll tell you right now, don’t worry about bulking! I spent a good part of my life dedicated to doing that (before triathlon), and I did it, but that took many years of serious focus and some heavy calories/protein (not an easy task). The sad part is that most women have the primary limiter of peripheral system strength and therefore miss out on turning that dial because of the “I don’t want to bulk attitude”. As an aside, the so called “toning” thing you hear all of the time just means gain muscle and lose body fat. Gaining muscle is done with heavy weights (again, tough to do), and losing body fat is done with a solid diet. “Toning” has nothing to do with lifting 20 reps as most of the pop magazines will tell you. Its actually tough work (with heavy lifting and focused diet)….no one wants to hear that.

Back to triathlon…..sadly, 8 times out of 10, most woman should try to become more like men (get stronger), and most men should try to become more like woman (lose muscle mass) to get faster. Are we creating some weird mono-being human here? Hum? I’ll be back with another post on this one down the road since it deserves its own topic.

Let’s review the primary purpose of being in the gym: 1) get strong, 2) build soft tissue toughness to avoid injury, and 3) gain joint strength (tendons and ligaments). Getting strong is best done with heavy weights. That’s what we came to the gym to do, so let’s do it and stay out of the gray middle (12-100 reps) where we neither get strong, durable, or build aerobic efficiency. Sure, 15 reps will build some durability and strength, but its way more efficient to do it with heavy weights and few big compound movements like leg press, squat, dead lift, etc.

One exception to all of this is if you are doing weight training into the race season (mostly for specific population groups like woman over 40, or men over 50). In these cases, the heavy lifting requires just too much recovery time and may start to undermine key workouts or race performances. Lighter weights with more reps is less damaging to soft tissue, and reduces recovery time. Note, this is the exact reason to go heavy during the early season….its more effective (more damaging) which should tell you right there that’s its the way to go during periods where you have the opportunity to get strong.

Lastly, for any heavy lifting period to be as effective as it can be, the training should be properly paired with a focus on protein (extra important for those athletes with low BMI at low BF, and strength limited) and proper nutrition periodization.

This is my last rant for a couple of months….I promise.

-Jesse

PB & Oatmeal

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

Peanut Butter, what’s the obsession with peanut butter? It’s as if when a person begins endurance sports they are taught a few things by some seemingly knowledgeable tri god. The first thing they are taught is that peanut butter is the best pre race and pre training meal available. Not that I don’t believe peanut butter is a great source of protein, nutrients, and EFAs….it is, and is a great choice during the day between workouts….just not on race morning! The second one on my rant list today is oatmeal; for some reason people like a good dose of fiber before they start their races and attempt to handle 3500+ calories of race nutrition. Interesting!

Peanut butter: You see folks run into trouble when using peanut butter during pre workout or pre race periods. The purpose of any pre activity meal is to provide blood glucose for the impending activity. This is best done with a carbohydrate that is easily digested. Peanut butter does a great job of slowing digestion in the gut, which is one of the reasons it is so good during the day between workouts….it slows digestion of other foods and therefore dilutes the blood sugar response of anything else you may be eating. This is not a quality you want in a pre race meal where the intent is to get your system cleared to handle your race nutrition. You don’t want something that’s going to linger around in your gut and get in the way!

Oatmeal: Oatmeal is a great food to have on a day to day basis since it has good nutrient density (for a grain), great fiber content, and an overall relatively low glycemic index. However, when it comes to race morning, the last thing you want is a fiber filled treat before you attempt to exercise for 10+ hours and handle your race nutrition! Oatmeal (and fiber in general) is known by its qualities to scrape the digestive system like Brillo pad and remove bile from the gut. Is “Brillo pad” a term you want in your vocabulary for a race day food item in IM?

It’s easy to see how folks get confused with this since both of these items are “good for you” on a day to day basis. What is missed, is that race morning should be only those foods that will help you go faster on that day (and not upset your gut)….not necessarily the most nutrient dense foods. Its okay to eat bland, easily digested foods on race morning because they serve a specific purpose, to fuel the race that day.

The only thing better than using peanut butter or oatmeal for your pre race breakfast, is using them together! I can’t tell you how many people I see make this ridiculous mistake, and its typically an “I’ve been doing this for years” type scenario.

I do a lot of race fueling plans….for folks from the back of the back, to top 10 Kona pros. One thing I can tell you is that this little combination on race morning causes a lot of trouble for many, many folks. This frustrates me because athletes put so much work into their training and then miss a small detail like this, and end up with stomach issues in IM. The other thing that bothers me is just how many people make this mistake. I don’t know where some of this information comes from! The only issues I see as dominate as this one in the clients I work with, are the folks who drink water (as apposed to sport drink all day), or use products with only maltodextrin as a carbohydrate source……we’ll save those nuggets for another day and another porta-poddy stop!

-Jesse

IM Lake Placid Race Report

Written by Jesse. Posted in Race Reports

Wow. I’m once again very, very pleased with QT2 athlete performances this past weekend at IM lake placid. We had 14 athletes race with each of them having a projected race outcome based on their training indicators and resulting targets for race day. Based on those, reasonable pacing/execution strategies were developed. The result? A 2% average error on race time for the entire group of 14. I’d even say that half of that error was due to some stiff head winds on the bike during the second loop which caused almost everyone to be a bit slower than expected. Of the group, I have to call out Andy Salmon who was the loan athlete that actually went faster than the outcomes we had predicted by about 2 minutes…..great, great race Andy (10:14)!

I’ll also call out my wife Chrissie for her first IM and an outstanding 11:16 finish (7th AG).

We had a great day overall and I couldn’t be happier. 6 Kona qualifying performances, multiple age group wins and PRs along with some of the fastest run splits of the day across the pro and amateur fields.

I believe, the consistent results we produce show the value of understanding your limits before you toe the starting line, and then executing to those predetermined potentials on race day. Reverse goal setting typically sets up athletes for unreasonable pacing strategies and disappointing results (explained HERE and HERE). Even at the pro level, it’s disappointing to see so, so many athletes making this BIG mistake.

Onward we go!!!

-Jesse

PS: How was my day? Fantastic! I got to watch the above unfold from the best view point available…the race course. Again, I love this game.

IM Lake Placid 2009

Written by Jesse. Posted in Uncategorized

imusa.jpg

Here we go again, another 3:30 am breakfast and another IM morning. When I look back on the past 9 months (since my last IM in Kona), first off, I can’t beleive it’s actually been that long. Mostly though, I remember a relentless grind of hard training and others around me pushing themselves to their limits. I remember, early mornings to train and late nights coaching. I’ve seen some of our athletes change their lives with triathlon over the same period by losing huge amounts of weight or by meeting new friends.

As mechanical as I am about my approach to this sport, I can’t help but see the qualitative side at times…this is one of those. As I face race day today, it’s more about the athletes QT2 has on the course than it is anything for me. Given the hard work everyone has put in and the fitness I know everyone has, there’s nothing more I’d like to see than have the day executed well and a big pay off for everyone.

It’s going to be a great day!

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Cait Snow, Pat Wheeler, My Wife (chrissie), and Tim Snow this morning (3:30am) having a QT2 breakfast…..

Run Injury Protocol

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

Running is a very demanding activity. The force of your body weight plus some momentum can really create a lot of stress for your lower body. Because of this, runners are more prone to injury than cyclists or swimmers. Of course, the best training approach keeps you from being injured, but if the dreaded happens, here’s how best top approach it….

In coming up with an approach to working with triathletes that have running injuries, I’ve developed a protocol that works quite nicely. The basic concept is that a triathlete’s gluts, hamstrings, and quads get adequate stress on a daily basis from bike training. The only major movement (relative to running) that is neglected is hip flexion. Another less significantly neglected area would be the calf (soleus and gastroc), although this does get some stress through cycling. These identifications make it intuitively obvious that if you are not running and would like to stay in “run” shape, you must keep these areas engaged and fit.

The other major piece of information that we have to use to our advantage related to IM racing, is that bike durability plays a significant role in being able to run well off the bike. The simple way to say this is you want to be trained such that you get off the bike as fresh as possible as if you were just toeing the line of a marathon. Wait a minute, you are!! It amazes me how many people forget that very simple fact.

Armed with this information, here is the approach I like to use during the period you are injured (when you are not running at all):

1) Take half of your planned run volume and add that time to your bike mileage. This will improve your bike durability a huge amount and therefore help you run better, or arrive at the marathon start fresher.

2) Take the other half of your planned run mileage and add that to devoted time of engaged hip flexor work. This can come in the form of water running, Power Cranks on the bike, or kicking in the pool. Of those, I’d have at least half be pool running. While pool running, execute the workouts just as you would have if you were real running except note that pool HR zones are typically about 10% lower than on-land run zones. This is due to the venous return you get from the water pressure in the pool (like wearing a giant compression sock). Your body just doesn’t have to beat as much to move around the same amount of blood.

3) Spend three days a week doing Calf raises and hip flexor exercises. Just 3 sets of each on each day is sufficient for these.

This protocol has been so successful that in the extreme case, I’ve had a first time IM athlete, develop a stress fracture 12 weeks out from race day, we executed the above protocol to the letter, and on race day she ran a 3:38 and qualified for Kona. She achieved this run, without running even once in the preceding 12 week period before race day. If that’s not proof, I don’t know what is!

-Jesse

Highest Possible Heart Rate?

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

How does one know if they are durability limited? One of the best ways to get your arms around this concept is to observe HR data from yours or your athletes (if you are a coach) races…the higher the HR relative to threshold HR, the better. One could say, I work with my athletes to try and produce the highest HR possible while racing. If I can do that, I’ve been successful. This may sound silly, ridiculous, and counterintuitive however; it actually captures a lot of information, physiology and is pretty darn close to the truth. Now of course HR is a parallel indicator of other things going on at the muscle, but in most cases it’s a pretty good metric to use in evaluating a very complicated system. Let’s take a look at two scenarios:

1) The significantly durability limited athlete: this guy does his IM and due to peripheral system limiters, is forced to walk the second half of the marathon (assuming nutrition wasn’t the limiter). Now, while he’s walking along the marathon “RUN” course his HR is 85 bpm. Of course this significantly reduces the average HR for the day and he might end up with a 120 avg for the day (just picking numbers from the sky).

2) The non-durability limited athlete: this guy is able to run the whole marathon and continue to produce high HR’s throughout the day. Of course his average HR will be higher (maybe 130 for comparison sake), and his overall time much better.

What you find is that pros are able to continually fire their HR all day long using their peripheral system as the driver. Note, I like to include the head (mental game) in the peripheral bucket. We need to be mentally tough in order to continue telling the muscle to fire, which in turn demands more blood and increases HR. Another interesting limiter that HR is good for tracking is nutrition related limiters. If an athlete “bonks” on the course due to improper fueling or is forced to slow down due to cramping, his HR will be much lower during that episode and end up dragging the HR average down for the day.

Based on this qualitative theory, your job as an athlete/coach is to take the best strategy you can in both preparation and execution to produce the highest HR avg for the day. How do we do that?

1) Meet critical volume through aerobic intensity exercise which insures adequate durability.

2) Avoid nutritionally limited HR on race day by having a solid and practiced fueling plan.

3) Use a pacing strategy that gives you the best shot at a high HR average. This means knowing what average to shoot for and staying there all day (respectively in each sport).

4) Don’t stop on the course! Bathroom breaks for instance would pull down the HR average quite a bit.

As a coach, one approach is to known what ratios of race day HR avg versus TH for each race distance are good. From that, you can than evaluate how a particular athlete is racing and whether or not there are peripheral, nutrition, or pacing limiters on race day. If you turn all the dials properly (fix all of the issues), you should start to see higher and higher HRs on race day.

What’s the difference between pro level and amateur level athletes in IM racing? You’ll find pro level Ironman athletes have the ability to continuously push their core system and stimulate HR to high levels throughout the whole day.

Bottom line: do whatever it takes to achieve the highest HR average throughout your day of racing whether it is from better preparatory activities, or better execution on D day.

Just another way to look at things…

-Jesse

QT2 Training Camp

Written by Jesse. Posted in Uncategorized

I know this is a bit late, but better late than never! Last week was our 3 day training weekend in Ludlow VT where we had 26 athletes participate (including 2 from the boston body worker who were there to help keep us pieced together! Thanks Jim and Katrina!).

The agenda this year was the same we used last year and included 18 hours of training over 3 days including about 230 miles on the bike, 35 miles running, and 5,000 yards of open water swimming. Although these numbers sound very high and unattainable for some, when approached with proper intensities, spot on fueling, and top notch restoration methods between workouts, you find 23 folks who roll right through the weekend with no injuries to speak of. Also keep in mind that for 90 percent of the folks attending the weekend, this was their single biggest training week (what we call overload weeks at QT2) for their build up to IMLP. It was again, very, very impressive to see this group stay so strong and positive throughout the weekend’s workouts…….what a blast!

My favorite (and most dreaded) part of the weekend was the 2 mile open water TT. We actually time everybody through the course and post the results. This is a great accountable way to push everyone at what is for most, the weakest portion of their triathlon racing. What you typically find is folks doing bike TTs on the group training weekends because its fun. To me, it makes more sense to lay focus where most people don’t……in the water. It’s a training weekend for heaven sakes!

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Next year we plan to have another training weekend in Ludlow VT, likely during July in preparation for Timberman 70.3. This weekend will feature reduced volume, more intensity, and more focus on technical training/nutrition analysis each night. Stay tuned to the QT2 website for details on this one which should be out this fall. The camp will be open to anyone who is interested once we first offer it to QT2 athletes.

Also, for those interested, BegginerTriathlete.com has posted a video segment of the workshop I held this year at the New England Multisport Expo HERE.

Thanks!

-Jesse

5 X 1 Mile

Written by Jesse. Posted in Uncategorized

Well, I did my annual 5 x 1 mile track workout last night. This post is meant to show just how aerobic our sport really is. Some facts:

1) I do 3-5 track workouts each year (so called “speed” workouts). All other work is done at least 30 seconds per mile under my one hour run race pace.

2) This is the 4th year in a row I have done the 5 x 1 mile workout.

3) I take exactly 3 minute rests between each repeat.

Below is a figure I put together which shows each of the last 4 years and the repeat times I had for each mile. What it shows is a significant improvement each of the past three years despite doing 98 percent of my training extremely aerobically.

5mile.jpg

It begs the question: Why do more than 5+, risky “speed” workouts each year while training for an IM…these have the potential to get you injured and sidelined? No reason! As shown below, at all running race distances over 1 mile, more than 50 percent of ATP comes from aerobic energy production.

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Since the major limiter in IM (and half IM for many) is muscular durability and aerobic efficiency, it always baffles me to hear folks pounding out track workouts which do very little for the their intended training response, and taking huge risks of injury or burnout which can undermine the very limiter that they have……durability and aerobic efficiency (which comes through CONSISTENT aerobic volume)! If you are on the couch with an injury, you are going backwards, burning up about 3 weeks of fitness for each 1 week spent on the couch. This intuitively tells you that your training program should have the primary focus of keeping you out of that position.

What we do at QT2 to avoid this is, focused strength work in the early season, year-round hip and core strengthening, lots of focused aerobic work, and a FEW very focused track workouts throughout the season at specific/critical times. Anything that even has the slightest chance of putting you on the couch is avoided like the plague. Like most things in life……progress in triathlon takes significant sacrifices and significant patience. For many, not doing “fun” speed work is a sacrifice.

Although track work may not directly target the energy system that primarily fires us forward on race day, there are other benefits not necessarily related to sport physiology like potential improved biomechanics (and is one of the reasons we include it in the training program). That’s the trouble with sports training…so, so, many things interconnected.

For those geeks out there (or those who have too much time on their hands), here are links to my 5 x 1 mile garmin files for the last two tries at it:

2009: HERE

2008: HERE (HR data currupt)

-Jesse

Weakness Identification/Compensation (‘Dials”)

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

A lot about building a successful athlete is about identifying limiters and then compensating for them. For those who know me or have worked with me, I like to call these limiters “dials”. The more dials an athlete has when they come to me (assuming we can identify them), the happier I am because it simply means they have more speed potential. Being a coach is partially about becoming an expert in finding these dials and then knowing how/when to turn them (or at least refer to some expert who does!).

The simple flow of this process is: ID limiters (Dials) — Compensate for them at the right time (turn the dials) — produce faster athletes.

These dials typically fall under one of the pieces within the QT2 4 part race performance system. Below are the most common limiters grouped within the 4 part race performance system, but really just represent a fraction of what you may find in the athletes you work with:

Training
Body mechanics
Equipment
Volume distribution between sports
Improper periodization plan (or none at all!)
Lack of durability
Improper intensities
Strength limiters
Injuries
Flexibility

Nutrition/Recovery (restoration)
Lack of micro nutrient density
Improper macro nutrient profile
Lack of nutrition periodization concurrent with training periodization
Poor body composition
Lack of recovery nutrition specifics
Low sleep averages
Lack of massage

Race Pacing
Pacing not tied to training indicators
Pacing tied to outcomes
Pacing not adjusted for one’s specific durability
Sport psychology
No pacing at all!

Race Fueling
Specific sweat rates not measured
Specific sodium losses not measured
Single sugar types use for long distance racing
No caffeine loading logic
Too much fat or fiber in carb load or race morning breakfast
Repeatability not considered

Again, these are just a few of the dials you may find as a coach…the more you find, the better! Once you’ve done that, its all about knowing how to compensate for them, or how to turn these dials. If you as a coach don’t know how to turn them, you must at least know how to identify them and refer your athletes to an expert (like a dietitian) that does. Some of the dials need to be timed properly as well. An example would be body composition: arriving at optimal body composition 6 weeks before race day would be detrimental to progress. The dial was turned, but way to early!

Another thing to note, most athletes/coaches just identify, and compensate for the training bucket which really only brings out 25% of your athlete’s potential. If that’s not bad enough, many only really identify and compensate for the volume/intensity piece of that bucket which brings the percentage down well below 10%. Full potential is met once greater than 95% of the dials that account for 95% of the performance are found, compensated for, and execute for 5-10 years.

What are your “dials”, and how will you compensate for them?

-Jesse

Mooseman Race Report

Written by Jesse. Posted in Race Reports

What can I say……this past weekend lived up to what I had hoped it would. This report is a race report; not about my race but about the QT2 triathlon team, as their performances take precedence over my own in my book. I’ve thought of myself as a coach first, and athlete second for about the past 3 years. This day was no different.

The past few weeks have been very busy/stressful for me given all of the athletes we had racing mooseman. This meant sacrificing sleep/recovery on my part to meet the needs of our athletes and/or get my own training in. At the end of the day, this approach paid off in a big way this past weekend with 7 of the top ten overall men and woman being athletes that I coach. As I headed out on the first loop of the run course, it was an amazing feeling to see the top 4 males be the athletes I coach at such a competitive race. Its one thing to have an athlete win a major IM race in the states, which it was, and will again be an amazing feeling, but its another to produce the breadth we did this weekend with such a broad showing on both the men’s and women’s sides…humbling. These top placings including the following:

Men
1st – Chris Martin
3rd – Chris Casey (new bike course record!)
4th – Tim Snow
5th – Tim Tapply

Women
5th – Molly Zahr (fastest bike split of the day!)
7th – Michelle Joaquin (fastest run split of the day!)
9th – Chrissie (my wife!)

It should also be noted, Pam Roasch finished 10th OA under the direction of coach Tim and the QT2 protocol. After 10+ years in the sport, to see her make the progress she has is unbelievable.

12 other QT2 athletes raced and all produced outstanding performances with most of them finishing under 5:00…….all while having a blast and feeling a huge sense of accomplishment.

When finishes like these unfold under the system you have created, it’s humbling, and makes this coach wonder if he should be spending more and more time working with his athletes versus pursuing his own performance…….

I love this game.

-Jesse

Mooseman Preview

Written by Jesse. Posted in Uncategorized

This weekend is the Mooseman Triathlon in beautiful Bristol, NH. For those who don’t know the race, its one of New England’s most popular early season events. It’s put on by the same folks who run Timberman.

Although most of the top athletes in the country (and world) will be racing the Rev3 in Connecticut, you can expect a fairly strong field at Mooseman due to its reputation for great racing, race organization, and scenery. I’ve always liked this event……just a great early season test with a typically stacked New England field. This year will be no different!

I’ll be heading up to NH tonight along with about 20+ other QT2 athletes who’ll be racing either on Saturday, or Sunday. Saturday’s Olympic distance event is on the same course as the Half Sunday, but features just one loop of the bike and run courses.

I’m really looking forward to see how our athletes do after a tough winter of training. If you are planning to be up there this weekend, stop by and say hi!! I’ll be on the course as a spectator on Saturday and as a numbered athlete on Sunday….

 -Jesse

And Where Are My “Beets” Anyway?

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

I got thinking this past weekend while doing some conversions to relate a hike I did to bike and run volume. Typically for hikes, I have athletes assume 35 percent of it counts toward running, and 35 percent toward biking. Based on that, if you had a 2 hour ride and a 2 hour run planned on a particular day, a 6 hour hike would take care of both those workouts.

People ask me how I come up with these conversion factors……its actually quite a simple process that I use based on approximate cardiac output. Let’s say your training HR zone on the bike is 129 (middle of zone) and your run training HR zone is 139, your average HR for the 4 hour workout day described above would be 134 (2 hours at 129 and 2 hours at 139). Let’s also say your resting HR was 45 bpm. Based on that, your heart will beat 89 times each minute more than that required to stay alive at rest for a four hour workout. This is a total of 89 bpm x 240 minute’s equals 21,360 beats extra just because you went out for a short ride and long run. If we look at the hike now, for the same person, a solid paced hike would result in an average HR of about 105 bpm or 60 bpm more than that required to stay alive at rest. Over a 6 hour hike, this results in 360 x 60 bpm equals 21,600 beats. As you can see, from a total cardiac output standpoint, 2 hours of biking and 2 hours of running at an aerobic “zone 1” pace is approximately equal to a 6 hour hike. Armed with this information, you can quite easily figure out what a particular hike is worth in terms of bike/run volume that may have a lower HR like 92 bpm. Of course is quite subjective to figure out how much of the volume should go to bike versus run, but in my opinion, a 50/50 split is appropriate given the specificity of hiking to both biking and running. It should be noted that this approach only addresses the cardiac piece of the equation. There is a significant peripheral impact on soft tissue during the descents when hiking which is an additional stress (beyond most damage done when running) not accounted for in the total cardiac output method above.

After playing with this method a bit, some interesting numbers fall out. For most top level traithletes, a 25 hour training week is routine. How many times do you force your heart to beat though for that volume? Well, again assuming an aerobic HR of about 134 on average and a resting of 45 bpm we get:

In a week: 133,500 beats

In a year for a top level triathlete training 1,000 year-hours: 5,340,000 beats

What it takes to reach your potential at endurance sports is commonly thought to be about 10,000 hours: an astounding 53,400,000 beats!

It’s just amazing what we ask of the heart and how reliable it is.

All of this thought while looking for a can of beets to put over my salad after a 6 hour hike in NH yesterday……..

-Jesse