The Monster

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

In preparing for IM, there is one swim set that I just love to use as a benchmark of how my (and other athlete’s)  swim speed potential and durability are coming along. Its also a great indicator of what your swim time will be in IM.

On a separate day, do an 800 time trial to determine your base interval for the monster set. Once you have this, you set up the workout as follows:

This example is for someone who swam 10:40 for the 800TT. Based on that pace, the base interval for the monster set will be 800TT pace plus 10 seconds per 100. So, 1:30 per 100.

1000 pull on 15:00 easy
9×100 on 1:30 at sustainable best effort
4×200 with paddles on 3:00 at sustainable best effort
7×100 on 1:30 at sustainable best effort
600 pull on 9:00 easy
5×100 on 1:30 at sustainable best effort
2×200 with paddles on 3:00 at sustainable best effort

All of this should be completed continuously on a 1:30 base (800TT pace + 10 seconds). What you will find is that the average pace you can hold for the 100s and 200s is very close to what your IM swim pace will be with a wetsuit. For example, if you average 1:22 pace for the 100s and 200s, you can expect to swim: 42.5 x 1:22 = 58:05 in IM.

Try it out!


Mooseman Race Report

Written by Jesse. Posted in Race Reports

Let me start off by saying that Mooseman is a great, great race…fantastic staff and great venue. I looked forward to this race for about 5 weeks following Devilman. This was my third half of the season believe it or not (and its only June!).  It was also a great weekend to hang out and chat with our athletes who were all race ready and very inspirational overall.

Saturday was the Olympic race where we had a whole bunch of QT2 athletes racing. Almost everyone had PRs even after adjusting for the short swim, which was great and started the weekend off with a good tone. This included my wife Chrissie who placed 19th overall in her first Olympic! My only complaint is that I spent about 6 hours on my feet that day….not great for a half the next day….definitely need to bring a fold out chair next year.

Sunday started with a weather forecast that I actually love…hot and humid (I hate the cold). It was absolutely perfect conditions on race morning with calm clear skies. The swim started with an unbelievably fast pace that put me in shock for about 5 minutes. Once the dust settled I was able to get into a grove and hook up with Coach Pat Wheeler for the remainder of the swim. Every single race we do together ends up like this regardless of how the race starts….Pat and I side by side. Very strange. Anyhow, Pat and I had a smooth swim with very little contact following the start.

Onto the bike, I had set a fast early pace with the goal to catch a few of the faster swimmers early on. This worked well as I was into 10th place by the 10 mile mark averaging about 22.8 mph. One thing I did notice on the bike immediately was that it was very very hot. Based on this, I got ahead on fluids early and maintained that fluids pace throughout the bike leg, which was more than my fueling plan calls for. I felt strong through the first loop and rode pretty much alone for the entire ride. Toward the last 10 miles of the second loop, I tried to pick it up a bit in an effort to even split the loops, which I believe I was pretty close on. I came off the bike in 10th place.

Onto the run, my goal was to head out at 5:53 pace. It was immediately evident that given the heat, this would not be possible so I dialed it into 6:03 pace with the goal of slipping no further than 6:33 pace for an average of 6:18 pace. It was a VERY hot run reminiscent of Kona last year. I rode the edge of being sick, and or cracking the whole run but was able to hold on. The run course was a mess with people cracking left and right. It was one of those days where if you didn’t have your race fueling down to the letter, you were in trouble.  Through the run I managed to pass a few people (averaged 6:21 pace) and ended in 7th place over all in 4:18:XX versus my goal of 4:13. Given the conditions that day though, I think the 5 minutes was easily given up by the heat. Looking forward to next year’s race already!

In other news, Coach Cait won the half iron by over 10 minutes and hit all of the goals we had set going into the race.  It was so nice to see her hard work and dedication over the past 5 weeks pay off.  It also gives credence to the effectiveness of setting hard, quantitative goals and executing a plan to the letter.

Next Up: Ironman Lake Placid where my goal will be a Kona slot and a 25+ minute PR over my 2006 race at that venue. I believe I’m on pace for this given my current performance indicators and using a 2.23 factor on my Mooseman time (4:19 x 2.23 = 9:38). Historically, the correlation between Moose and Placid is about 2.22-2.25 depending on the durability of the athlete (this is obviously a rough check).

3 Quick Things

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

This is a simple one. I was thinking last night about the biggest concepts required to lose weight and in general eat for performance. Based on all of the folks I’ve worked with, these are the concepts that are most important and most commonly missed by folks trying to either lose weight or eat for performance. I’ve boiled it down to 3 of them:

1) Eat often. Like clock-work, never ever go more than 2-3 hours without putting something in the tank. The exception is sleeping of course but even this window should be as short as possible by eating the moment you wake up and the moment before bed.

2) Eat at least 10-25 grams of protein with every single feeding other than your preworkout meals or workout fueling.

3) Eat a fruit and/or vegetable with every single meal unless it’s a preworkout meal or workout fueling. And even there, some low fiber fruits like banana or applesauce could work. The only exception to this rule is if you use a meal replacement bar during the day for convenience such as: Luna Bar, Builder Bar, or TLC Bar.

That’s it! It’s that simple; make these changes 100% of the time and you will almost definitely see a major improvement in body composition and overall athletic performance. Although its only three concepts, they are very powerful when employed 100% of the time. Again, I’m not a registered dietitian or nutritionist so take these comments for what you believe they are worth.


Pre/Post Race Week Volume

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

This is a tricky one. Many folks go into their races either over rested or over worked. To hit it just right takes a detailed approach that’s really like walking a tight rope. My thoughts here don’t address the whole race taper but rather just a piece of it…..the last week. They also address the short-term recovery period.

1) For any A or B race where you’d really like to do well, you should not have any intense or overly long workouts within 10 days before the event (especially running). The definition of long is relative to your particular training volume and typical sustainable weekly volume. Its also relative to the race distance you are doing. If you’ve been turning over 6 hour rides every weekend for the past 10 weeks, than another one of these one week out from a sprint (up to half iron) is no problem. For iron, you don’t want to take any chances and should therefore cut this ride back.

2) For any race, you always want to do as much race specific training as you can the week of the race, without going into the race too fatigued. As you can see, this is why I emphasize good rest and nutrition on race week so you can train more without becoming fatigued. For short race distances, you should do much more volume on race week (relative to long races) in order to stay sharp. That is, its okay to show up at the starting line a bit fatigued since you will get more benefit from the sharpness you’ve gained from training more closer to the race. It’s all about sport specific feel right when the gun goes off. For longer distances, it’s more important to be 100% rested than it is to be sharp. Any edge that’s lost from not being sharp is easily gained from being rested with a long day ahead. Typically for half and iron distance racing, this means the day before the race is totally off (more important to be rested than sharp). For sprint and olympic racing, this typically means two days before the race is off and then the day before is 30-60 min of light workouts in all three sports (more important to be sharp than 100% rested).

3) Be as race specific as possible on race week. That is, all bike and run workouts should be bricks with rides completed in the aero position. Again, it’s all about race and sport specificity the closer you get to race day. This applies to your overall season periodization plan as well as at the micro level here on race week.

4) A pretty good rule of thumb for a very important race is to do nothing within X days before your race that you wouldn’t do X days after your race. Race week completed backwards (as a general concept) after your race isn’t a bad recovery technique either as long as race week was approached properly. In terms of a race recovery, a good rule of thumb is to not do any intense or overly long draining workouts within one day for each hour spent racing triathlon. For running races, I like to use 5 days for each hour spent running since the damage is much more with higher velocities and more impact.

I hope these help you arrive prepared this race season. Stay tuned to the QT2 website homepage where I’ll soon have a comprehensive race spacing and recovery tip.


Sudbury Race Report and Thoughts

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts, Race Reports

Well, Sunday was the Sudbury Spring Sprint Triathlon. I enjoy doing this race since it’s a great check on triathlon specific speed potential from year to year. This was my 8th time doing the race. Here are my finish times over those attempts:

2000 – 42:53 (35th OA)
2001 – 40:06
2002 – 39:51
2003 – 38:31
2004 – 37:48
2005 – 36:53
2007 – 35:40
2008 – 35:16 (3rd OA)

I have PR’d it at every attempt. As you can see, I was not born fast nor did I start this sport fast (also note that I had been racing triathlon for 3 years prior to this). But, slowly and surly, I became faster through solid training protocols, sacrifice, and consistency. I think these results illustrate how consistent training from year to year can really result in consistent improvement. During this period, I never had an injury or sickness that sidelined me for more than a day or two and I only took off 3 weeks each year to recover at the end of the season. I just kept passing oxygen through my system for 8 years while slowly building weekly training volume from 8 hours per week to 25 hours. Gradual build-up and proper training intensity was the key to not being sidelined with injury. Most people think they can go from 8 hours to 25 hours much quicker than this but then realize that they were wrong while sitting on the couch sidelined with an injury. It takes patience. The QT2 training protocol is based on two major components: speed potential, and durability. My Sudbury results illustrate speed potential improvement from consistency. Durability on the other hand comes with volume and years of experience. Although these results show an 18% improvement over 8 years, you would see that my half iron times over this same period improved much more. Why? Because of the additional durability gained through volume and experience over that same period. At Sudbury, durability doesn’t factor in at all….that’s why I like it. It’s an objective look at speed potential. At the half iron distance, durability does become a factor and therefore over this period those results show a much larger percentage of improvement (due to training volume getting much closer to critical volume).

How’d the race go? Great! I PR’d by 24 seconds. This race is quite a shock to the system when you haven’t yet done any speed work other than a few races. It goes something like this: push off the wall in the pool, then cross the finish line and wonder what happened in between.

Next Up: Mooseman Half where I’ve struggled in the past to have a good day. My most recent performance indicators point me to a 4:12-4:14 goal, which would be a 14+ minute PR on that course. We’ll see in 3.5 weeks! It should be a great weekend either way with a whole bunch of QT2 athletes racing and getting to see the results of their sacrifices over the winter.

Devilman Half Race Report

Written by Jesse. Posted in Race Reports

This past weekend was the Devilman Half Iron Triathlon. Unfortunately, I probably had one of the worst race weeks I can ever remember. After a solid 3-week build up going into race week that I was confident about, I had a business trip to Portland OR on Monday morning with a 7:00am flight. 4 hours of sleep Sunday night for that trip does not mix well with a tough training weekend and of course I ended up getting sick on Monday while in Portland. My body is very sensitive to sleep and I typically get sick when my trailing three day average sleep falls below 7 hours…like clock work (and yes, I actually track that). That sickness, combined with jet lag and a busy work schedule resulted in me getting light sleep and no workouts in AT ALL on Tuesday and Wednesday. I started to feel a bit better on Thursday but of course had a red eye out of town that night….another 4 hour sleep night going into Friday. Friday we began our drive down to NJ with a stay-over in NY Friday night. This finally worked out well and I was able to get 9.5 hours of sleep that night. Saturday I felt decent with the cold almost gone and a good night sleep coming into it. We got down to NJ, registered and was then off to the hotel to get some sleep. After a pretty good night sleep on race night, it was race morning and I was not confident at all on how I would perform given the week I had had. I was particularly concerned about getting NO time in on my bike for a full week going into the race.

The gun went off and the havoc in the mud began. For anyone who has not done this race, it’s the filthiest water of any triathlon I am aware of….by factors. Despite the mud and three loop ciaos, my swim went pretty well.

The bike course at this race is exactly the type I like…mostly flat with some slight rollers. I had planned to go out pretty hard and really have a solid bike split. The first of the two-loop course was tough for me to get into a grove. This was exactly what I had worried about: not having ridden my bike all week. With too little volume close to race day you are rested, but lack the sport specificity to be ready to fire. This is why long distance events require less volume on race week than short events. For short events you want to be ready to fire. The possibility of some residual fatigue from the last workouts close to race day won’t affect the race. For longer events, it’s more important to be 100% rested than to be ready to fire. A topic for another coaching tip post I guess. The second loop, I began to find a grove and actually rode faster than the first. Came off the bike in 7th or 8th place I think.

Onto the run, my plan was to average 6:10 pace on my Garmin (5 seconds per mile faster the Oceanside) with the first mile at 5:55. It did not feel good at all, but I stuck to the plan and went out at 5:55. I was able to hold this for about 7 miles before the drift began. With the drift, I crossed the finish line with a 6:11 average and new half iron PR….4:10:XX I can’t complain given the week I had going into the race.

More importantly, we had 12 QT2 athletes race that day which produced 12 PRs. Included in that group was my wife Chrissie who pulled off her first half iron in 5:21!! And yes, this is 44 minutes faster than my first Half Iron. What a great start to the season! The only negative to the day was Tim’s flat on the bike which cost him the win for sure. It would have been nice to see a 4:02 out of him down there…serious stuff!

Next Up…My old favorite for tracking progress: The Sudbury Spring Sprint!

Race Week Fueling

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

The following outlines what is in my opinion the optimal way to approach race week in terms of fueling:

1) In general, keep your diet consistent with your typical routine. No major changes until 1 or 2 days out (depending on race distance). The only exception is a large meal at dinner about 5 days out which will serve the purpose of ensuring that the final workouts on race week are approached fully stocked in terms of calories and glycogen. The whole idea is to keep glycogen as stocked as possible on race week without overdoing it with calories.

2) Pre-fuel workouts within an hour before with a bit more carbohydrate than you normally would.

3) Drink a recovery shake after ALL workouts even if you feel you don’t need it.

4) Begin carbohydrate loading 1-2 days out depending on race distance with about 10 grams of carbohydrate per day per pound body weight.

5) The day before race day should always start with a large meal and then taper throughout the day such that the last meal is light and low fiber. The idea is to begin clearing your gut. There is nothing that you will do between breakfast the day before the race and the starting line that will deplete muscle glycogen.

Hopefully these tips for race week will help get you to the starting line as fresh as possible.


Boston’s Own Kenny Florian Close to Title

Written by Jesse. Posted in Uncategorized

What a fight this past Wednesday night…Florian Wins.  I’ve been working with UFC fighter Kenny Florian on nutrition and cardio for almost a year and a half now.  Since I’ve known him, he’s won four consecutive fights including a win this past Wednesday night which puts him in a position for a title fight real soon.  This has been a great experience for me as it allows me to integrate my triathlon coaching skills (for cardio), nutrition skills, and past weight training skills (along with Kevin Kerns).  Here’s an interview posted today following Wednesday’s win: INTERVIEW

California 70.3 Race Report

Written by Jesse. Posted in Race Reports

Well, race day came and went like a dream. It’s like it never happened…I was in CA for less than 48 hours. In on Thursday night and red eye back following the race on Saturday. I must have done it though, my name is on the results list!

WHAT A RACE. This race is one of the nicest half’s I’ve seen given the fact that the weather cooperated. Having said that, the swim is rough and very cold and the bike is very tough.

It was great to get the triathlon season kicked off this early in the season and I didn’t fully except the fact that I was actually racing until we were rolling into transition in the pitch dark to the sound of Greg Welch commentating the early morning race run down. It was time to race!

The swim was rough and not too good for me. Never really found any feet to follow and my left hand was so cold I couldn’t make a clean paddle to swim with. Instead, I had a snarled claw that I was trying to use as a paddle. With that, I ended up coming out about 1 minute slower than I would have liked.

The first 24 miles of this bike course was very fast. My cycling computer kept resetting so ended up having to ride blind with nothing more than cadence all day. I thought I had averaged about 23.5 through those first 24 miles which was good. Following that, we made the turn east into camp Pendleton and with that hit the first of many tough climbs. I had no clue it would be this hilly of a course. Some very steep and moderately long climbs combined with a head wind made it one of the toughest half iron bike courses I have ever ridden. Overall, I felt great and don’t think I could have ridden much faster. After looking at the results, it appears most people were about 6-8 minutes slower this year compared to last which makes me feel a bit better about it.

This was a great, fast run course along the beach. My run goal going into this race was to average 6:15 starting with the first mile at 6:00 pace. Using the garmin I was able to pace the first loop of the run at 6:07 which was dead on target….if I could just hold things together for the second loop. The second loop was tough and I had to dig deep but was able to manage 6:14 average for the whole run which turned out to be the 3rd fastest amateur run time of the day. I was happy with that. There were so many people out on the course though that I had no idea of where I was place wise. 5th AG is where I ended up in 4:31:XX. As I had suspected, it was tight up front with 2nd through 5th coming in within 3.5 minutes of one another. 1st was another 5 minutes up so I never really had a shot at Kona. I’m fine with that since I didn’t expect one here anyhow. That slot is all on Lake Placid for me now.

Tim and Cait also had great days against a very tough field which made my day.

Next up: Devilman Half with a flat, fast course! Can’t wait!


California 70.3 – Update

Written by Jesse. Posted in Uncategorized

Well, these 70.3 races are a lot like IM, with an “official” registration weigh-in, expo, etc. Helps get the juice flowing a bit. It’s shaping up to be a great day tomorrow including an extremely competitive woman’s race. Tim, Cait, and I are ready to go having checked in and carbohydrate laded all day at about 10 grams of CHO/kg body weight. Nothing to do now but catch up on some emails and rest up…..


Sure beats Boston!

California 70.3

Written by Jesse. Posted in Uncategorized

Well, 3 days until the first “real” test of the season: California 70.3. Things have gone according to plan and I’m felling ready for race day. Weather looks to be better than in previous years…still a bit cold for my taste though. I head out tomorrow afternoon and will provide an update from out there Friday before the race.


The Final 10 Days

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

In my book, the final 10 days before a major race represent that critical period where everything counts. That is:

1) Sleep – every single night should be the best it can be. I shoot to average at least 7.8 hours during this final period.

2) Hydration – at least half your body weight in onces each day in addition to workout losses.

3) Food – eat within the core as much as possible (I.e., fruits, veggies, lean meats, nuts, and seeds) other than the final day where the focus is low fiber grains to begin clearing the gut.

4) Workouts – nothing hard or overly draining. No interval workouts or overly long workouts.

5) Workout Recovery – have a good quality recovery shake after all workouts.

With the race season around the corner, hopefully these tid-bits will help provide “fresh” legs on race day.

The Paradox

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

The paradox I speak of is that which exists in an athlete’s training objectives. The ability to improve speed potential and the need for durability clash. Quality in one’s program gives them good snappy speed potential at moderate race distances when using a moderate volume approach. Athletes that race those shorter distances such as Olympic athletes don’t need mega durability so tend to settle their training around 20 hours max with a greater focus on quality of workouts. Because there is more quality and more recovery, they typically end up with better speed potential over the shorter distances. For IM athletes, this approach just doesn’t do it because volume is too low and doesn’t give the required durability to extend their speed potentials to the longer distance. Therefore, the IM athlete must train longer hours to get that durability since it will have the largest impact on their race day. The trick is to build volume for durability and still figure out ways to get quality in with adequate recovery…..the two of these concepts don’t mix very well. Unfortunately the two things required for solid long distance racing: 1) good speed potential, and 2) good durability, are tough to optimize in parallel. I believe this is one of the reasons we have seen short course racers make such a presence at IM distance racing recently. They have developed unbelievable speed potential first with quality and lower volume. Then, move on to add durability through higher volume in preparation for an IM event. This allows them to have solid speed potential and the ability to extend it to longer race distances.


Hyannis Half Marathon Race Report

Written by Jesse. Posted in Race Reports

Did the Hyannis half marathon yesterday, which turned out to be a great day. The goal going into the race was to average 5:47-5:48 on my Garmin through the whole day. This goal was based on my previous 10k result 3 weeks ago and backing things out using the run calculator. The first 7 miles went according to plan averaging 5:47. Following that, things did slip a bit to 5:50 with a bunch of up hills from sea level back up to the finish line. In retrospect, since this course does go down hill for the first 3 or so miles, it would have made sense to split maybe 5:42 for those first 3-4 miles in preparation for the climb back out from sea level. Overall though, it was a very successful day as I felt good and had no major aches or pains. The typical nutrition plan went off without a hitch, which of course is the key to consistent solid race performances. I think the whole field may have been about 40-50 second slower this year compared to last year due to whatever reason which makes things a bit sweeter. Either way, it was another PR, which is always the goal. Also, and more importantly, ALL QT2 athletes/coaches that I work with (7 total at this race) PR’d the day. This included Caitlin Shea-Kenney the overall winner and QT2 coach who had a 5 min+ PR over last year. We must be doing something right.  Seriously though, nothing makes me more pleased with a day than to see the athletes we/I work with do well and PR.

Next up: Oceanside 70.3 where coaches Tim, Cait, and I will battle an extremely competitive early season triathlon field. My goal out there will be sub 4:26 based on my most recent performance indicators.

Weight Loss

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

I received the following question this week from one of our athletes:

“Losing weight – I’ve got 4-5 pounds I want to drop over the race season – in the 4 months before IM/CdA. During the base phase I’ve put on a couple pounds mostly from over fueling/refueling. I don’t binge, just seem to eat a little more than I need to make sure I keep my energy levels
up, which I think has helped in fitness gains, but I’m carrying a few extra pounds around I want to drop. So the questions are:
– When is the best time in the season to lose weight and how quickly?
– Where do you cut the calories? I presume you want to keep your pre-exercise, exercise and post-refuel intake at optimal levels.”

First off, its great that you are forcing some calories and fluid in training which will train and prepare your gut for the huge amount of calories you will attempt to put into it while racing IM. No matter how well you train your gut to handle calories for race day, you will still be at a deficit, so the better you can train yourself, the better off you will be. Sorry to get off track. Here are the typical scenarios:

1) For folks that have more than 10 pounds of fat to lose (which we have established through body fat testing) before race day, I like them to do a focused calorie deficit type diet right off the get go during the base phase. Since there are no intense workouts to recover from, and moderate overall workout volume, the deficit won’t impact the quality of the workouts. The higher protein intake with the diet also coincides quite nicely with the lifting being done in the gym and meets the protein recovery demands of that. The objective is to get within 4-10 pounds of race weight by the end of the base phase.

2) For folks with less than 10 pounds to lose, I like them to be within 4 pounds of the goal race weight at 6 weeks out. Typically that last 6-week period is so intense that the weight comes off on its own with just a minor focus on total intake. If you are at about 4-10 pounds over race weight at 16 weeks out from race day, the best way to get down to that 4 pound number is very linearly from now to 6 weeks out through minor changes in habits. You’re right that cutting calories from workouts and workout recovery is never a good idea since this is your one chance throughout the day to restock muscle glycogen. Instead, focus on the window following your workouts that’s as long as the workout was to not over eat. Instead make whole grain choices and focus on “clean foods” during that period.

In both of these scenarios the maximum amount of weight loss each week should be no more than 1 pound. By limiting the weight loss rate to this number, eating frequently, and keeping protein up, significant muscle and power loss on the bike is avoided.

Again, I am not a Registered Dietitian or nutritionist; these thoughts just represent my experience as an athlete and coach. Take them for what they are worth.


Base Phase – Cooked Peripheral System

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

The following is an add-on to my previous post about workout frequency during the base phase. I’ve received a couple of questions about HR zones and difficulty in being able to reach the specified HR zones during the base phase. The following addresses why this happens and how it should be dealt with:

This is very common toward the end of the base phase due to frequent workouts and an improved aerobic pace. Bottom line is that fatigue of your peripheral system due to workout frequency and accumulated fatigue begin to make zone 1 type efforts feel much harder. If you recover for a few days, the perceived effort at zone 1 will be back to the normal 4 out of 10 range (e.g., for a race). The peripheral system becomes the limiter as it becomes fatigued and the cardiac system becomes more efficient and robust. So, not only are you running faster because of improved stroke volume at a given heart rate, frequent workouts and accumulated fatigue make the peripheral system feel fried. Here’s how to handle the situation if you feel this:

1) During the base phase since almost every single workout is a zone 1 effort, there is no real risk of injury. The whole purpose is to build aerobic capacity and durability. We address these two objectives by:
a. Keeping the same relative workload on the body from a cardiac standpoint, by following your HR zones as fitness improves…..this means a faster pace at the same zone.
b. By pushing to these zones even when feeling fried peripherally which will build durability. This is the exact situation  you will face in the IM run. Again, since there are no key intense workouts to be ready for where the objective is to push core systems, and the intensity is relatively low, there is no real risk for injury/burnout.

2) During the build and race phases, since there are key intensity sessions, the objective is to have a very fresh peripheral system going into those workouts in order push previous bests. This is why every workout during the build phase besides the key intensity sessions and long weekend workouts are in zone R. The purpose of the base phase and associated frequent workouts is to improve recovery time and durability in preparation for this build phase. This brings us to the only time you should not force your HR higher into zone: recovery (zone R) workouts. If you feel you need it, feel free to stay below zone in order to be 100% for the key workouts. The best effort key days don’t use HR zones at all. However, if you feel you will not beat previous bests during one of these workouts, back the workout down to a zone R or zone 1 effort. All this means is that your peripheral system is too fried to push on your core system effectively, which is the purpose of the key workout. The purpose of the weekend workouts is again durability and are therefore worth pushing your HR into zone 1/2. To make the whole system work though, the athlete must recover well on recovery days by sticking to zone R or lower, and take care of nutrition/sleep.

Another thing worth noting: in my experience, the folks that stick with their HR zones (zone 1 and 2 when prescribed) no matter what the WHOLE season, make the most progress. If they let it slip for just a couple of workouts (i.e., stay under zones because it feels tough to get up to zone), it can be VERY hard to get it up to the proper range going forward in future workouts, if not impossible. Without a doubt, forcing your HR higher into zone 1/2 when required (during base phase and long weekend workouts), results in the best adaptation with the few exceptions above.

Base Phase Workout Frequency

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

Here’s a benefit to base training (zone 1/R training) that you typically don’t hear about but I believe is a very important component to the build up process: frequency of workouts (i.e., building durability and recovery ability through high workout frequency). Because the base phase (about 8-12 weeks) of each season is spent primarily in zone 1, the risk for injury is low. We take advantage of that fact by doing very frequent workouts. For most athletes training for IM, this typically means 2-3 workouts per day with about 1 day off per month. What this does is:

1) Build great durability, physical and mental toughness – running and being on tired legs all the time teaches you to keep form together when the going gets tough and prepares you for the demands of IM racing. Since intensity is low and there are no best effort workouts, its okay to have a fried peripheral system most of the time; you don’t need your legs to push on previous bests during key intensity days. Instead, the intent is to just pass the amount of oxygen through your body by workout volume that your season plan calls for.

2) It teaches you to recover faster – due to the frequency of workouts, your body is forces to adapt and learn to recover faster from workouts. This is a great quality to have once into the build phase as the higher intensity work begins to kick in and you need your peripheral system for key workouts day after day.

3) It allows you to build volume safely at a slope much steeper than could safely be done with intensity training or few very long workouts per week. Typically the long workouts are placed at maximum of 35%, 35% and 45% of the week’s swim, run, and bike volume respectively.

4) It prepares you for rigors of the high intensity build phase where key workouts are almost every other day. The volume base that has been laid down through workout frequency, including weight training has prepared the soft tissue for higher intensity work with great resistance to injury.

I hope this has helps open your eyes to some of the benefits of base training that may not be advertised a lot of the time with other proponents of this method.


Indoor TT and a 10K Race Report

Written by Jesse. Posted in Race Reports

Well, my first big race weekend is over and went very well. I had estimated my 15k time for the team psycho course would be about 23:10 @ about 320 watts based on my latest zone 1 power output. I ended up with 10th overall in 23:06, and 325 watts. I’m very happy with this since I beat my own estimate and the indoor TT tends to bring out some pretty solid cyclists. I felt strong the whole ride and just stared at my power output trying to stay as constant as possible throughout (bit more on the hills and a bit less on the down hills). This was an exciting event with 50+ people packed into Fastsplits for the big heats. My power works out to about 309 “real” watts for a 20 min equivalent, which puts me already where I was last year for IMAZ. In addition, I’m down to about 161 pounds, which will set me up for a solid 20 min power/weight ratio for both Oceanside and Lake Placid as I lose about 4-5 more pounds and push the 20 min power up with some higher intensity work.

Day 2 of this weekend was the Boston Runner 10k. I had estimated my 10k time would be about 35:00, 5:39 pace based on my latest zone 1 pace. I ended up with 5th overall in 33:20 however; my Garmin had the course at about 6 miles so actually works out to about a 34:27 10k @ 5:33 pace when corrected. This was a flat fast course and let me run a bit faster than I had thought was possible giving me a PR. That’s right, a PR without ever running above my aerobic zone 1 pace in training since last season, and with 12 weeks of strength work. This illustrates the power of aerobic development and consistency. I almost even split the race perfectly by using the Garmin’s average pace function and trying not to let it budge after the first mile. This was a great race with free beer and clam chowder that will probably turn into a popular event. Based on my 6-miler performance (5:33 pace), I used the run calculator to back into my 5k equivalent assuming the 10k was considered “flat”. This resulted in a 16:32 5K equivalent on an average course and a half marathon goal for Hyannis of 1:16:54. Assuming I lose another 2 pounds before then I get: 1:16:54*(1-0.0062 X 2 pounds) = ~1:16:00 for a final Hyannis Half goal and a 5:48 pacing strategy using the Garmin right out of the gate. If it does go down this way, I’ll no doubt be in for another PR and on track for my 2008 season goals……

Anything That Kills Consistancy Isn’t Worth Doing

Written by Jesse. Posted in Coaching Thoughts

I think I see this one more than anything else: People training too hard or doing stupid things that kill consistency. This is the “magic bullet” type approach that doesn’t bowed well for long term progress or meeting one’s potential. Just like everything in life, people try to take the easy route. Here are some points to consider while thinking about training protocols as I have seen them relative to the various athletes I’m in contact with:

1) Most people train to hard most of the time and not hard enough the rest of the time. Most people never allow themselves to develop significant training volume for their race distance. Durability is the name of the game in ironman, which comes through volume (and experience). If you train too hard most of the time, you’ll never build enough volume to get the durability you need without facing injury or burnout. Also, since you go too hard between key workouts, your peripheral system ends up too cooked to push previous limiters on the quality days.

2) Training too hard most of the time leaves you sick and injured. Sick and injured means no training. ANYTHING that kills training consistency is something that’s not worth doing. Consistency is the absolute key to long-term progress.  Its simple….put large amounts of oxygen through your body over years. Sure, you may have a great race here or there with constant intense training but no consistent results and almost no long-term progress.

3) Most people that train too hard are looking for short term results without proper focus on the long term. Sure, if you were out of shape and looking to race a 5 miler in 8 weeks, your best route to success is probably higher intensity work. However, if you are looking to improve year after year and PR each race distance each year by 2-3%, this is no way to do it. Stop focusing your training on a race-by-race basis and give it some longer-term perspective. If you try this approach and tone things down a bit, at first there will be a net reduction in training load due to the reduction in intensity; you may actually get slower at first. As your body becomes more efficient in aerobic energy production you will almost always catch up to and surpass previous PRs. This process typically takes about 10-15 weeks to start seeing benefit.

4) This is a topic you see studied very ofen: they take one group of athletes and do intervals over a 12 week period and take another group who does double the volume in aerobic zones only. Over 12 weeks of the study the interval group is better shape. Now let’s take that same test and run it over two years having the interval group do high intensity work every time they step out the door. They’d be lucky if they can run at all at the end of the 2 year period! High intensity training is very potent and should be used sparingly.

5) Of course its more fun to go out and hammer every run, and race the guy on the other side of the street that you know is trying to out stride you. This is another situation where I’ll use the term “sacrifice”. Instead keep focus on the long term and hold your aerobic zone….save it for race day.

In my own experience at triathlon when I first started racing, I was slow. People were beating me in my age group for years at all distances….I wasn’t born fast. These were folks that were either born fast or trained hard and intensely for about half the year and did nothing the other half or were injured. Most of these people now either don’t race because of injury/burnout or finish well behind me. It took patience over 6-8 years of consistent training with no more than 3 weeks off each year, no injuries that side lined me, and big sacrifice. I was happy with a steady progression of 2-3% improvement each year and PRs EVERY SINGLE YEAR at EVERY race distance. Believe me, it feels much better to PR 5 races a year than just “finish” 10 and crush every training partner you have on training days.

These people who train for the short term glory some how don’t see there vicious cycle over the long term: 1) train hard and intensely for about 8 weeks and then race well (or so they think), 2) get injured and miss about 8-12 weeks of training, and 3) train hard and intensely for about 8 weeks and race well again at about the same level they did last time…. very little long term progress.

This same argument goes for those that just do stupid high volume without any focus on progress or performance. More doesn’t always mean better.

There is no magic….


Indoor TT and a 10K

Written by Jesse. Posted in Uncategorized

Well, the 2008 race season will start off with a bang for me this weekend. With Walters Run cancelled in December, this will be my first test after 12 weeks of training. Saturday will be the Team Psycho indoor time trial (15k) at Fastsplits, and Sunday will be the Boston Runner 10k. Normally I would never race back to back like this but given its a recovery week and I don’t have to cram volume, the bike is before the run, they are both very short efforts, and the fact that my training volume is up to the point of pretty good durability, I’m going to give it a shot. Initially I had just planned the 10k but when heard about the indoor TT, I wanted to go down and support Fastsplits with a presence. Should make for a solid test weekend on where I stand for Oceanside in just 8 weeks!