Category: Triathlon

How Mind Over Matter Can Lead to Triathlon Success

By Matt Fitzgerald |

At a press conference held two days before the 1989  Ironman, a reporter asked the several top male contenders seated together behind a long table in a conference room at the Kona Surf Hotel what it would take to win the race. Everyone ducked the question—everyone except Dave Scott, six-time winner of the event.

“Eight ten,” he said.

Scott’s answered drew whistles and raised eyebrows among the journalists seated in folding chairs facing the athletes’ table. After all, Scott’s three-year-old course record was 8:28.

Two days later, Dave Scott went out and completed Ironman in 8:10—and lost to Mark Allen, who clocked an 8:09 after having gone no faster than 8:34 in six previous unsuccessful attempts to win the race.

The record-shattering duel that took place between Dave Scott and Mark Allen in the lava fields of the Kona Coast on October 14, 1989 is remembered as Iron War—the single greatest race ever run. While Allen himself and a couple of other athletes went on to slightly improve upon the rivals’ times of that day, no one has ever again come close to surpassing existing beliefs about what is possible as Scott and Allen did together in their legendary showdown.

How did those two heroes of sport finish well over 20 minutes ahead of third-place finisher Greg Welch, who himself roughly matched the best that Scott and Allen had ever done previously? I spent a year searching for explanations for Scott and Allen’s achievement while working on my newly published book, Iron War: Dave Scott, Mark Allen & The Greatest Race Ever Run (VeloPress, 2011). Among the answers I discovered on this journey is that Scott and Allen’s “impossible” achievement was partly a case of something like—but not exactly—mind over matter.

At one point, my quest to explain Iron War brought me to Ypsilanti, Michigan, where Stephen McGregor runs the exercise science laboratory at Eastern Michigan University. McGregor’s research focus is the running stride. He uses accelerometers and abstruse mathematical tools to shed light on how the strides of superior runners differ from those of lesser runners, and how the stride changes as running performance improves.

Two of McGregor’s most important insights have to do with a variable called control entropy.

Read the rest of McGregor’s insight.

The Ultimate Winter Training Guide for Triathletes

By OutSeason |

Every year we watch thousands of athletes compete on the Ironman and 70.3 race circuit — after all as coaches we travel to most of the major events on the race calendar. Race day is special not just for what happens, but because it’s the culmination of months of training and focus.

While race day is all about execution, all the training leading up to this point determines the nature of your race. Speed isn’t something magical that shows up, it’s earned. And no part of your training is more speed focused than what you do in the winter.

You Will Plan A Full Season

The first thing you should do is sit down and create a roadmap for your full season. This will be your overall guide to building fitness and allowing you to peak for your A race of the year. Using the Endurance Nation approach to seasonal fitness, you will incorporate time for building your fast in the OutSeason and follow that up with ample time to add far in the Race Prep phase. Here are two articles that look at the season planning process in more detail:  A Season Map and Season Planning Case Studies.

You Will Select Appropriate Activities

The hardest part of the wintertime siren song of volume is the true variety of options. Outside of the usual triathlon disciplines, you can ski, skate, hike, ride cross or MTB. You can look outside of aerobic work and find yoga, crossfit, core strength, weight training and much more. Before you know it, you could easily be singing up for the same amount of training time you did in the winter!

Instead, you’ll drop the swim workouts unless you average slower than 2:00 per 100 yds in the pool. You won’t lose that much swim fitness and it only takes a few weeks get it back.

If you want some diversity in your winter training cycle, you can pick one or two outside activities to complement the work you are doing to build your fitness. An example would be skate or crosscountry skiing that you did once during the week and once on the weekends. We vastly prefer you picking one additional activity to replace swimming, something that you pursue in-depth, as opposed to filling your calendar with too much.

Read more about focusing on fast and ROI.

Triathlon Off Season Training

By Luis |

Every year when I read the Hawaii Ironman stories I get that end of the season feeling. The leaves are falling off the trees and for many of us snow is in the forecast. Many of us reflect on our performances this year and start preparing for next season. I find that most triathletes tend to respond to the off-season in one of two ways. Some take too much time off and get totally out of shape and others keep training hard and are seen running intervals at the track.

I do recommend a bit of a break this time of the year. I also recommend enough training concentrating on aspects often forgotten during the racing season.

Take a physical and mental break

Once you finished your last race of the season it is time to take a break. It is important to let your body recover but perhaps more importantly, let your mind rest from all the training and racing stress. Play a team sport, go hiking with your loved ones or go on a skiing trip. You can still do some running, swimming or biking. Just keep it fun and unstructured. New activities will invigorate you. Not to mention that your non-triathlete friends and loved ones would be glad to see you.

Concentrate on technique

Once you get started with triathlon specific training keep it easy to moderate and work on your technique. The best time of the year to work on technique is the off-season. During the racing season many athletes are so worried about split times and distance that they forget about technique. Get your swim coach to film your stroke. Concentrate on pedaling circles while on the bike. If your bike is uncomfortable this is the best time of the year to get a new bike or get a professional bike fit on your old bike. Your body will have the time to adjust to any bike changes. For the run I recommend working on some running drills to improve turnover and minimize the time your foot is on the ground. Most top runners can maintain 90 steps per minute or better. Count the steps on one leg only or double to 180 and count both legs over a minute.

If you are not sure, try this test. First make sure you have a good idea of your aerobic pace at your maximum aerobic heart rate. Now go out and do between 15-20 minutes of fast running either in the form of interval work (such as 3 x 1000 on the track or 1 x 5 minutes, 2 x 3 minutes, 3 x 1 minute fartlek). Now monitor your body for the next few days. If your aerobic pace gets quicker from this workout, you will probably benefit from doing speedwork. If you get slower or get sick, your body is not in the shape to handle speed work at this time and you may benefit from doing a couple more weeks of base work.

Don’t be a (January) National Champion

I am not sure where I heard this quote but I like it. Every time someone tells me about a great set of repeats or some crazy ride done at an incredible pace during the off-season I use the quote. The likelihood that this athlete can maintain this sort of effort throughout the entire year is not very good. Training takes effort, it causes pain and it wears on you. Save that energy for when it counts later in the season. Being fit in January does not mean that you will be that much fitter by summer. The more likely scenario is low performance during the summer due to over training and getting mentally drained from all the high intensity.

You can also train your weakness, build strength and get started on planing your racing season.