Monday, February 1, 2016

Preparations with the 'Swedish Doodes' in the House of Pain

March 2004
By Gordo Byrn

You’ve all read the typical “going to do a race in a week’s time” reports – so I thought that I’d offer up something a little different. I’ve had a couple of house guests down here in Christchurch. Two of the Swedish Doodes moved in for the Southern Summer.

First up is my training wing-man, Clas “The Baron” Bjorling. Baron and I have a rapport where we don’t need to speak much to get our point across. I guess that’s what happens when you spend five to eight months each year training alongside someone.

A new addition to the crew is Bjorn “Mister An-der-son” Andersson. The Scandos reading this article will know that Bjorn means “bear” in Swedish. For the last few years, I’ve wanted to have a pet cat or dog. Well, with my travel schedule, pets don’t really work. So I guess that it’s appropriate that I’ve been sent a pet bear.

He’s a unique bear that emerges from hibernation from time to time to smoke himself on, yet another, 250K ride. Mister A doesn’t keep a training log and that might be a good thing because it would make pretty depressing reading for his competition. Early this week he completed a five day “push” of 850K on the bike, seven runs and a swim.

I get a big kick out of Mister A – I’ve known him for two years and it’s taken him that long to loosen up! Turns out that he’s quite entertaining – when he’s not drilling himself on a seven hour ride; crashed out reading cycling magazines in semi-darkness; or listening to some gnarly heavy metal (a band called Nile is his favourite).

My idea for inviting Mister A into the house was to become a better cyclist. I figured that endless Swedish Motorpacing would strengthen me. Only one catch… Mister A’s aerobic threshold power is equal to my lactate threshold power. In two months of training, I think I’ve logged less than ten hours on his wheel and those were highly painful. So, I’ve had to learn from him in a non-training situation.

The mind is an interesting thing and, often, my first impression when I come across someone radical is to try to persuade that person to see it my way. I need to watch my urge to be “right” all the time. When I rode with Mister A last year, I decided that what he really needed was to train “just like me”. Well, after Mister A’s 2003 season finished with crushing the field at Half IM UK, I got to thinking that perhaps there is something that I could learn from The Bear. In our two months together, he’s offered me a small handful of tips. EVERY one has made me a better triathlete.

Here’s what I’ve managed to pick-up, so far:

Strength – spinning is great but most triathletes don’t have the ability to combine force and cadence. Ultimately, “watts to the road” is all that matters. While I can’t push a 58-11 like Mister A, I now do a twice weekly session of grinding on my 55-11. My cadence has been as low as 20rpms at times. We’re not supposed to do stuff like that but I often train at the edge of what’s reasonable.

Work – folks think that Mister A “came out of nowhere”. Not a chance, learn the training protocols and background of any decent elite athlete and you will see a long, long history of work. Mister A’s standard endurance workout is a seven hour ride, solo, no music, grinding out at 300 watts plus. Why does he ride faster than nearly everyone in our sport? Because he out trains us all. Toys – coming from a swimming background, Mister A has some ideas about swimming. Basically, he thinks that it’s best to get rid of all swim toys. He didn’t quite say that but I tend to take all advice to the most extreme end possible. So I chucked all my equipment for the month of February. Pretty radical stuff for a gear crazed triathlete like me! What are the three weakest aspects of most of our strokes? Body position/alignment (chuck our pullbuoys, learn to orient ourselves in the water) – Kick (chuck our pullbuoys, learn how to use our legs) – Catch (chuck our paddles, learn how to generate power with our own arms). My best swim technique lesson in the last year came from watching Mister A swim a few lengths. He manages to get his upper arm into the catch of his stroke. For all but the best swimmers, paddles bring a hand focus to our strokes. Mister A showed me the benefit of an arm focus.

I managed to share a few ideas with him as well but, I guess, he can write those up in Swedish for the crew back home.

OK, now a little bit about Ironman New Zealand!

I was surprised to be seeded fourth in such a strong field. Personally, I would have put myself seventh as there are at least six guys with stronger records than me. It’s going to be a “big ask” for me to crack the Top Five at such an early season race. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

This will be my eleventh Ironman race and each race presents a new opportunity to “get it right”. For me, 2003 was the year of volume. My only goal was to rack up as many hours as possible. Scott and I set that target a year ago and I think that I did a good job of simply training all day, every day. I may have out-performed a bit. Looking back over 2003, I was seriously over-reached five times and slightly over-trained at least twice.

Having access to Scott is highly valuable. Not only can I tap his personal training experience but I access the methods of all his training pals over the years. Two guys that he trained with did pretty well at the IM distance (Mark Allen and Pauli Kiuru, both sub-8:10 guys). These guys were steady-state animals, melting their training pals with superior aerobic power and pace.

So I decided to try something radical, following Epic Camp, I took an axe to my weekly volume. I knocked a huge chunk out of my week and tried to speed my training up (especially in the water and on the bike). My largest week in February will be 27 hours, compared to 53 hours in January. I have to admit that it is nice not to be constantly smoked!

Following my races last year, I don’t feel like I have anything to prove anymore. What I would like is for all the members of the House of Pain to race to their potential. That would see some very happy traffic around the finish line around 3:30PM next Sunday (you might have wait a bit for me). The “kids”, Mister A & Baron, could use the prize money. As for “dad”, my current nickname at the pool, I enjoy showing that it’s possible to race long with a near absence of top end. That’s a lot of fun for me and I’m at the stage of my IM racing where fun is what it’s about.

I’ll report back after the race.