Monday, February 1, 2016


Make or Break Your Race by Planning Right for Travel

A big part of the success of your race comes from planning and preparation. For months you look after training, life details, nutrition and recovery. After managing all that, a piece of the success puzzle that is often overlooked is your plan for travel to your race.

It's key to map out your plan with your travel and logistics to have things run smooth leading up to race day. Being prepared with this will allow you the time to really recoup and be ready for your event.

Second Training Home

I'm fortunate to have a new training base in the Caribbean. I now have an alternative when the winters in the Midwest get cold and grey. Here is what I learned about setting up a remote training base in a warm climate.

The Recovery Diaries

Last season I had the richest and most rewarding experience in my 10 years in endurance sports. That in itself is no surprise since I took a sabbatical to “live the dream” for four months, lived and trained at altitude near the training hotspots of Boulder and Tucson, got in the best shape of my life, and used my fitness to contend for the win at the Ultraman World Championships in Hawaii. What was a surprise, however, was that this all paled in comparison to the 13-day period that preceded the Ultraman swim start. I have written the following account to both share what I learned during that time and record the details of a true personal triumph for posterity.

Make Work and Travel as Controllable and Predictable as Possible

by Jan Hugo Svendsen

Work and travel always cause extra stress and sometimes it seems hard to manage training on top of everything else. I travel two to three days every week for work. It is a challenge, but with good planning it is possible to balance training stress, work stress and family stress to secure my triathlon training.

For me, a good structure for when travel stress is high is to scale back on training and family obligations. I don’t go epic on training when traveling, take it way down and keep a focus on avoiding zeros and just getting in some daily light aerobic training.

It is no secret formula! Here's what works for me:

  • Train first thing in the morning. Make a plan before you start the journey and stick to it. When I skip my training in the morning because I want to stay in bed a bit longer I often find myself with a zero in my training book. Remember, delayed flights are more a rule than a exception during the winter.

  • Have your own list of good training facilities with opening hours and telephone numbers for the places you visit.

  • Make a list of good hotels and create your own checklist. A good night’s sleep is everything to secure my recovery for training and to make good quality days at my work when travel stress is high. I have slept a lot in bad hotels. Those days are over. I can’t do my training and be efficient at my work if I am on the edge because of a hotel room where I could not do my minimum of eight hours quality sleep. Here’s my list of questions to select a hotel:
    1. Can I open up my window to get fresh air in?
    2. Can I get a non smoking room?
    3. Can I get a room without a carpet?
    4. Can I get a room with no noise from traffic or from the bar?
    5. What are the hotel breakfast options?
    6. What other meals can I order from the hotel?

How to Blast Yourself

As a follow-up to Alan's article on strength limiters, I thought I’d share my approach to going big in the gym. On our site, you will find a classical approach to strength training for triathlon. That approach works well, but as I age, I’ve needed to adjust my targets so my swim/bike/run training doesn’t tank.

Rather than blasting myself twice per week for a month, I place three or four Big Strength Days into a six-week period. Across the block, I will lift every third or fourth day but I will only blast myself on a limited number of key days. When I go big, I go really big.

Going Big: 45 Days of Swimming

I turned 45 this year. I completed Ironman World Championships and after a long season of swim/bike/run, I needed a physical and -- more importantly -- a mental break. I find the break comes not from reduced training but more so from not obsessing about the training. In short, doing whatever feels right. I did not do much of a scheduled training load for the first 30 days besides swim and run occasionally with no biking whatsoever.

In the beginning of November I set my sights on a goal to complete a swim for 30 days in a row.


Think of the issues which many of us consider “limiters.” Poor core strength, inefficient running form, curtailed training time and suboptimal balance in the pool are but a few of the many limiting issues heavily discussed on forums such as these. However, consider the limits offered by the biases inherent in the way we make everyday decisions. Recognizing these human foibles might offer the most powerful opportunities for improved performance.

Back Half Strength

Limiters or “limiting” can be scary words as they reference something we may not be good at. The reality is, if we want to improve, we have to face that fear of what we aren’t good at -- or simply need to improve at -- and find a way to change it. One area I find lacking in most of the athletes new to me or that I continue to work on with developing athletes is what I call “back half race strength.”

Managing the Slow Gains to Getting Fast

Limiters. For the last two years that is all I’ve been thinking about. Alan and I have been working through the elite athlete checklist. First is the body, making sure my legs are big enough and my waist is small enough. Then there is the strength aspect, measured pretty much in pull ups and squats. And then there’s the V02max part, measured in CP5.

This is all well and good, and before you do anything you need to be able to measure these attributes, assess where you currently are, where you need to be and how to get there. There is a lot written about this; but what’s not typically written is what happens to you inside your head while tackling your limiters.

Basic Limiters: Strength

by Alan Couzens, MS (Sports Science)

In my last article on early season limiters I suggested three potentially performance-limiting factors which are often ignored by the performance oriented athlete but are absolutely integral to building the type of training that will lead to the highest potential level of performance later in the season. In summary these are:

  • Strength
  • Aerobic Base
  • Mobility

I presented a case for adding a fourth limiter of movement economy (or basic speed) in an article on my personal blog.

The relationship between these four qualities can be diagrammatically expressed as follows (from Counsilman and Counsilman, 1994) [click to enlarge].

All sports (and functional activities) lie somewhere within that triangle. Even for those sports that may be heading for a corner, there are still elements of all qualities present. Or, put another way, an elite ironman triathlete, while not as strong as an Olympic lifter, is still stronger than somebody who is deconditioned (close to zero strength). A power athlete, like a 100m sprinter, while nowhere near as aerobically fit as our ironman triathlete, is still more aerobically fit than "Norm Couchpotato" (Endurance at zero). And, finally, while an ultra-runner may get crushed over a 100m sprint by Usain Bolt, I still very much like his chances against the average American (Speed at zero). The larger point being that wherever your sport may lie within the triangle, the first step is simply getting on the board -- in other words, becoming an athlete.

Everyone Has Their Limits

This month Endurance Corner is addressing limiters, with the idea that there may be a key skill or weakness that is holding back your best performance. We each vary in our specific physical limiters, but the most common limitation we all face in performance may be the ability to focus for extended periods of time. As Roy Baumeister and John Tierney discuss in their enlightening new book "Willpower: Discovering the Greatest Human Strength", the energy to exert self-control, one of the most valuable human traits, is easily exhausted.

For Women Triathletes. Period.

I realized today that I have had my period (menstruation) for almost 30 years of my life. Every three weeks. Sixteen per year for three to four days. 480 times in 30 years. A minimum of 1440 days. I have used tampons for at least three years of my life. When a girl is born she should automatically receive stock in a manufacturer of women's personal hygiene items.

Since this is “define your limiters” month at Endurance Corner, I thought this would be an appropriate topic to discuss. Please note, I am not a medical professional. The info I am sharing is personal experience only with periods, long course racing and training.

Assessing Your Limiters

When assessing your limiters for the upcoming 2012 season you may find that the solution is not as obvious as you think. Often, the solution to improving upon a limiter comes from an aspect of your life that you hadn’t even considered.

Limited by Blind Spots

One of the best ways to improve at almost anything is to work the weakest link within the set of skills required to be good. For triathlon, we tend to keep things simple and focus on swim, bike and run. That seems easy enough, but before we put the bike away for a couple of months and set off for 50 mile run weeks, are we actually sure what makes up our true limiter?

Becoming a Cyclist

As running was my gateway into triathlon, I struggled with both swimming and cycling. The former limited by technique and stiff ankles, the latter was simply hard. Cycling hurt and not in a good way. There was a faint masochistic pleasure in running hard, but it was lacking on the bike. My first few races followed a template of losing time in the water and time on the bike and then chasing on the run. While I could hunt down a lot of places in the final leg, cycling held me back. It took a number of years to truly address this limitation and raise my bike performance to match my run.

Get Better

A number of years ago I was sitting around after a race chatting with a few people. The conversation trended towards upcoming events and someone asked my buddy what he needed to work on before the next race.

“Everything. I need to get better at everything.”

Everyone chuckled, but I always appreciated that answer.

Basic Limiters

When most athletes think about limiters, they think in and around the qualities that go together to make up their events. If Johnny Kona has a functional threshold of 320W and yours is 280W then you might consider that a limiter to your event specific goals. Perhaps it is, however, early winter is not the time to be thinking about these event specific qualities. Early winter is the time of year to consider some of the more basic and often ignored qualities that go together to make up the qualities that might eventually limit your performance in your specific event.

Heart Rate and Recovery... and Heart Rate Recovery (HRR)

November's theme at Endurance Corner was recovery. We heard about a variety of issues related to both workout recovery and off-season recovery.

As endurance athletes, we’re interested in measures of recovery -- and particularly those measures that are quantifiable and might help guide our training schedules. Two such measures are the resting heart rate and heart rate recovery (HRR).

Training Flat and Aero Power

Limiters in sport can be a challenge to train and strengthen. That makes sense because it’s often more fun to do things in areas where we already excel, especially in groups. But in ironman, it is essential that an athlete avoid having a limiter that comprises half of the race.

If we leave out ironman athletes who live in flat lands, a common cycling limiter is seen when comparing hilly threshold power to flat, aero threshold power.

Unlimiting Progress

Six years ago I fell in love with triathlon during my first race. I still remember it. The swim was in this murky, scummy pond in the middle of a horse racing track. I remember thinking if I don’t die from a systemic infection (not to mention chemical exposure), I may actually like this sport.

Fast forward to today and my love affair with triathlon continues.

Understand the Reasons for Your Cravings

For a long time, some of my limiters have been sugar cravings and a somewhat unhealthy diet. In reflecting on the reason why I started to do triathlon a few years ago everything was about looking good naked. It seems like it is difficult to stay on a healthy diet for a lot of athletes. I can still remember when my good friend Jonas Colting told me, “Jan you are fat.” It still hurts, but he was right.

Goals and Your Life - Do They Match?

I have been thinking a lot as I chat with friends and athletes about new year goal setting. There needs to be a direct responsibility for your results. Reaching goals doesn't come by accident. It comes from clear planning and a real connection with what it takes to achieve those goals.

Different Perspectives: What Worked / Didn't Work This Year

To wrap up the year, we asked some of the EC writing team to share some of the things that worked for them this season and the things that they'll be passing on in the future.

Coaching Lessons from this Year

by Gordo Byrn

Three things stand out from the last year.

The first is an example of what we’re up against in terms of our competition for Kona slots.

In May, one of the athletes that I coach, Ron Ottaway, broke his hip. Heading into surgery, he sent me an email asking my thoughts on how this might impact his chances for a slot at Ironman Arizona.

The injury was a tough one and Ron’s still not back to full function. He did, however, win his age group and qualified for Kona at Ironman Arizona.

More than winning, my buddy is an example of the best in sport –- there’s no quit in Ron Ottaway!

Ron is 74 years old.

The Other Reasons for Race Selection

When it comes to selecting a race, there are a number of factors that will influence your decision. Generally speaking, for Kona qualification, big guys need to do flat courses and skinny guys should do hilly events. If you want to get a PB go to Roth. That’s all I’ll say about the competitive side of things, as going any further is leading me outside of my knowledge base and is better discussed by the more qualified people on this website.

For me, ironman is more than just qualifying for Hawaii or getting under a magical time.

How to Pack a Race Season

As I planned the coming season I couldn't resist -- from my first race in May through the last in September, I've lined up four ironmans and a 70.3 for the year ahead. After a lighter season -- admittedly consisting of two ironmans and Long Course Worlds -- I needed to race again. I'm not convinced this is a route to my best performances, but that's not my only motivation; I enjoy racing and I enjoy racing long.

The majority of athletes focus on one or two events per year so naturally most advice on planning seasons does the same. For those of us who want to race more it can be a process of trial and error; here are some of my thoughts from planning race heavy seasons.

Horses for Courses - Part III: Race Selection Based on Body Type

by Alan Couzens, MS (Sports Science)

Part I - Horses for Courses
Part II - Are You a Thoroughbred or a Draft Horse?
Part III - Race Selection Based on Body Type

The topic of conversation this month at EC is race selection. Now is the time of year that athletes are filling in their calendars and deciding what races will occupy 2012 (I’ll go into a little more on just how much of the calendar should be “filled” in a future article).

I don’t think it’s unfair to say that deciding which races best suit your strengths is a bit of a mystery for most. In the end, many athletes select races based on a cool location or the history surrounding the race rather than on matching race characteristics to their personal strengths.

The problem is somewhat muddied by the fact that many athletes make inaccurate assumptions about their strengths based on poor context. For one, it is always tough to tease out the fitness variable, especially when ironfolk don’t tend to race that frequently. Put another way, just because your best race to date may have happened on a course with a lot of climbing doesn’t necessarily mean that climbing is your strength. Maybe you were just in the best general shape of your life and would have gone even faster on a flatter course! Additionally, the fact that the vast majority of the field pace so poorly can lead to inaccurate conclusions about relative run strength (or bike weakness).

While there are a number of factors that cooperate to determine which sport is the athlete’s strength, the largest by far is morphology.

Workout of the Month: Winter Gym

As you face the winter you might be starting to look at areas you can work on that you aren't able to target during your race season.

Through my 20s I spent many hours in the gym learning all kinds of dynamic strength programs for different sports. Most of them were explosive sports, but as I ventured into the endurance world I took the time to learn the value of gym strength in training for the long stuff.

Key Race Selection

It’s currently dumping snow in Boulder while I'm writing this, so it’s an opportune time to start daydreaming about next season. Even if it’s not snowing in your neck of the woods, you are probably getting antsy sitting on your hands waiting for next season to come around.

Ideally, this might be a time to start giving some thoughts to what races you want on your calendar, but with the popularity of Ironman races, your key races of the season might have already been decided. Nevertheless, whenever you decide on adding a (key) race to your calendar, you should use the following suggestions to narrow your choices down.

Do Supplements Increase Risk of Death?

by Bob Albright

Alert multisport readers might have noted a flurry of interest in vitamin supplementation a couple of months ago. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggested vitamin supplements were associated with increased mortality risk.

This trial, which was a subset of an Iowa women’s health study, looked at mortality among a cohort of women aged around 62 who were followed for up to 18 years. The findings were somewhat surprising, in that there was a small statistical increased risk of death among those subjects who recalled taking vitamins.

Whoa! I grew up (as many of you all likely did as well) kinda looking forward to my sugary rock-hard Flintstones chewable vitamin every morning. Additionally, I was pretty sternly reminded to “make sure to take your vitamin." Truth be told, I sometimes was known to take two. Fast forward to 2011, and I’m still taking the stuff, or at least I was…

So, was your mom wrong? Are we again victims of the advertising-medical-industrial complex?

Maybe, but first let’s look at the trial a bit more closely. Despite the blanket statements on all the popular news outlets, the trial is hard to use to make firm recommendations. It was a retrospective recollection trial. Women were enrolled in 1986 and diaries were completed regarding multiple health issues in 1997, 2004 and 2008. In essence, the women were asked to recall whether they took vitamins at each of these time points. I expect multiple other issues to be published from this data set eventually. The study ultimately closed in 2008. Death records were searched and compared for the 38,772 initial enrollees.