Taking on a New Challenge
After spending the last 2.5 years training for an Ironman, David decided to focus this year solely
on his true passion, biking. However, to keep things interesting he chose to take on gravel
racing. Not only does gravel racing require excellent fitness, it also requires excellent bike
handling skills and a keen understanding of race tactics.
In order to improve his downhill bike handling on loose gravel, David practiced specific skills
over several months in addition to his normal training. Additionally, he worked on the tactics of
pack riding. To learn these skills, he initially started doing virtual races on Zwift and then
progressed to outside races. Knowing when to take a pull and for how long, when and how to
fuel while in the peloton and when to cover a move, and when to let it go are all skills that he
specifically practices over several races.
With greater knowledge of these skills in hand, David picked the 106-mile FOCO Fondo as his
“A” race with a time goal of 5:45 which qualifies for the coveted bolo tie. (Leadville has a belt
buckle. If you do enough races, you could put together an entire outfit.)
David’s willingness to embrace specific skills practice both in “b” races and training sessions, as
well as completing over 88% of his scheduled workout hours enabled him to place 31/204
overall and 4th in his age group. He also received the bolo tie. All in all, an excellent first
season of gravel bike racing.
Ironman Alaska was an amazing experience and I just couldn’t be happier about having been a part of this inaugural event! Overall, I am very happy with my day even though it wasn’t a perfect race. I had a flat on the bike and wrestled with tummy issues for about 5ish miles of the run. The road conditions were safe but slow, with some very rough tarmac for about a third of the bike course, and then of course were the constant hills. It was a great reminder to stay focused on the inputs and allow the outputs to come on their own.
This report is focused on my day on the course. I created a separate write-up on logistics that I recommend reading if you’re thinking about registering for this race yourself.
Auke lake is cold. Ironman had pulled 10 years of data on water temperatures in this lake at this time of year and found an average in the mid-60s. Auke Lake is spring fed–it’s not the ocean. The lake temperature had been 58.5 degrees on the Thursday before the race. Then an “atmospheric river” came through for the next two days, dropping a lot of rain…and the lake temps to 56. With the morning air temperature in the low 50s, Ironman shortened the swim to one lap (1.2 miles)--making the final announcement 10 mins before the start. That meant a 630 start rather than 600. I went with double-cap but no booties (because I didn’t want to lose time from drag).
There was no opportunity to warm up in the water so hitting the cold for the first time at the race start was...very cold! I’ve swum in similar temperatures but not usually with such low air temps. The first 200 meters were take-your-breath-away cold. I focused on the exhale and kept my breathing under control. While I was getting adjusted to the temperatures, I found myself drifting a bit off course but nothing major. Aside from my goggles fogging from the cold, the rest of the swim was generally uneventful.
By about 400-500 meters, it just felt cold but no longer debilitating. Once I was warmed up, I felt I could have gone around for another lap, but for the folks who might be flirting with the cutoff, it would have been a long time of exposure. Ironman made the right call by shortening the swim. I was initially disappointed, but ultimately, it didn’t really make any difference to my race.
The run from the water to T1 is long–at least ⅓ mile–maybe ½–and all uphill. Because my plan was to do full changes in each transition, I swam in a swimsuit under my wetsuit. Coming out of the water, I hadn’t lost much feeling in my fingers and toes. There was carpet about halfway up than asphalt. It got a little painful on the feet, but not too bad or for too long. The change tent was heated–amazing! I dried off and made a complete change–the whole thing took about 17 minutes. What a crazy transition time!
Out of transition, you ride a long driveway out of the campus than a short, steep downhill to the traffic circle and to the right. These were the only turns on the course (aside from the same coming back and the three u-turns at the out-and-backs). Next to nothing on this course is flat. You are always climbing or descending but none of it is super long or very steep. There was a tailwind heading north–the direction we were headed on the way out. The wind typically blows south to north like this. Around mile 18 on a descent, I rolled my back wheel over a rock in the bike lane and flatted. In general, this part of the course was in very good shape with good pavement and a wide bike lane. I changed the flat but found that my spare had a bad valve so it barely took air. I changed it again after removing and replacing the bad valve (I had an extra because 2 is 1, 1 is none…). Neutral support arrived during the second change and I handed them my wheel to pump up once I got the tire seated. They took my trash and put the wheel on–off I went. It looks like I lost about 8-9 minutes total, and now I was further back with a lot more racer traffic. About a mile or so after restarting, I hit the start of the 10-mile-long chipseal segment. This is no ordinary chip seal–it rattles your teeth for 20 miles (because it’s out-and-back) each lap. I found it tough to get a strong rhythm with the rough road and up/down but at least there was a tailwind to the turnaround. I made the turnaround at mile 30 then continued on the rough road up and down into the wind and onto the mile 56 turnarounds. Coming off the rough pavement around mile 40 feels good and the next 16 to the turnaround feel relatively fast, despite the headwind.
By the time I was back to the turnaround (around the ferry pier), I had ridden back up enough that I didn’t have a lot of other athletes around me. I was feeling strong as I headed out onto the second lap with the wind at my back again. I was careful to monitor my watts and was proud of my discipline not to override. The 20 miles of chip seal sucked again on the second lap but were the same for everyone. The return trip felt relatively easy and I was happy with my effort overall–the legs felt solid. That last climb up to campus was steep but pretty short.
It was generally overcast and misty/drizzly throughout the ride. We did see our shadows for a couple of minutes at one point, but I’d estimate about two hours total of real rain on the bike and the rest was drizzle/mist. I opted for a pair of rose-tinted shooting glasses that I bought at a local outdoor store by my hotel the day before instead of a tinted visor or sunglasses. That was definitely the right call.
For T2, I left my shoes clipped in as I came off the bike and ran in my socks. I handed the bike to a volunteer, grabbed my bag, and then into the change tent again. My outer layers were pretty wet, but the base layer did its job. I made another full change, this time into run shorts and a tech shirt. I wore a vest for warmth and left my arm warmers on. I opted to wear a hydration vest with my rain jacket inside for easy access.
For the first time ever for me at a full-distance race, I felt like a million bucks as I came out of transition. Of course, the big crowds are inspiring and I saw my family here too. I had to be very deliberate about holding my pace to something reasonable and sustainable. The first few miles of the course rolls a bit and then you hit the biggest climb of the day around mile 4 on the out-and-back section. It’s only a little more than a half mile that includes a pretty steep section that’s maybe 400 meters or so. I focused on being efficient and didn’t overrun it, then felt solid coming back down. The first lap went by quickly. I walked about half of the aid stations and made one bathroom stop, but otherwise felt really good about how my run was progressing.
I opted to carry all of my own nutrition in my vest so I stopped at the aid station by the swim start (just shy of halfway) to refill bottles/add Infinit powder. I wasn’t stopped for long, but when I restarted, I could feel a slight crampy pain in my stomach. Because I hadn’t felt that at all prior to stopping, I figured it was muscular and that it would work itself out as I kept running.
I saw my family as I went by transition for the second lap. My wife let me know I was sitting in the 12th position and would catch a couple of people at the same pace on lap two. I was quite surprised by my position and was feeling good but decided to hold pace–not to push it until I figured out what was going on with my tummy. Around mile 15, it had become clear that the issue wasn’t muscular and I backed off a little. I was now walking every aid station to try to give it a chance to settle. As I hit the big hill again, this time at 17, I decided to walk it both to conserve energy and try to settle the tummy. By the top of the hill, it became a dash for the porta-potty. After a relatively short but unsuccessful stop, I headed back out but could only run in spurts with lots of walking mixed in each time my tummy came around. Of course, it was pouring rain at this point too. I only had 9 miles to go so I knew I would get in, but was upset that my race was looking like it would end with a whimper.
The next 4 miles were jog/walk and porta-potty stops at every aid station. I finally made a good “deposit” at the mile 21 aid station and came out feeling pretty good. I tentatively ran the next mile and then felt confident that I was back in business from there. My last 4 miles weren’t my fastest–my legs were definitely feeling the day–but they weren’t too far off my early pace and I was passing people constantly. I pushed the last uphill mile as hard as I could (which was 10+ pace, but that’s what was left in the tank) and then slowed down to find my family and enjoy the finish chute. I had only dropped one spot in the end, finishing 13th in my age group.
This race is not for everyone, but it’s an amazing experience for the right athlete. I wanted a cool-weather race and knew that rain likely came along with that bargain. I expected the limited options of a small, relatively remote location. I knew that this would be expensive, logistics would be a little tricky, and lodging wouldn’t be plush. It was everything I expected plus so much more with the amazing support of the local community. I absolutely loved everything about Juneau and highly recommend this race!
D3 Coach Dave Sheanin is looking forward to another Ironman in 10 years. For now though, this was his 'last ironman'.
Ironman Alaska Logistics Notes
See the full race report here: [LINK]
Most people wore several layers during the race. We had about two hours of rain on the bike and at least that much on the run (with some significant downpours during the run). Even when it wasn’t raining, it was misting or was otherwise super humid.
My recommendation is to do full changes in T1 and T2.
For the swim, I wore a full suit and two caps. That worked well for me, but many people wore thermal caps and neoprene booties. Remember that you cannot wear gloves per the rules. I opted against booties because the drag slows me down more than I would have benefitted from the comfort. The double cap was plenty for me. Wear clear/indoor goggles for this one–assuming the overcast conditions are what you’ll see every year here.
On the bike, I wore bibs with a base layer, jersey, and vest plus arm/knee warmers and wool socks. That combo was enough for me. I did see a lot of racers in full rain jackets.
For the run, I wore running shorts and shirt plus a vest for warmth and arm warmers plus fresh wool socks. A hat with a brim was key in the rain. I also wore a hydration vest with storage–in which I stashed a rain jacket which I put on or took off depending on conditions through the day.
I strongly recommend having body glide in each of your transition bags and taking time in each transition to apply liberally. I was amazed that I did not chafe or blister at all despite racing wet pretty much the whole time!
From Colorado, it’s about a 2.5 hour flight to Seattle, then another 2.5 to Juneau. We opted to fly one leg in the evening and the second flight the next morning (Tues/Wed going up and Mon/Tues coming back). This adds cost and a little bit of hassle (hotel and dinner in Seattle each way) but felt way easier than a single 8+-hour travel day (by the time you figure in ground transportation and layover). I felt fresh when we arrived in Juneau on Wednesday morning.
Plan to carry on everything you need to race. My checked bag just had all of my hanging around clothes. My carry-on included my race day clothing, bike and run shoes, helmet, pedals, etc. If the checked bag had been lost or gotten delayed, I was still set to race. Only Alaska Air and, on a more limited basis, Delta fly into Juneau. They fly 737s, but relatively smaller ones and there’s limited baggage capacity. On the Friday of the week before we traveled (9 days before race day), Alaska Air sent out an email recommending that athletes make other arrangements for getting bikes up there because they couldn’t guarantee they would all fit on their planes. I had opted for Tri Bike Transport, which had picked up more than a week prior. People scrambled a bit in the ensuing panic and some shipped via UPS/FedEx while a few others apparently went as far as canceling their trips!
Ultimately, it’s probably best to go with TBT despite the very high fees to this race ($625 for the bike). Juneau is effectively an island–there are no roads in or out. So your only way in is by plane or boat (or birth canal). Regardless, you have to plan way ahead for travel.
Juneau doesn’t have tons of lodging but there seemed to be enough this year. Note, it’s unusual for Ironman to list local campsites in their recommended lodging section… Most of the tourists come to Juneau on cruise ships–they arrive in the morning and leave in the evening so people don’t stay in hotels (of which, there are not a lot of).
There are two main areas with hotels–downtown and by the airport. We opted for the airport area because it’s less crowded and also is much closer to the race site. I recommend this choice with the following understandings. First, there was no Ironman shuttle service to the airport area. The shuttles ran from downtown to the high school (Ironman Village) to the college (start/transition/finish) and then back downtown. From the airport area, it was a little under 1.5 miles to the high school and about 2.5 miles to the college. You have to be willing to do a little walking/riding to make a stay by the airport work out.
For us, it was perfect. We rented e-bikes which made getting around easy. On race morning, I e-biked to the race and locked the bike up just steps from transition.
As noted above, I opted for TBT despite the high fee. Having been through the race now, I would 100 percent make the same call. I never worried about my bike getting there and they set up just steps away from transition. It was super simple to pick up, and especially drop off the bike. Given the TBT location right next to transition and the finish line, I didn’t (and wouldn’t recommend) opt for the valet service.
The TBT dropoff for Boulder was two and a half weeks prior to the race (and then another two and a half weeks to get it back after the race). It’s a long time to be without the bike, but I managed my taper on my road bike and sending the bike ahead made my travel very low stress.
Summer in Juneau is not like summer elsewhere in the lower 48. Temperatures are generally in the 50s and 60s with plenty of moisture. We had one gorgeous blue-sky afternoon with temps in the mid-60s while we were there but the rest of the time was damp/raining and overcast with temperatures in the 50s. With the high humidity, it never felt cold, but we were mostly dressed in layers the whole time.
Note that waterproof outer layers were key. Jacket, pants, shoes. And wool socks all the time. Especially riding around on the bike/e-bike, it’s nice not to have wet clothes touching your body all day.
There are a lot of opportunities for sightseeing! We did a Segway tour on Douglas Island, a private whale-watching tour, explored on our own on e-bikes, and my family did an awesome kayak/hike tour up to Mendenhall Glacier. Plus there’s shopping and restaurants and museums and my kids found the local rock climbing gym. There are also pricier options for helicopter and airplane tours. Plenty to do for a week up there!
This is an expensive venue and there are pretty limited options for going on the cheap. We found that basic restaurant meals (not fast food) were $30+ per person, our airport Super 8 was about $200 a night per room, and the sightseeing options were generally a couple of hundred dollars per person (and went up from there). Cabs/Lyft are good to get around and we tipped everywhere as well. We were in Juneau for six full days/five nights and I’d estimate the cost around $2,000 per person with shared hotel rooms. (This does not include race entry, bike transport, etc.--just our travel expenses.)
The community was unbelievable! I heard that locals showed up at the airport in the days when everyone was arriving to see if anyone needed a ride. The Facebook group included lots of people who were not racing–just part of the community who wanted to offer help and advice. During the race, it seemed like there were people out on every driveway with block parties at many intersections. Fire pits, tents, music. It was like the Bolder Boulder of triathlons! After the race, someone who had taken photos at the start of the bike course sent me a really professional shot of me (see main article). Perhaps this was the curiosity of a first-year race, but if this level of interest continues, it is not to be missed!
Odds and Ends
A few additional thoughts:
Here is a race week swim - (1 week out or the Monday before a Sunday race):
This would be your last real hard swim 1 week out from an A race on Sunday. This workout hits all the key components as you're tapering. A good warm-up with technique work; a fast pre-main set with fast 25s; fast 50s to work on get out speed on race day and 100s done quickly at race pace.
Modify as needed for athlete's yardage needs
2-3x(200 free + 100 drill) * moderate descend on the 200's as you get warmed up; * drill as 25 rt arm/25 left arm/25 fists/25 catch up
12-16x25 as 3 FAST/1 easy on :30 or :40; 1-8 swim, 9+ swim w/ fins
200 aerobic swim or pull w/o paddles
9-12x50 as 2 FAST/1 easy on interval with at least 20 SR150 aerobic swim
4-6x100 as odd race pace/even aerobic on interval w/ 20-30 SR100 aerobic swim or pull
200 as 25 FAST/25 easy
D3 Coach Susan Williams has led many athletes to Race Day PRs
D3 Coach Jim Hallberg and D3 Athlete Michael Re got together for a conversation about what it takes to achieve breakthroughs at the Masters level. Training, racing, and improving are the themes of this conversation and we know you'll walk away with insight and inspiration to achieve your own goals from what they cover.
As he watched the sea of athletes at a recent triathlon race in Arizona, it dawned on Coach Brad Seng just how important pre-race warm-ups are especially as we ease ourselves out of winter training and into early-season triathlons.
It's easy to overlook this aspect of race day prep, but it's an additional measure you can use to your advantage before the race.
Which of these pre-race tips do you do before you race?
Summer is upon us, it’s hot and your triathlon training and races are happening in the heat. Because of this, your recovery needs to be at its best! To ensure you are getting what your body needs, the following is a checklist of things to keep in mind each day you are out there.
I know that it can be hard to plan out your sports nutrition especially for your long ride/brick and then also plan out all of your regular meals. My suggestions are to find places that offer quicker “on the go” options like a rotisserie chicken or salad bar, or give yourself a night or two off from cooking and get to a healthy faster-food restaurant. This way you can better get your feet under you for planning and cooking for the other days of the week. One of my favorites is a large build-your-own salad with avocado, various veggies, olives, roasted sweet potato chopped up with grilled fish on top. You can make this ahead and change it up constantly!
Stay on top of your snacks and hydration too so that you ensure you are always ready to go and you never get in a hole.
Keep up the great training and enjoy your summer racing.
Megan Dopp is D3's go-to nutritionist. She supports athletes beyond D3 too, and we know her expertise is valued to help athletes achieve a breakthrough as they dial in or fine-tune their fueling choices and habits.
We all know we have to be careful about what we say to ourselves in the privacy of our minds because they have a significant impact on the productivity of our training and racing. Mental Skills Performance Coach Will Murray offers how to strategically use these two words (Yet and Only) to help you persevere during difficult times.
Most of us don't spend enough time - if any time - practicing transitions yet they are an important area where we can gain time during a race.
In the video D3 Coach George Epley shares an important rule of thumb about your transition times and he also references this article (link below) by Head Coach Mike Ricci for more tips to improve your transitions.
Bold, Reclaimed, Joyful ... take-on Coach Brad Seng's 'Single-Word Challenge for Goals' and you'll find yourself more focused as you head into your race season.
In his video (above), Brad references this article (link below) from D3 Head Coach Mike Ricci about effective goal setting.
We’re already a month into spring and it’s time to start thinking about getting ready for open water swimming (and racing). Following is a quick triathlon swim checklist with notes for you to be considering before your first race.
1. Check your wetsuit.
2. Check your goggles.
3. Change up your pool swimming.
4. Add some swim/bike bricks.
5. Acclimate to cooler water temperatures.
Bonus tip: for some triathletes open water swimming can be an obstacle to fully enjoying race day. If you would like to break through those barriers, consider a consult with Mental Skills Performance Coach Will Murray.
Coach Dave Sheanin was recently honored by USA Triathlon with the Community Impact Award and he is an advocate for aligning triathletes with their race goals. His specialties include coaching age groupers with busy schedules and helping triathletes improve their transition times. Dave is a USA Triathlon and Training Peaks Certified Coach.
As summer brings warmer temperatures to many parts of North America, sodium plays a vital role in endurance athletes’ homeostatic balance. The research I am sharing is an important consideration for your summer triathlon training and racing as hydration can have a huge impact on your performance.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that endurance athletes consume 0.5 to 0.7g of sodium in each liter of sports drink, and fluid intake is adjusted to an individual’s sweet rate (Nieman, 2007).
During training and racing, the athlete’s fluid intake schedule should match fluid loss with a goal of less than two percent of body weight (Desmond, 2006). The athlete should be aware of their body’s average hourly sweat rate during exercise and consume fluids and sodium to replace what was lost each hour, and fluid intake should occur in regular intervals, not all at once. (Desmond, 2006).
Ideally, the amount of sodium consumed during exercise should match the rate of sodium lost through sweat (Veniamakis, Kaplanis, Voulgaris, & Nikolaidis, 2022). The practice of consuming large amounts of fluids containing sodium hours before a race to compensate for sweat loss is an incorrect guideline for fluid intake before an event and, when carried to the extreme, can lead to severe consequences associated with hyponatremia (Veniamakis, Kaplanis, Voulgaris, & Nikolaidis, 2022). Exercise-induced hyponatremia is associated with low blood sodium concentration during or immediately after physical activity (Hew-Butler, Loi, Pani, Rosner, 2017).
Proper sodium levels ensure that sufficient blood volume and blood pressure are essential in regulating water and fluid balance, and they are vital to stimulating muscle and nerve cells. Sodium increases thirst stimulus and reduces physical fatigue and medical issues associated with homeostatic imbalances during endurance events. Sodium also decreases urine production and maintains electrolyte balance, increasing water retention (Veniamakis, Kaplanis, Voulgaris, & Nikolaidis, 2022). It is important to follow medical guidelines since very high levels of sodium consumption can lead to an increase in kidney disease and is associated with the development of hypertension. (Veniamakis, Kaplanis, Voulgaris, & Nikolaidis, 2022).
D3 sports nutritionists and coaches can help educate athletes on proper hydration and sodium usage during training and racing to maximize their performance including our Race Day Fueling Expert, Nick Suffredin.
Nick has a variety of articles written on D3 about how to calculate your sweat rate and more. Nick is available for consultations to help you develop hydration strategies to improve your race performance.
Coach George Epley shares that “there’s nothing more rewarding than achieving that which once seemed impossible! Helping people get to that point is one of the things I love about coaching! My first commitment to an athlete is to optimize through customization. Each athlete has their own complex formula consisting of genetics, available training time and outside stress levels.” Coach George holds multiple coaching certifications including his Level II USA Triathlon Coaching Certificate.
Desmond, M., (2006) ACSM recommendations for endurance athletes, American Family Physician, 73(3)547. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2006/0201/p547.html
Hew-Butler, T., Loi, V., Pani, A., Rosner, H, M., (2017) Exercise associated hyponatremia: 2017 update, Frontiers in Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5334560/
Nieman, D., (2007) You asked for it, ACSM Health & Fitness Journal 11(3) 5-6. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/fulltext/2007/05000/you_asked_for_it__question_authority.5.aspx
Veniamakis, E., Kaplanis, G., Voulgaris, P., Nikolaidis, T, P., (2022) Effects of sodium intake on heath and performance in endurance and ultra-endurance sports, International Journal Environmental Research in Public Health 19(6)365. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8955583/
“Don't be fooled into thinking that you have the capacity to achieve your best on your own. A training partner in the gym is a great asset because when you think you have reached your limit, there is someone who can push you to go further.” -Brian Houston
While training alone can sometimes be a necessity, it also robs us of a chance to take our training and competition to the next level. Finding an appropriate triathlon training partner or triathlon group/club has many benefits. And these benefits can be seen throughout all aspects of training, not just physically. The main benefits of training partners can be seen in two ways: 1) being held accountable for getting the training done, and 2) the shared suffering that allows oneself to lean into the challenge of the workout.
One of the most important keys to success in any endurance sport is consistency. Endurance gains are made workout-over-workout, month-over-month, and year-over-year. Over time this routine, if done alone, can become boring and monotonous. Training with a group or training partner can keep your motivation high. On days when you are not feeling like getting out of bed for that AM workout, not wanting to let your training partner down can be a huge advantage. Additionally, knowing that you need to perform for your partner can lead you to make better decisions outside of your workouts. For example, decisions around prioritizing sleep, nutrition, and recovery so you can show up prepared to properly train with others.
Another area where training partners can help is during key workouts. When the work begins to get hard, friendly competition can help you to press just a little harder. That final rep at VO2 is just a little more bearable, maintaining the final 5 minutes at FTP becomes more doable, and the last 200 meters of your monthly swim test is just a little faster when you are suffering alongside your training partners. On days when you are not feeling your best, your training partner can get you through a workout and vice versa. If you do struggle with a workout, your training partner and you can learn from each other and determine where the workout “went wrong.”
By being more accountable for your training and by completing more key workouts (at a high level) you are setting yourself up for better performances in each successive workout and in your races.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” - Proverbs 27:17.
Go find yourself someone to keep you sharp.
Some opportunities for finding training partners
1. Master’s swimming
2. Virtual meet-up on Zwift or another virtual platform (no drop)
3. Local running group (for example: Tuesday D3 sessions around Boulder)
Coach Bill Ledden knows that true success in the world of triathlon isn’t simply about crossing the finish line. It’s about the process of setting goals, being determined to reach them, and most importantly, the learning that takes place along the way. Bill is a USA Triathlon and USA Trace and Field Certified Coach
Balancing social stuff (family and friends), sleep and work combined with good nutrition are critical to your success as an athlete and for a long life (at least as long as your genes allow). I will not claim to be perfect with this, ask my wife, but I think I get most of it right and have learned plenty throughout my career as an age-group athlete competing 15 times at the IMWC as well as a coach. That combination has afforded me a unique perspective that I share with you here.
Probably the hardest thing to get right is sleep. There are so many things to get done in a day, especially when you are still working and raising a family. I don’t have personal expertise in the latter but do know that adding a lot of training to daily life is possible having worked with athletes who do have a good marriage, children and a successful career. Having a full daily load life does, or should, raise the question “what are the limits of my training hours”. If you don’t, something from my first sentence above may suffer, including your health. If you do, answer the question you may realize that you are limited to sprint and or Olympic racing. That’s not a bad thing by any means, and this foundational work in racing is actually a great way to get good at longer races when your time frees up.
Because of my age (75) I get asked a lot about how my training has changed over the years. The simple answer is just more recovery time. I do the same or similar workouts. There are some changes, including now strength training is year-round and is in my taper plans, high intensity workouts are higher intensity (great advice gleaned from the book “Fast After 50” by Joe Friel).
My recovery time is now two days after a big dose of training, more Friel advice but something you will discover anyway as you age. How much training you can do balanced with enough recovery, meaning sleep, becomes a very individual thing as you age past 60. At any age we are all different in our potential athletic abilities but it sure gets more challenging to find that right life balance.
Sleep is important. Some might feel it’s a waste of time, but all of the research I have ever seen says you need at least 7.5 hrs of sleep a night. And that is actual sleep, not just time in bed. This is when your body recovers. When you add in training for a race, especially an IM that sleep requirement goes up. The best way for me to cover this is to describe my day.
Up around 6am (5:30 when I worked full-time), snack (while walking the dog) and off for a swim or strength session at home, breakfast (mostly oatmeal and some PB on toast). Back a few years ago, I was off to work around 8, but now doing something like this, writing an article for D3, and other things around the house, my timing is a bit different. Lunch and then a nap for 45-60 min (I was lucky to be working at home throughout most of my IM career which made napping possible). Bike and/or run in the afternoon or early evening when working. At least every ten days or so when I was 6-12 weeks out from an IM, I would put in a big training day, SBR, 3800m, 100mi, 10k. Bed before 9 pm.
Obviously, there are some variations you can play with this. When I was working from home, I sometimes got in a short workout at lunch time. My evening workouts started around 5pm. So commuting is something that needs to be considered. What you don’t want to be doing is squeezing in a workout that ends sometime after 7 pm and then dinner … you can’t sleep well with a meal less than 90 min before going to bed, unless it is a small one. A solution here is a big lunch (like I used to get growing up in Ireland).
If you'd like to listen and learn more about this topic, Coach Simon was interviewed on the podcast The High Performance Human Triathlete by Simon Ward. They cover topics about aging and health issues and alternative training strategies to achieve your goals including training with Rita (RI), Simon B.'s dog.
Coach Simon Butterworth has 15 Ironman Kona World Championships to celebrate … and he knows bikes. His philosophy about coaching notes that the key ingredients in a good coach/athlete relationship are regular and open communication, mutual respect, and keeping it fun for the athlete and their family. My training programs are developed with those ideas in the forefront. I work with athletes to develop both short term and long term objectives that work well within the context of the other things they have going on in their life.
Self-coaching allows opportunities to experiment with training methods and plans on myself before unleashing them on my athletes. Over the winter, as I looked ahead to my preparation for IM Alaska in August, I searched for a 70.3 tuneup race about 6 to 8 weeks out. The only opportunities I could find involved difficult travel that I just wasn’t up for. There’s always the option to do a race simulation, which is generally my go-to in these circumstances. But I noticed that a couple of my favorite Olympic distance races were happening back-to-back (Saturday/Sunday) in late June, and they were 6 weeks before Alaska.
Figuring this would be a similar level challenge, I took a deep breath and registered for both. I’ve certainly raced back to back before. I’ve even raced twice in a day a couple of times. But always in the past with the plan of pushing one race hard and then cruising the other. To get the impact I was looking for, I planned to get after it both days.
I took a taper-like week leading into the double-race weekend and felt fresh waking up early on Saturday. Oly #1 includes a 30-mile bike loop with some relatively significant climbing sections mid-way. The run is about as flat as the Colorado front range gets. After a shortened swim (winds blew away a couple of buoys shortly before the start so they made the best of relocating the existing buoys), I headed onto the bike looking to hold just under threshold watts. I felt strong the entire way–not holding back while making the most of the ups and downs of the course and then ran hard, close to an “adult” PR.
Very pleased with the result, I spent most of the afternoon off my feet (and a couple of sessions in the pneumatic boots), ate well, and got to bed early. The real test of my fitness was focused on how I could perform in the second race.
Sunday’s wakeup was a little rougher, as was putting my feet on the floor! I could definitely feel Saturday’s race, but it seemed manageable. I made a point of getting some extra warmup in–about 30 minutes total between running, drills, and swimming. After a solid but uneventful swim, I headed out on the bike and could feel my legs and the numbers looked very good. Race 2 running felt tougher (and this race was mostly on dirt vs. asphalt on Saturday). I was able to sustain a strong effort but lacked the very top end that I tapped into the day before.
What do I look at in order to get a sense of the success of the weekend?
First, I ignored the swims, except from a very general sense of how I felt. There are too many variables at play to consider pacing and I don’t trust my HRM numbers in the water.
So let’s look at power numbers on the bike and run (thanks Stryd). Saturday I rode 0.92 IF compared to Sunday 0.91 — a 4-watt difference in normalized power. The differences in the course and margin of error of power meters makes me call these rides virtually identical–and a good outcome.
The run numbers are really the more important measure for me–a reflection of overall resistance to fatigue. My time was quite a bit slower on Sunday (3 minutes), however, the differences in the courses likely account for some of that. Normalized power on Sunday was 4 percent lower than Saturday (13 watts). My stride length decreased a bit on Sunday (1.3 meters vs. 1.2), but that may be able to be explained by the different surfaces. My form power ratio (looking at how much power you use to move vertically vs horizontally) was basically identical on both days. I was able to drive my heart rate quite a bit higher on Saturday (9 beats) but the corresponding power was pretty consistent across both days (decoupling 1.4% on Saturday vs. 3.1% Sunday – both good numbers). These numbers are all indicators of a to-be-expected drop-off, but a strong reflection of the big aerobic base I built through the spring.
The results were positive, there is great information in the data, and the challenge was fun. My athletes should keep an eye out for this option in the future! Look for a full race report on Alaska in a couple of months.
Coach Dave Sheanin believes that becoming “triathlon literate” is key to meeting your goals. Triathlon is indeed a lifestyle and like the other important areas of your life, knowledge is power. I encourage you to explore the nuances of the sport, be open to new ideas and ask questions – of yourself, of fellow swimmers, cyclists and runners, and of your coach.
Coach Dave is a USA Triathlon and Training Peaks Certified Coach.
A. Warm-up: First warm up with 5 to 10 min on a spin bike or treadmill, then do the 3 warm-up exercises. This combination should give you a general warm-up. THEN, you MAY need one or two light sets in your first circuit to get a specific warm-up. This is particularly true of deadlifts, as it generally takes a few sets to be ready to do a working set.
B. Working set: In general, the goal of a working set is to use enough weight such that you reach close to failure within the intended range of repetitions. So if your goal is 6-10 reps, and you can do 12 then you need to increase the load on the next set. Conversely, if you can only do 5 reps then you need to decrease the load.
C. Progression: As you progress through a phase, begin with a weight that allows you to perform reps at the higher end of the range. As the phase goes on, increase the weight such that you fatigue in the lower end of the range. It is OK to change the weight between sets in any given workout. Also note, one can use this same method of “progression” within a single workout, especially in the beginning of a new stage. In the first working set, select a weight that might cause fatigue near the top end of the range of repetitions. Add weight on each set such that you can accomplish fewer repetitions yet remain inside the target range. This conservative approach helps prevent injury.
Best done in the early season, starting in November/December.
This phase could last 4-6 weeks.
Frequency: 2-3 times per week.
Sets: 2 to 5 ideally, with 3 working sets.
Rest between Sets: Done as a circuit, but rest 15-60 seconds between individual exercises within each circuit and 1-3 min. between circuits.
Tempo: 1 count lift, 1 count isometric (pause at bottom), 2 count lower, 0 count rest.
This is a short phase that lasts 2 weeks. This is to get your body ready to lift heavy. You’ll lift 2x per week with a weight that will allow 2-3 sets, 10-15 reps, max. In other words, you’ll be adding weight to this phase. Work on making these sets of strength exercises hard to complete.
In this phase, our goal is about 12 sessions (over 8-12 weeks) and we keep the number of exercises to a minimum. From our list of exercises, we may use Deadlift, Single-Leg Squat, DB or Bench Press, Thrusters, Hex Deadlift, and Hang Clean.
You will complete no more than 12 heavy sessions in this Phase. You can do 1-3 sessions per week. In my experience, 1 really good Max Strength heavy session, coupled with 1 Maintenance day usually works well for a multi-sport athlete. There may be weeks where you can do 2 sessions, but this will certainly leave your endurance workouts feeling a little less zippy. The number of sets during this heavy phase is 3-6 working sets, with 3-6 reps as the goal. Your rest time between exercises should be between 2 and 3 minutes. That may seem like a lot of rest, but that’s how you’ll be able to max out the lifts in each exercise.
*The rest of the exercises during this phase will stay at 8-12 reps.
In-Season Maintenance: 1-2 sessions per week with 1-2 sets of 10-12 reps. Don’t go for max reps or max weight. Just work on great form.
Warm-up Set: you can use what’s below as a warm-up set or you can take 2-3 exercises that work the entire body.
Main Sets: During a workout, you can choose any 2 or 3 of the Main Sets below for your workout. Each grouping has a Lower Body, Upper Body, and Core exercise.
Main set #1:
Main set #2:
Main set #3:
Main Set #4:
Main Set #5:
Core and Plyometric add-ons
A New Bike (spoiler, another Dimond)
I guess deep down in my subconscious I am feeling optimistic about a future with Covid at least under control enough to allow life to go on close to normal. Otherwise, I would not be buying a new triathlon bike. I must also be optimistic that I have a few more good years of racing in me despite knees that are getting more wobbly and other body parts are going the way that they do when rolling past 75 years of use.
I have been having a conversation with a somewhat younger friend who is also thinking of a new bike like mine. She is reaching an age where comfort is becoming more important and shares some other similar concerns. It occurred to me that our discussions and my reasoning and thinking about a bike would be of interest to others so I am starting a blog on how things are progressing and will update it until I have the new bike and take it for a spin. This article will kick off the process as I cover the 'why a new bike now' and some of the considerations behind this.
For full disclosure, I should say that I am certainly not in the ranks of the top experts on choosing a bicycle but hopefully this will help you find the information you need to make your own decisions. I have quite a few links to other articles on the topic that should help too. The best single place to go is Slowtwitch, especially their section on bike fitting. All the links are repeated at the end of the article.
Triathlon Bikes and Time Trial Bikes
A triathlon bike follows the rules of triathlon and not UCI, the organization that set the rules for most bike racing including the Tour de France. The big difference in these rules is that UCI tends to limit innovation more, a beam bike like the Dimond is not UCI compliant. UCI also limits the chord of the aero tubing (that’s the distance from the front to back edge). However, clever engineers have found ways around the limitations to achieve similar drag numbers. Time Trial bikes tend to ignore the need to carry stuff. A TT is usually much shorter than a triathlon and there is no run to worry about afterward. Perhaps the most important difference is a TT bike geometry is restricted by UCI rules. This has a significant impact on bike fit as there is a limit to the seat post angle.
So if you want to race under both UCI and Triathlon rules a Dimond is not for you and you will have to stick with bikes following UCI rules. Not a terrible situation but not the best, IMO, for long-course Triathlon.
I went looking for some history of bike design and found that TdT has been limiting innovation for a long time. Here is a quote from the founder of the TdF. Henri Desgrange once commented, “Isn’t it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailleur?” He sure thought so: he banned the use of the derailleur in the Tour de France until 1937 - an entire generation after the derailleur had been invented.
Where to Buy and the Process
Choosing which bike to buy is no easy proposition these days. To start there is a decision to be made as to where to buy your bike. That decision should be based on how much you already know about bicycles and how much time you can spend researching the details. If time and knowledge are limited the best thing to do is buy from a local bike shop with access to a bike fitter who has extensive experience fitting triathletes. The other limited knowledge option is to buy from a custom builder. It is the most expensive approach and in my humble opinion, not necessary for most people these days. You can also buy direct from the manufacturer. This has become increasingly popular over the last few years. Two of the bikes you will see often in races these days, Quintana Roo and Canyon, are both sold direct. The bike I am buying is also sold direct.
Buying direct has gotten easier in the last few years as bike manufacturers have developed tools to help you make the right frame choice. Some give you a trial period and you can return the bike if it does not fit or suit you. In some cases, component selection is limited to one brand. In the case of Dimond, choices are more like that of a custom builder. In other words, extensive. Dimond has their own brand, Red Crown, selling aero wheels and the cockpit which will be less expensive but you are not limited to their components. You need to know what you are doing to get the best bike for you buying direct.
One tip which I think is critical when buying direct: do not have the bike company cut your steering tube unless you are 101% sure that you will never need to raise your base bar.
A Bike Fit (don’t leave home - or buy -without one)
There is one thing that you should not go cheap on, and that is a professional bike fit (the cost runs over $300 and can be much more if you go to a wind tunnel). Even if you think you know all the dimensions of a bike that would fit you perfectly, you should get, or have a recent, bike fit. Doctors, at least smart ones, don’t self-diagnose, neither should cyclists. A good bike fitter will not only give you the dimensions of a frame but include all the information you need to pick one best suited to you. With their help, you should be able to identify a complete bike that fits the dimensions closest to you. Here is a good article on the topic from Slowtwitch.
All bike shops will offer some type of bike fitting and it often is included in the cost of the bike, or should be. However, make sure that the bike fitter has the knowledge to put you on the right bike with the right cockpit, gears, saddle - essentially - everything. Obviously, a bike fitter associated with a bike shop would prefer you buy your bike from them, but the best do not insist on that. They will of course give you no discounts for the fit in that case. Just be sure to maintain a good relationship with your local shop, you will always need them at some time.
Some Background (that will help explain why my choices)
As some reading this know, I have an engineering degree. Two, actually. An Associate Degree in Aero Engineering and a BS in Industrial Engineering. The latter goes a long way to explain how I got quickly into the IT world, another story. The aero stuff goes a long way in explaining why the bike part of triathlon is my favorite. There is a lot here about my bike decisions over the years. You could jump down to 'My Choices' for the short story, but do come back to this section as it explains 'the why' of those choices.
Friends used to think, I know because they said so, that I was/am anal about making things as aero as possible. Perhaps, but look at the latest so-called superbikes, all wires are internal, fluids are internal (in some cases), some sort of aero storage is provided for food and emergency supplies.
When I got my first tri bike, one of the original Quintana Roo designs created by Dan Empfield (Slowman the Slowtwitch Editor), I was immediately concerned with all the wires hanging off the bike, the round tubes, and the lack of a place to store stuff that I needed as I rode along the way. I got creative, the bag hanging off the support for the water bottle cage was my first effort at packing stuff in a semi-aero fashion (later I tucked the wires up under the stem, so they were not dangling in the breeze).
To race an IM I got concerned about comfort. The QR was a stiff frame, the choice of tires back then, 19mm at 160psi+, did not help matters. Softride had just come out with their new model in 2000. The beam added comfort and the lack of seat stays, sort of, checked off my aero thing. Wires were still external, and I could not do much about that other than tape them together near the stem. You can’t see it well but there is a spare tubular tire tucked down the beam with a bit of it sticking out behind me. There are some other tools strapped in behind the seat. The swollen elbow is my 9/11 elbow, brought on from leaning on it in my office chair most of the day watching a television off to my left.
There was also a benefit to the Softride that never got much traction but is being revived by Zipp and other wheel manufacturers. Reducing unsprung weight in a car, especially race cars, is a performance gain and Softride argued that it applied to riding a bike. The Softride did this with the suspension built into its beam, the heavy part of the bike/human combo (you) was suspended. Zipp argues now that designing wheels to allow lower tire pressure has a similar effect, more about that later.
My Softride died in a bike collision with a car whose owner was in a mad rush to get to his first appointment of the day at a body shop. He worked for Geico, and the settlement paid for my next bike and then some. I would have bought another Softride but they had gone out of business. The next best was a Cervelo P3. It did not have a beam which I immediately missed, not as comfortable or aero, in my opinion, but a very good bike. Still no storage but I got to work on that as soon as the bike arrived. Wires still hung out below the aerobars but disappeared into the frame at the top of the down tube.
With an all-carbon-fiber bike, I had more to play with. I moved the shifting wires through the top of the top tube, the small holes I drilled in the top tube did not reduce the strength of the bike, but I am sure it voided the warranty. This included making a fairing that wrapped around the stem and steering tube running back along the top tube streamlining the bento box.
Fluid supplies found a new place to hide in a Never Reach Bottle, it held about 48oz. I have since worked out other ways to keep myself hydrated while reducing weight (pick up water, carry powdered sports drink) and ditched the Never Reach. But you will soon read I am back to carrying a bit more fluids on the bike out of T1. A spare tubular tire was folded up inside the bottle on the downtube along with some tools, more tools were behind the seat taped to the bottle support. I should note that in the picture to the below I have not yet made the fairing and rerouted the cables, but they are all covered with tape. You can’t see it, but neither can the wind, there is a race number on my back set up so it stays as close as possible to my back.
Not long after I got the Softride I started to think about how nice it would be to have it made of carbon fiber. It took another 15 years to have one, the Dimond. The owner of Dimond Bikes, TJ Tollakson, came to love beam bikes with one made by Zipp (more on that on his site ). When I read that he was making an improved version I knew it was only a matter of time before I had one.
Combined with the right aerobars the wires disappear with the Dimond. The first iteration of the bike did not have any internal frame storage but there was a fix or at least a partial one, for that. The downtube has a lot of volume and with a small modification on my part at the top end a spare tubular tire was tucked inside along with some tools and the Di2 battery. The rest of the emergency spares was tucked behind the seat with a customized bottle cage (you can see a CO2 cartridge in front of the cage. Some food supplies found a home in the bento box and I made a pillbox that sat behind the stem filling in a gap to allow for different stem types.
Radical Changes in Bike Design and Components
When I got my Softride in 2001, 9-speed gears were the most you could get. I don’t recall if Disc brakes had made it to the mountain bike world, but they were a long way off for road bikes. Wheels were thin, tires thin, and high pressure (180psi). Wires, as I have gone on about, were draped around the outside of the frame. Electronic shifting had been tried without commercial success. In the last 6 years since I got my first Dimond that has all changed.
We now have 12 speed (and one 13 speed) gearing. The changes in gearing over the last 20 years have been amazing. (If you are interested in some history about gearing check out this information from Wikepedia.) For some, this has made it possible to ditch the double chainrings, more aero less weight. But as you will see a bit later this is not suitable for an aging athlete losing measurable power every year.
Disc brakes are superior in all but flat dry racecourses with few turns. They also come with through axles which add to the stiffness and handling of the bike. Hydraulic brakes are a great option with Disc brakes, easier modulation of the braking, easier to hide the cables (AKA tubing).
As one article I read recently said improvement in wheel aerodynamics is reaching its limits and comfort and rolling resistance are the last areas where “free” speed can be realized. As a result, as noted earlier, wheels have gotten fatter along with the tires. What was a bummer for me was when I bought my first Dimond. I met the engineer behind the design, David Morse (he also developed some of the earlier Zipp Wheels), and he told me that my tubular wheels were on the endangered list. I no longer have them. They along with Clinchers with tubes are on their way out (expensive change). Tubeless tires, the hookless type, make for a much better interface with the wheel creating an almost smooth joint and more aero. If you are switching to disk brakes go with hookless,m tubeless wheels, this is going to be the standard for all wheels in a few years.
With the intro of the Dimond Marquise frame set up for disc brakes and the inclusion of great internal storage in 2017, I knew that another bike was in my future. Covid, or the prospect of getting over the worst of that, has me buying a new bike.
Frames & Brakes
My choice of bike brand is simple, I have 6 years of experience racing on a Diamond and am extremely happy with it. I have the first iteration of the bike and Dimond has mad some significant improvement to the bike, all of which I think is important. They have not changed the geometry of the bike and I have had a fit recently (Ryan Ignatz, Colorado Multisport) making the frame choice very easy.
I have lumped frame and brakes under one heading as your choice of frame, regardless of brand, dictates the type of brakes or vice versa. You can’t have disc brakes without through axles. Dimond’s Marquise comes in traditional rim brake and disc brake versions, you should by now know what I want. The Marquise also has all Dimond’s storage options and with the right cockpit tucks the hoses and wires almost complexly out of view.
One easy decision with brakes is mechanical or hydraulic, I am going with the latter. Modulation is better and with a quick disconnect in the hose lines packing the bike will become even simpler than the present. With my large frame size, I have to remove the cockpit to get it into a bike bag.
I had thought going into this that it would be Ultegra brakes and Shifters but there is a favorably reviewed product that would save significant money from TRP, more research.
Easy choice for me, I am staying with my Tri Rig Aerobars from my old bike. Dimond’s own cockpit would be my choice if I was looking for the very latest idea, common on many superbikes, a single mono post.
Two weeks ago, I purchased TriRig's latest idea of making pads much longer. Others, like Vision, also are making more comfortable arm pads. They even make one with the extensions built-in more aero. The idea of a longer pad is primarily more comfort and that is certainly the case. Here is a picture of my current bike with the new pads.
If the bike you decide to buy is like the Dimond and you have cockpit choices, care is needed, as well as help from your fitter, in order to get the cockpit you will be most comfortable on.
Wheels & Tires
This is going to be a tough choice and more research is needed. Zipp’s latest white paper has sold me on the idea of wide tubeless wheels (23 or 25 mm internal width) with matching tires (at least 25 or 28 mm) and hookless. The question for me is the depth of the rim.
My first Zipp wheels came with my Softride, 303 in the front and 404 in the back. I survived the worst wind conditions in Kona on that setup - 55 mph gusts and a steady 25 mph headwind going up the climb to Hawi. With improvements to the cross-wind handling of the Zipp wheels and my handling skills, I have managed with 404 up front and 808 in the back for 15 years. I upgraded the 404/808 tubulars 5 years ago to the very expensive 454 and 858 clinchers, a huge improvement in crosswinds. But the days of deep rim wheels for me are over or will be soon. I feel a lot less secure on them now.
The articles I have reviewed about Zipp’s latest offerings suggest that in hairy conditions as I have experienced in Kona, or any windy race venue, a 303/343 wheel up front would be my best choice with either the same or a 404/454 in back. Experience has taught me that you can go a lot deeper in the back even in wild conditions but at present, no one makes a wide rim bigger than the 404, and I want that comfort. I am leaning towards the 303 front and back with the idea that if a race is coming up where I think I can ride a deeper wheel I can rent it.
Dimond’s Red Crown wheels are a less expensive option with, I suspect, very comparable performance to Zipp’s latest. More research on that is needed.
One decision is made with gearing, 12 speed. I did consider a 13-speed offering from Rotor and Sram. Rotor’s system is hydraulic. It seems to me that electric is a simpler approach to shifting so I will be sticking with that. I also looked at eliminating the inner chainring. Sram offers this with their 1x13 setup. More aero for sure but the compromise with this setup is either a limited range of gearing or wide spacing between each gear, neither of which would work for me anymore. 10 years ago perhaps yes.
Di2 or Sram is still an open decision. The difference between them as far as actual gearing is very comparable. Sram batteries do not last as long as Di2 but to charge them you take them off the bike. So, you can have spares and always have a fully charged one.
The decision may come down to availability. The Di2 12 speed is very new, and supplies are still limited.
Summary of Open Questions
The To-Do list is as follows.
Articles that I have been reading that helped my decision making
Article on the recent history of gearing through 2014 and an explanation.
History from Wikipedia about the Number and Width of Sprockets (look specifically at that section)
Bike Fitting Articles
Reasonable Bike Fit Expectations (Slowtwitch)
What to Expect in a Bike Fit (Bikefit Blog)
Most of these articles are about Zipp’s latest wheels. There is a reason for this, they are my primary focus, and they get more press than most other brands.
Slowtwitch’s take on the latest from Zipp
Zipps White paper on their wheels
A view of the Zipp wheels from across the pond (Europe)
A look at wheels other than Zipp
Articles that include discussion of bike features that are of interst to me
I would be considering this bike if I was not already sold on the Dimond. It has all the things I think are important in a superbike and this review of a new trek speed concept and aerodynamics.
Here are some other bikes that Triathlete ranks as the best of 2021, I am always a bit suspect of articles like this as they never seem to include bikes that don’t advertise in their magazine.
Coach Simon Butterworth has 15 Ironman Kona World Championships to celebrate ... and he knows bikes. His philosophy about coaching notes that the key ingredients in a good coach/athlete relationship are regular and open communication, mutual respect, and keeping it fun for the athlete and their family. My training programs are developed with those ideas in the forefront. I work with athletes to develop both short term and long term objectives that work well within the context of the other things they have going on in their life.
How many times has something gone wrong for you in a race? If you are like me, the answer is - almost always. If you race triathlon at any distance, it is rare that you will have the “perfect race.” It could be a bike mechanical, nutrition issue, physical issue (e.g. cramping, injury, etc.), or mental challenges, just to name a few. How you manage these challenges during a race is key to your success. Keep in mind that successful outcomes can be measured in many ways.
My story from the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in St. George in September 2021 can be summed up by (re)learning a valuable lesson: “Stay in the Game.”
Anyone that raced St. George on that September day knows the challenges that we all faced. First, it is a challenging course (it is the World Championship after all). And second, wind, a sandstorm, rain, lightning, and hail made for some incredibly difficult conditions. Staying in the game mentally was probably the hardest part for me.
My day started with a decent swim (by my standards), and a great start on the bike. 15 miles in, I’m hitting my numbers and feeling strong. It was going to be a good day. And then I looked out on the horizon and saw the approaching storm. It did not look good with the lightning bolts flashing in the distance. The headwind came along with the stinging sand. I was embracing 'the suffer' and my attitude was good. I would persevere.
The rain and small hail came next, but I was still unfazed and pushed hard onward. Finally, at around the 35-mile mark, the weather cleared a bit. I was climbing one of the many hills on the bike route when a feeling of fatigue hit me. I have had these moments in a race before where I hit a low point. But I usually push through and re-group. This day, for some reason, it was different. I took on some nutrition and pushed on. I came to the Snow Canyon climb, which is about 5 miles at a manageable grade, still lacking some energy. I slowly slogged up the climb knowing that I was giving away time, but I was doing my best to manage my race. I had been here before, and I knew I could run.
After bombing down the 10-mile descent into transition, I was preparing myself to go fast on the run and makeup time. As I was pulling into transition, I glanced at my Garmin and saw my bike split. What!? Probably one of my worst bike splits EVER in a 70.3 race. Of course, at the time I didn’t think about the hard course and tough weather conditions. I just had that time split in my head. My chances for a high age group finish were gone - I thought.
Lesson #1 - Don’t let the clock dictate your race. It is more about your effort and did you achieve your goals (e.g. power output, HR, etc.) After reviewing my data with my D3 coach, Jim Hallberg, I realized that I was actually spot-on for my target bike power goal. I had put in a solid effort but I didn’t realize it at the time.
Now I had to run, and mentally, I was already defeated. I started my run and I tried to put in the effort and hit the target pace/heart rate. But when things got hard (let’s be realistic-it’s always going to get hard on the run), I came back to that bike split in my head and I lacked the mental strength to overcome the negative thoughts. And then the next round of rain came.
Could it get any worse? I finished the first loop on the 2-loop run course in a bad mental state. I had thrown in the towel. Now it was a matter of just finishing (I was not going to have my first DNF occur at the World Championship). I crossed the line happy to be done but already feeling the weight of the letdown. I had just split the run over 10 minutes slower than the last time I raced this course. Ouch!
Lesson #2 - Don’t dwell on the low points that occur during a race. Keep your head in the race and focus on what’s ahead, not what’s behind. I let negative thoughts dictate my run. Physically, I had trained well and I had the fitness required to run my goal time. But mentally, I checked out.
Lesson #3 - Just stay in the game. Don’t make assumptions like “my time is so slow, I don’t have a chance.” Looking back at my competitors’ times in this race, had I just “stayed in the game” on the run and put in the effort I’m capable of, I would have likely achieved my goal of a top 15 finish.
Lesson #4 - The definition of success is different for each race. Success in a race does not always mean “I made the podium” or “I set a PR.” Success could be: “Wow that was a really tough day and I finished.”
Training your mental skills is as important as training your physical skills. And remember, always, always, always - stay in the game.
We are thankful to #D3Athlete Michael Re for sharing his story about the 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championships with us and hope you are able to use his lessons-learned in your own racing.
Not all meals have to be pieced together, not all meals need to be a 1 pot wonder. You may have a recipe for turkey meatloaf and not know if that’s enough for dinner or if something else should accompany it. Not every meal is going to have all the parts that may be optimal and some people have different needs than others. That being said, the following is what a typical “plate” can include and this model will help you keep an optimal diet.
You may have heard of macronutrients. Macronutrients are the main large nutrients of our diet: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. They are all important, everyone has a different ratio of needs given these macronutrients. Some people need more carbohydrates, some people need less, some need more fat, some less, etc. Generally, when building a plate, it’s ideal to have protein, fat, carb, AND vegetables.
Protein: choose lean cuts of meat that are free of antibiotics and hormones. For example, wild fish, free-range eggs, legumes, and some sources of protein powders.
Carbohydrate: choose whole grains, root vegetables, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and limit or avoid sugar. (Different articles I’ve written talk about sports nutrition, which is a separate topic where sugar has its place).
Fat: choose healthy oils like avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil (rarely people may need to watch this oil with high cholesterol).
Vegetables: choose as much color as possible, get variety, get quantity, choose frozen in the winter months if necessary, or just for convenience. Things like salads, roasted broccoli, mashed cauliflower or cauliflower rice, stir fry with kale, peppers, onions, etc.
When you grab from each nutrient referenced above, you can start to build your plate. Here are some complete examples:
As mentioned earlier, you are not always going to have every single piece to this “plate” but this should serve as your guide to building a healthy meal.
D3's Go-To Nutrionist Megan Dopp has over 20 years years of experience in the nutrition field and has adapted to all of its changes with research and education. She is passionate about learning what is best for each person and focuses on finding the root cause of problems.
Team D3 Endurance Training Camp
March 12 - 18, 2022
We need 15 athletes registered by Monday, January 31st
We know this camp is the BEST WAY TO KICK OFF YOUR SEASON because this is what past campers have had to say ...
COACHING and TRAINING GOAL:
Train under the direction of D3 Head Coach Mike Ricci and Coach Jim Hallberg, at this high-volume cycling-based camp. We will be riding some of Tucson's classics including Mt. Lemmon and Gates Pass. You can also look forward to concentrated run and swim workouts (plus a few surprises!). Don’t be intimidated as we will break into groups by ability and you will work at your own pace with support from the coaches.
This is your opportunity to push yourself (safely) and improve your endurance. With a coach’s eye on your technique and ability, you will find your limits and a new level in your training capabilities. You should come into this camp with a solid training foundation, but you will leave with the confidence that you are ready to take on spring racing including 70.3 and Ironman distances.
A specific itinerary will be shared in advance of the Camp with registered athletes.
*Additional costs: We are organizing a block of hotel rooms in the range of $200 per night. So six nights of lodging will be an approx. cost of $1,200. We request that everyone stay at this hotel. More specifics about the lodging will be coming soon. If you know athletes attending the camp and would like to share a room, that is just fine. You will need to coordinate those arrangements together. Your travel, other needed amenities and the meals not included in the camp should also be considered.
Deposits, payments, and refunds: a $250 deposit or full payment is required by February 6th. Balance due will be required by February 20th. You will pay the hotel directly for lodging. Refunds will only be considered depending on if we have more than 15 athletes. If you become sick or injured we will do our best to provide a credit for a future camp, but again it is based on if we have more than 15 athletes participating.
***To keep everyone as safe as possible regarding the pandemic, we will establish protocols ahead of the camp and during the camp (for example, proof of negative test prior to camp, rapid testing during the camp, temperature checks, and wearing masks during transport.) We are fine-tuning this, but with travel and a group gathering, there are inherent risks involved.***
Questions or ready to register, please contact: Melanie@D3Multisport.com