Author: Nate (page 1 of 12)

Maintaining Fitness Over the Holiday Season

Ahhh, the Christmas season. Or as my wife likes to call it: “Baking season!”

That’s right, the time from Thanksgiving day until New Year’s Day is spent mostly stuffing our faces with all the wonderful goodies that we bake, cook, and receive as gifts. A simple google search will yield you thousands of articles on Holiday weight gain.

As an endurance athlete, this is probably your off season (unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere in which case it’s summer right now). The added benefit of a lessened training load leaves us in even more of a positive calorie count. For many of us, we want to know how to avoid losing fitness and gaining weight over the holidays. I’m here to help, but my first piece of advice is… don’t worry about it! Continue reading

Racing a Half Marathon with Power: What I learned

A little less than two weeks ago I raced my first stand alone half marathon. The first time I had raced 13.1 miles without first swimming and cycling beforehand. There was a lot I learned both during that race, as well as in the lead up to that race. The majority of that came from my first training block based solely on running power. Here’s what I learned:

1. Most people run at a more variable power than you think

This one surprised me. In the transition from basing my tri air on pace to passing it on power I learned a lot about holding consistent power over different terrain. I knew I needed to back off on the uphill and push it on the down hills to keep the same power. What I didn’t realize is how variable most people are when it comes to power.

I train on fairly flat terrain here in Eastern North Carolina. My race was more towards the central part of the state and was described as “rolling.” At one point a man I was running along side simply looked over at me and said “up and down, up and down!” I noticed so much in this race how, when I would hold a steady power over the hills, so many people would pass me going up, and then I would pass them right back going down. And I was towards the front of the race where you would expect the more experienced pacers to be.

2. Consistent Effort is King

The focus on consistent power is all about effort. A variable effort wears you down more. Cyclists and triathletes who train with power on the bike probably have heard of the metric called “Variability Index” or VI. The VI tells you how variable your effort is. So if the workout is multiple 400m repeats, it will be highly variable. If it is 90 minutes at Tempo, it will be less variable.

In a race situation, keeping a consistent effort allows you to have more gas in the tank at the end. This race was probably my best paced race ever. At the 5 mile mark I picked up the pace (power) slightly and then again at the 10 mile mark. That last 5k was focused on a consistent uptick in pace ever mile or half mile. That last half mile was all uphill until the final .1 where I gunned it to the finish. I am not sure how many people I passed in that final 5k, but It felt good to finish with a strong kick and not have anything left in the tank when I crossed that line!

3. Run Downhill!

I mentioned this before, but taking it easy on the downhill makes no sense. It is harder on your quads. You spend energy braking yourself. You miss the advantage gravity give you!

I stated before that I passed so many people on the down hill. If you look at my power file, I also never got up to my goal power on those down hills either. I simply opened my stride and let gravity do it’s thing. Next time you are in a race, Run down the hills!

4. Train top end speed

This was more from the lead up to the event, but I spent a lot of time working on my top end speed. Speed drills, VO2max drills, miles repeats, you name it, I did it. These all are at the opposite end of the effort spectrum from where I was racing, but they improved my economy. The better your efficiency, the faster you run. Which leads me to my last point:

5. You’re faster than you think you are

This was eye-opening to me. I finished with an average pace of right around 7:30/mile. With that as an average for 13.1 miles that just blew my mind. I had paced shorter legs of a triathlon much slower than that before. I’m sure part of it was the top end speed work I did, but I believe part of it was the mental disconnect between power and pace. I had tri and without ever looking at pace. I raced without ever looking at my pace. I just held the watts because I knew I could. In the end, I was faster than I had ever run for such a long distance.

I think some of us, my self included obviously, keep a mental tab on how fast we are going and when it reaches a certain point our brains tell us to slow down for fear of imploding. This is really discussed in detail in Matt Fitzgerald’s book “How Bad Do You Want It?” There is a huge mental side to suffering during a race. When I took my mind off the speed numbers and put them on a power number, suddenly holding that pace felt easier. It allowed me to dig deeper and unleash more of my potential.

Going into this next season I am looking forward to training with power and I’ll keep sharing the lessons I learn along the way. If you don’t want to miss any of them, make sure you sign up to get my posts sent directly to your email! You’ll also get a FREE 5k or sprint triathlon training plan, and you’ll be the first to get my new Half Marathon POWER training plan!

Stocking Stuffers for Triathletes

Who doesn’t love their stockings stuffed? That is… unless you call socks stockings, and then I really wouldn’t want anyone stuffing anything in my “stockings.”

Growing up, stocking stuffers were all about getting those things we kind of needed but not really. Usually it was a little candy (Reese’s of course) and then a little higher quality toiletries and accessories than we would normally buy for ourselves. It was always great because we got some of those things we- Luxuries if you will- that made life a litter easier.

In the spirit of my childhood stocking, here is what a triathlete would want in their stocking!

Chapstick

Seriously. I would get a year’s supply of chapstick every Christmas in my stocking. I don’t actually think I’ve ever bought any chapstick for myself. Your triathlete will love having chapstick for those winter rides in the cold, and then again for the blistering summer rides. This is an easy win!

Wireless Headphones

There’s always debate on whether to listen to music, or not listen to music when training. If your triathlete is the kind that listens to music (and even if they aren’t) wireless headphones are the way to go! You can get really nice ones like the ones from Jaybird, or you can go the budget route and get the ones constantly on the top headphones lists.

Running Socks

Socks are just one of those things that can make or break a run. They are almost as important as good running shoes. Save yourself (I mean, your triathlete) so headache (footache??)and get some Balega Socks. They are all good, but the ultralight quarters are my go to.

Sports Nutrition

This is highly individual, but if you know what your athlete likes, then get them what they use! Even some single servings thrown in a stocking are a nice touch. If you don’t know where to start, I suggest grabbing some Nuun hydration packs, Honey Stinger gels, and a whole pack of Waffles. I’m serious. These waffles are the best afternoon snack!

Candy

Yes. Real, unhealthy candy! Reese’s are my favorite. What? It’s the off season!

Toe Covers

One of those comforts that are not expensive at all but can make all the difference in the world! Here in the South winter is only cold enough for full shoe covers for a week. Most other places around the US call that fall or spring! Toe covers are great for those rides where a full shoe cover is not needed, but a little extra warmth would be appreciated. I suggest the Toe Thingy from Castelli.

Elastic Shoe Laces

Yes, the staple in triathlon transition zones everywhere. Save a few seconds in T2 with elastic laces and get elastic laces. It’s probably time for your triathlete to get new running shoes anyway, so get them a good pair of laces to go in them! I’ve been using RipLaces for over a year now and they are the best ones out there! You can individualize each loop to fit right and don’t have to deal with a single elastic band running through the whole shoe. These are the bomb!

Bar Tape

Freshen up your Triathlete’s bike with some new bar tape. A new roll of tape will make a world of difference. Remember when I said these are things we wouldn’t normally buy ourselves? Well triathletes are notorious for letting their bar tape wear down to nothing. At least that’s what my bike shop told me.

RoadID

This is really more for you than for your triathlete. Peace of mind. Get them a RoadID and tell them about the RoadID app. Safety First!

Smartphone friendly gloves

Nothing is more annoying than having to take your had out of your glove to use a touch screen (be it a phone or bike computer). Smartphone friendly gloves are the bomb!

There you have it! 10 easy things to stuff the stockings and make your triathlete smile! What things would you add to the list?

If you are shopping online for these things (like I do!) then I’d appreciate you using my Amazon link! It’s free to you and I get a little kick back to help keep this site rolling.

Triathlete’s Gift Guide 2017

Gifts under $25! Gifts under $50! Stocking Stuffers!

This time of year there are so many gift guides out there for anyone and everyone. For any budget and every budget. Last year I did a full on gift guide with my recommendations on gear for your triathlete. This year, I’ve got a bit different take on the gift guide with a few specific recommendations thrown in.

(As a side note, if you are doing your Christmas shopping online, I’d love for you to use my Amazon link to support the site. It doesn’t cost you anything and it helps me keep going with my multisport pursuits!)

What not to get your triathlete

Let’s start here: what not to get. Triathletes are a peculiar bunch. We get finicky with the smallest of things. Whenever something is messed up we obsess over it. When there is new gear released we compare it to what we already have.

We also know what we want. We have our favorites and it takes moving a mountain to get us to try something different (or maybe just a horrible race… then we try EVERYTHING different!) With this in mind, don’t get your triathlete anything without researching what they have already and what they want/need. You don’t have to straight up ask them what they want, but a little peak in the closet, at race photos, etc. and a simple google search can go a long way.

For more on this subject (and a good laugh) check out this article by pro triathlete Jesse Thomas. (And this other one too)

What to get your triathlete

Here is the part you came here for: What to get your triathlete. After reading the above, probably the best thing to get them is a gift card so they can buy something themselves! Start with an online triathlon shop like Trisports. Then maybe their local bike shop. Also, Amazon has everything.

The next best thing is something to help their training. An indoor bike trainer like the Tacx Vortex, Flux, or Neo trainers. These are all smart trainers that can control power output for more structured training. If that’s a little too much for your budget, the Travel Trac is the best non-smart trainer out there! Throw in a 3, 6, or 12 month subscription to TrainerRoad and your triathlete will be a happy camper!

Consumables are also always a great bet. Obviously this would include their sports nutrition and supplements like gels, bars, hydration, recovery drinks etc., but I would also throw running shoes in there (make sure you get the brand and model the use!) and bike tires and tubes. These things are all going to need purchased anyway so it saves them from buying them laterso they have more money to spend on the shiny new aero items they’ve had their eye on.

Lastly, if you want to go big, I suggest you hit up the latest gadgets. Triathletes are almost always data nerds. If they don’t have the latest bike computer or GPS watch (like the Garmin 935) that’s always a great buy. A power meter is always welcomed as well! Just make sure to get one that is compatible with their bike. An easy way around this is a pedal based power meter like the Garmin Vector 3 or PowerTap P1.

Stocking Stuffers for your triathlete

The last thing to think about it stoking stuffers. I’ll do a whole other post on this next week, so for now I’d tell you to look for some great socks, those consumables we talked about, or even some small tools to keep their equipment going!

Happy shopping everyone!

And don’t forget to use my Amazon link to support the site!

If you like what you’re reading, you can sign up to get all my posts in you inbox as soon as they are posted! I only post once or twice a week and I promise not to spam you! Plus, you’ll get access you my free 5k Beginners Training plan AND my Beginner Sprint Triathlon Training plan!

Run Durability

Run durability is not one of the most glamorous topics in triathlon. There’s aerodynamics, weight, nutrition, so many topics that are way more fun to talk about. But, the seconds you save on that fancy aero bike that costs more than my car (both of them… combined…) won’t matter much compared to the minutes you loose because you have no run durability.

For that sentence to make sense, we need to clarify what run durability is, and then we’ll transition into how you can build it.  Continue reading

Skip the Run this Off Season… Focus on the swim!

Everywhere you look, leaves are changing, pumpkins are out, and it’s getting colder, and everyone is gearing up for a Turkey Trot!

That’s right, it’s off season. Most Triathlete’s change gears, take some time off, and focus on bringing their run form around with an off-season 5k, half or full marathon. Don’t believe me? Take a gander at Triathlete’s or TrainingPeak’s website and see how many different articles you can find on the off-season run?

May I suggest a different course of action?

Focus on the swim!

Yes, it’s the shortest of the 3 disciplines. Yes, most triathletes suffer through their swim sessions because they have to. But, here are 4 good reasons to focus on the swim in the off-season. Continue reading

Running with Power: A Crash Course

I’ve been running with a power meter for several months now. My first impressions were great, but I never went “all in” on training with it… until now.

It’s “off season” which means taking a break from the normal  structure of training, but not from exercise all together. I did take a bit of a break, but a Thanksgiving day Half Marathon is calling my name! For 6 weeks I thought it would be a good idea to train with running power alone and not even look at pace on my training runs. I’ll let you know how it goes after Thanksgiving, but for now, let’s get a bit of a crash course on training with running power.

1. Running Power is not measured same as Cycling Power

This is the first thing you need to understand. Cycling power is now a very mature technology. Almost all power meters for cycling measure direct force (the amount of force you are directly putting into the pedals/crank/rear hub). A Running power meter, however, is a different animal. Most running power meters measure movement or force in a 3 dimensional plane. In other words, not all of your running power is used to propel yourself forward. Side-to-side, up-and-down, and forward motion all add to running power.

This can help us see that as our pace goes down but we go up a hill, there is less forward progress, but we can still measure our work consistently (see next point).  It also tells us that as we bounce or wobble we are using power but not going any faster (see third point!)

2. Running with Power keeps your effort consistent

Many times we get a workout that prescribes running at X pace for X minutes. That is great, but what about going over a hill? What if the course we are running is rolling? Our effort going up the hill will need to increase to keep the same pace, and it will decrease when we are going down the other side. Multiply that by numerous hills on course and you many be spending half the prescribed amount of time in the prescribed zone.

Running power can help us stay on track when we are going over hills. Slow down going up and speed up going down. Too many people slow down running down hill and that only is wasting energy, fighting gravity, and trashing your quads!

3. Running with Power puts more emphasis on form

Form is so vitally important. The goal of a triathlon is not to get from point A to point B as fast as possible. It is to get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. Efficiency not only makes you faster, but it also helps you go further, faster. As a race progresses, running form usually goes out the window. This is true in straight running races too!

My first run with a power meter opened my eyes to this more than ever before! The longer the run was, the slower I got and the more watts I was putting out. Both bad things!

One workout I found online was a form run where you hold a set wattage and try to up the pace through weeks in form. Something you couldn’t quantitatively measure before without a power meter!

So that is a simple explanation of running with power. A crash course if you will. Obviously pace and great rate are still very important metrics, and running power is still in it’s infancy, but it is a game changer for sure! I’ll be running solely off power until Thanksgiving, and I’ll pace my Half Marathon solely on power. Stay tuned for the results and my thoughts along the way!

If you like what you are reading, why not subscribe? I promise I won’t spam you, but you’ll get my future posts in your inbox and you’ll get access to a free 6 week 5k training plan, and a free sprint triathlon training plan! So sign up now!

Post Season Break- Won’t I loose Fitness?

Ahh… Off Season! There are so many different emotions that come to mind when you talk to a triathlete (or his family) about off season. First is relief! A hard, successful (hopefully) season is behind you. Time to focus on the holidays, put on a few pounds, and spend a little extra time with the family!

But so many athletes balk at the idea of taking a post season break! “Won’t I loose fitness?” They ask. Well… Continue reading

Trisports Under New Management

A little while ago, Trisports announce to it’s staff, sponsored athletes, and then the public that it would be forced to close it’s doors at any time. Since then they have been liquidating their stock and putting up amazing deals on in-stock items.

A Change of Fortune

Just Thursday afternoon, however, a few of us noticed that they had changed their contact information on their facebook page including a new address in Portland, Oregon. I asked on a private team page about the update and at about the same time received an email that was sent to all the people on Trisports email list announcing that the company had been purchased by a company out in Oregon and the current owners were working with the new owners on a smooth transition.

I am so thrilled to hear that Trisports will live on, even if my friends Seton and Debbie will not be at the helm. The email I received made sure to note that the new owners would be working to continue support of the services, products, athletes and teams that Trisports is currently known for. I am excited at that as well!

The Plot Thickens

Later in the day, the founder of Trisports, Seton Claggett, replied to me and confirmed that Velotech, the parent company for multiple smaller bike shops, had bought Trisports. Then, overnight, I received an email from Slowtwitch founder Dan Empfield that he and a partner had bought Trisports to help usher it into new management. From the sound of the email he was just a temporary owner until the Velotech deal was struck.

There are other tid-bits of info floating around the interwebs such as the merger between Western Bike Works (a Portland bike shop) and Athlete’s Lounge (a Portland Tri shop) to help both shops survive and focus on an online retail platform (assuming with the expertise of Trisports) all under the umbrella of Velotech.

Where does that leave us?

I’m going to be honest, this all is very complicated and confusing. Parent companies and sister companies and mergers with middle men. I bet someone could make a movie out of it all. Regardless, I am hopeful. Trisports has been a cornerstone of the triathlon community for many years and I was sad to see it go. Something in me knew it wouldn’t be for long. Looks like it has new life before it ever fully went away. For that, I am thankful.

The one question is: will it still be the same company we have grown to know an love? With Seton helping with the transition I am hopeful it will be. And it that is the case, they still have my support!

What do you think of all this? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Let me know in the comments below or hit me up on twitter!

OBX Triathlon Race Report (2017 Half) Part 2- Vacation

Racecation! There is nothing better than combining a vacation to an awesome destination with a race weekend! This is the second year in a row I’ve come to the Outer Banks Triathlon for a racecation. The Outer banks are a great place to vacation, and Outer Banks Sporting Events puts on a great race.

This is part 2 of my “racecation” report. See part 1 for all the details of the race portion of the racecation. Here in part 2, I’ll go over some of the things you should look at when planning a racecation and how things went for us this year!

Timing

This year we decided to arrive a day earlier than we did last year. For a Saturday race we got in to town on Thursday afternoon to give us a half a day to get settled and then a morning to relax and enjoy the beach before focusing on pre-race activities like packet pick-up, naps, dinner, etc. we also back loaded the trip with a few extra days to enjoy the beach and the sights before we had to head back. We prefer back loading the trip instead of front loading it so that we can enjoy time off as a family instead of spending most of the trip thinking about the race that is coming up.

Accommodations 

This year we went with a VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) instead of a hotel. This was the right move. First of all, sharing a hotel room with small children is a nightmare for sleep. Second, being able to cook your own food is a must. I don’t think I’ll do it any other way for a race ever again (I know I know… never say never!) The rule of thumb for a race is to be as comfortable as possible and keep to as close to a normal routine as possible. Being in a house instead of a hotel made a world of difference in that department!

Plan for the worst 

Nothing new on race day is always the biggest rule for an A race. Practice everything! I had everything down and practiced, but I wanted to make doubly sure, so I went for a bike ride in my race gear the day before the race. I’m so glad I did! Somewhere in transit between the bike shop and the beach, one of my tires started to run AND I had a bit of brake rub too! I spent a good 30 to 45 minutes getting that all worked out and went for my ride. On the ride, my power meter was going haywire! Dropping to 0 and then never really getting over 200. S bit of troubleshooting that afternoon and I decided the best thing was to replace the batteries. I didn’t bring any so I went to the grocery store and bought the LAST PACKAGE OF BATTERIES they had that fit my power meter. Altering replacing those and recalibration etc. things were as good as new.

Lessons learned… bring extra batteries (and change them before a big race even if you think you don’t need to). Also, check everything and bring extras. I had a back up plan if my power meter was shot, but it would not have been fun at all. Thankfully I was able to get it all worked out without taking it to the local bike shop. But that’s another lesson: know where the LBS is before you go on your trip!

Unwinding

Like I said, we backloaded our trip with real vacation days after the race. The OBX is a great place for a family to visit! I’ve been going there since I was a little boy and now I get to take my family and keep that tradition alive!

We spent most of our time beaching it up… so basically… spending a hour getting all the kids changed and sunscreen on, loading the car, driving a block to the public beach access, and setting up on the beach. Then we spent about 1 1/2 to 2 hours trying to keep the little ones happy and especially keep the littlest one from eating any sand. It’s great fun!

In all seriousness, we love the beach and even the slight hassle of taking small children to the beach is worth the memories.

We also hit up some of the local restaurants like Sugar Creek Seafood. This one of our favorites… you have got to try the Shrimp and grits! It also have an awesome sunset view over the sound! We also found a sweet little coffee shop that we took a couple of trips to over the weekend. It’s called the Front Porch Cafe and it is wonderful! They roast all the coffee locally and have a wonderful environment to just hand out including a little play area for the kids! Score!!

Obviously the Outer Banks is known for 2 main things: Lighthouses and the Wright Memorial/ Jockey’s Ridge. We spent one afternoon seeing lighthouses and another flying kites at Jockey’s Ridge. Pro tip: park at Kitty Hawk Kites and walk across the road to the park. It’s a long walk if you park at the actual state park parking area. Plus, you can also buy a kite right there if you need it!

Final Thoughts

We had a great trip with the family all around. There is just nothing like going to the beach and enjoying time together, and to add in a race and the fact that it was not peak beach season makes things even better! I hope you have been able to pick up some pointers on planning a racecation and that I’ve inspired you to plan your own. The OBX Triathlon is a great place to start, but any destination race would be awesome to bring your family along and enjoy time together after a successful race!

What are you favorite places to “racecation.” I’d love to hear about it! Hit my up in the comments below or on Twitter!

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