Category: coaching (page 1 of 2)

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!

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!

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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

4 Thoughts On Season Planning

You may have noticed things have been quiet around here over the last month. I would say that was intentional… but that would kinda be lying a bit. The month of July has been crazy for me, and that’s normal for my job (I’m a Youth Pastor… summer means we throw the schedule in the trash as soon as we make it and pack in as much as we can while school is out!) This past month we’ve had a Community Outreach Week, a trip to an amusement park, a week-long trip to Atlanta, GA (Go Braves!!) and various other things thrown in like planning for the start of the school year,  family coming to town, and even church softball.

With all that craziness, my triathlon focus went out the door. I was able to keep up my bike rides for the most part. Runs were cut short, and swimming… well… I only swam 3 times in the month of July.

That put me down the path of thinking about season planning. We all know when our busy time of year is. If you’re in retail, Black Friday to New Years is your time. If you are in Education, the start and end of the school year are your time. I’m not going to go through them all, but you know what your time is. Since you know it, you should also take a look at your triathlon (or individual sport) season and plan accordingly. Here are 4 ways you can help ease that tension between life and triathlon life by planning ahead. Continue reading

Running Power Meters… First Impression

Being on the bleeding edge is exciting. But you can also get cut deep (hints the “bleeding” part). Power meters were once bleeding edge technology, but today they are common sights. Ask experienced cyclist or triathlete the best upgrade they can make, and they will (should) tell you to get a power meter (If you don’t already have one). But running power meters? That’s bleeding edge!

There really are only a few names in the game right now as it comes to running power meters. The big name is Stryd, now on their second gen unit. The other is RPM2. A few others are out there, but they are more fringe and aren’t specifically power meters like Lumo run and SHFT. The biggest question hanging over running power meters is, are they worth it? Continue reading

Are you stressed out?

Are you stressed out? That’s a phrase we hear a lot. I’m stressed. Don’t stress about it. Man, this is stressing me out!

We throw that word around, but do we really know what it means?

The actual definition of stress is either “pressure or tension exerted on a material object” or “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”

So really, there are two types of stress that an athlete needs to be aware of. The first is the kind we are all focused on: training stress. If you use Training Peaks you are probably very familiar with the term TSS or Training Stress Score. This is developed to help an athlete track the amount of tri naming stress they were placing on their bodies. This metric has become very popular now simply because it is such a good way to measure training load. It takes into account not only the duration of your training, but also the intensity of it as well. Over time an athlete can know very well how much they are able to handle as well as how much they need to increase their training week after week to see continual benefits.

The other type of stress is life stress. where training stress is mostly physical, life stress is mostly mental. We all know that feeling we get when work gets crazy or things are piling up around the house. The mental strain affects us physically and can adversely affect other areas of our lives such as training.

I recently got clued into this and how the two are so closely linked. I knew they were, but had never really tested the limits of how much stress my body can take. (Side note: this is not something I recommend as you will see.)

Coming off my first peak of the season I took a good week off and then slowly started to edge back into tri naming. I had a few weeks wiggle room in my plan so I wasn’t really going to hit things too hard at the start of this next build to give myself some more time off without being fully “off.”

About that time, my boss took his summer vacations and I was the one tasked with picking up the slack. Things went very smoothly, but there was a larger load of stress on my shoulders than I have been use to. I handled it well and was able to keep raining like I had planned, but then a few nights of not sleeping well on top of it all and I could tell I was not my normal self.

During this time I had also been tracking my Heart Rate Variability (HRV). This is a metric that, like resting heart rate, can clue you into how well you are recovering. My numbers had slowly gotten worse without my tri naming really ramping up yet. I knew something was up but I didn’t do anything about it.

To start off my first block of rinsing building to my next peak, I had an FTP test scheduled. That morning I could feel a little something off, and my HRV confirmed what I felt. The app I’ve been using (HRV4training) told me to take it I didn’t listen. I ran into the test full speed… and blew up catastrophically! I was a mess.

Thankfully I knew what my FTP was from a recent test so I just left things the same. But, I learned an important lesson: stress comes from many places. Take it a rest day when you don’t have one planned is ok. When you pr body tells you it’s time to ease off the gas, LISTEN!

Sometimes stress comes from many places. Just because you could handle more tri naming stress, doesn’t mean your body isn’t already at its limit due to other factors like sleep and life stress.

The moral of the story, don’t overdo it. And track your HRV… more on that soon!

3 Types of Training Logs

So you want to start your training log, but you don’t know where to start. The good news is that this is totally up to you! You need to choose the type of log that you will actually use. It doesn’t matter how fancy it is if you don’t put any information in it.

Some people like high tech journals, and some people like $1 notebooks. Here are three types of journals for just about anyone!

Continue reading

3 Reasons to Keep a Training Log

Some people have said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over hoping for different results.” Too often though, we do that in our training. We do the same thing week after week, season after season, and we wonder why we don’t get any better. Want to break out of that rut? Take a look at your training log and see what you’ve been doing and what you should change!

Oh… you haven’t been keeping a training log? Here’s 3 reasons to keep a training log, and 3 ways to do it!

Continue reading

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