Thursday, August 27, 2009

Half-Ironman Bike Workouts?

Just about everyday I receive an email from an athlete who is seeking advice or guidance in some facet, for some sport. Many times it is about training, but sometimes they are looking for a mental recharge and guidance on how to do find the inner desire, but normally the questions are general and they seek advice.

I got an email today from an athlete, and I thought this would be a great venue to share my thoughts on their question with everyone.

"I am training for a half ironman and i want to know what you think is the most beneficial cycling workout one could do. If its a long ride how hard should i go or tempo ride or intervals. What workouts have given you success at the half ironman distance? Thanks a lot

Thanks for the email, Kile. I'll do my best to give you the guidance you're looking for. I wish I could tell you exactly what workouts are perfect and will result in undeniable success, but that's just not the case with training or coaching. Each athlete is so different.

It's very tough to answer because I do not know anything about your athletic history to really know and understand your strengths and weaknesses. I'm also not aware of your goals, and the risk which must be taken in training to accomplish those. If you're trying to win your age-group and grab a rare Kona slot at a half, more risk is required, which could result in injury if not tailored more specifically to you.

Even if I gave you a list of key workouts for a half, you might not give yourself enough recovery between workouts to accomplish them with success, or may not have the fitness required to accomplish them, especially if your goal is just to finish or place modestly. This doesn't even take into account the demands of the race course, (elevation, wind, temperature, etc), and the strategies you might employ whether your strength is the swim, bike or run.

However, I can tell you that if you research the race and its demands on you, relative to the goals you have set for yourself at the event, then you will just need to structure your training to meet those demands. For example, we know you will probably be between 2.5 and 3 hours, if you're like most athletes, and therefore you need to be prepared to do a steady state effort of 2.5 to 3 hours in length.

If all you're doing are group rides of 2-3 hours in length where you sit in a pack and/or attack off the front, then you're probably not preparing for the specific demands of a half-ironman.

So what do I suggest? If you had the time, I would suggest preparing the early part of the season for technical improvements in your cycling, (pedal stroke, high cadence work, position, etc), basic aerobic endurance, and then begin to move more specifically to the demands of the half-ironman, assuming it is your A-priority race for the season. This would be done with probably shorter intervals at first, with modest rest periods, moving to longer interval sessions, with possibly less rest periods as well. Once in awhile, and if time permits, I would include some longer steady-state rides as well.

It definitely requires a lot of knowledge about the athlete for the coach to successfully do their job. This is why communication with your coach is important if you have one, and the reason why people hire coaches.

Best of luck Kile, and I hope the general strategy I've laid out helps you accomplish your goals!

Coach Vance

Monday, August 24, 2009

Article on Leaning Forward

I am now a contributing writer for, and here is the first article I wrote for them, on leaning forward while running.

Lean Forward for Faster Running

If you asked many triathletes how much technique matters to running, they'd probably tell you not much. I find this thinking very obvious when I look at the attendance differences between swim clinics and running clinics. People recognize clearly that swimming is technical-based, but very few seem to believe that running has technical demands as well.

There seems to be a prevalent line of thinking that you're either a runner or you're not, nothing in between. If athletes just took the time to understand the physics involved in running, perhaps they would see how much technical improvements can really matter to their run performances.

Read the rest at Finishline-Multisport.

Coach Vance

Monday, August 17, 2009

Renata Bucher 2009

It's a rare and great opportunity when you get to work with one of the world's best, and I have been given such with Renata Bucher. Renata is one of the most dominant females XTERRA has ever seen. This year, we have seen a lot of great results working together, and my hope is to continue it.

This past weekend she won XTERRA Germany, (pictured). It got me thinking about everything we've accomplished this year so far. Here are just the victories we've accomplished this year together:

Portobelo International Champion
SuperFrog Half-Ironman Champion
XTERRA Saipan Champion
Tagaman Triathlon Champion
XTERRA Italy Champion
XTERRA Vermont Champion
XTERRA Malaysia Champion
XTERRA Germany Champion

For her career, she now has 19 XTERRA Championship victories, in 11 different countries.

Congratulations Renata. You are tenaciously competitive, and a fighter. It's what your competition fears most about you. Hopefully we can add Maui to this list sometime soon.

Coach Vance

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tuesday Night Track Sessions in San Diego

If you're a good runner, looking to become a better runner, or know good runners looking for a good run workout on the track, check out my Tuesday night track workout for the Tri Club of San Diego. It's quickly becoming one of the best in the county.

Every Tuesday night, at University City High School, with the workout starting at 6:10. Warm-up is on your own before then. Workout will be anywhere from 4-5K mostly. Later in the season, we will build to 5x1 mile for the top group, 3x1 mile for the lower groups.

We have some really good runners in our front pack, including a number of collegiate runners. Always looking for more, and more are welcome. All that's asked is that you be a member of the Tri Club of San Diego, as I donate my time for their workout.

If you're intimated by fast runners, don't worry, we are divided among abilities, and volumes are adjusted as well. We have seen some great improvements across all groups, and I'm pretty excited about what we've got going on. If you're looking for a great group environment and quality work on the track, I think you should check us out.

Hope to see you out there!

Coach Vance

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Competitors Radio Interview with Matt Hoover

As many of you know, I am coaching Matt Hoover, who won Season 2 of The Biggest Loser, the NBC hit reality weight-loss show. Here is a great interview of him when he was here in San Diego, with the Competitors Radio Show...

It was Cam Brown, superstar of Ironman, and myself with Matt in studio. Bob Babbitt and Paul Huddle are the famous hosts of the show, and we had a great time with them. You can't hear me, because they only had 4 microphones, but you can hear me in the background say that Matt will finish a few minutes behind Cam! :-)

Matt is competing at his first half-ironman in a few weeks, at Lake Stevens 70.3, so we're looking forward to his first big "hit-out".

Kona is coming, and it's been great to see his progression so far. Looking forward to see him run down Alii Drive!

Coach Vance

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Active Article for Open Water Swim Drills

Wrote this article for, after seeing some questions on their forums about open water drills and skills.

3 Drills for Open Water Swimming

By Jim Vance

One of the most common group workouts involves gathering with friends and heading out into the open water for a swim. When the weather is warm, this can become a weekly ceremony where athletes just enjoy getting out in the open water.

Most athletes will perform these sessions unstructured, with the focus being simple aerobic development and socializing. What these athletes are missing out on is a great opportunity to gain sport-specific skills for open-water swimming. This can easily be accomplished by giving the workout some structure.

Read the rest at

Coach Vance