Friday, October 30, 2009

Debunking the High-Cost Myth of Power Meters

Here's my latest article for, which is one I've had on my mind for awhile!

Debunking the High-Cost Myth of Power Meters

One of the requirements I've started making with the athletes I coach, is that they invest in a power meter. I do this not just because it makes my job as a coach easier, but more importantly, the training decisions we make become based on objective data, rather than impulse and bias. This makes my work as a coach much more effective for the athlete.

Of course, one of the biggest obstacles I face in presenting this requirement is the perception that power meters cost a lot of money. "Wow, do you know how much those cost?" is usually the initial response. Yet, so many athletes come to me wanting to spend thousands of dollars on a new bike, wetsuit, swim skin suit, and/or race wheel set.

In all my days of coaching or racing professionally, I've never seen a bike or similar piece of equipment which has allowed me or my athletes to train dumb. If the athlete thinks the bike will actually be the difference to make up for a lack of focused and consistent training, then the marketing of bike companies has done an outstanding job. (To be fair, bike companies are not the only ones.)...

Read the rest of the article at

Coach Vance

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Training By Peer Pressure Article

I wrote this article for, on training according to your needs, rather than peer pressure. Check it out, and let me know what you think...

Training by Peer Pressure

I am approached quite often by athletes who are stumped as to why they can't seem to have the performances they know they're capable of. They see their training go so well, and yet when they come into a big race, they find many people they are near in training beating them handily.

One of the biggest causes I believe is that many athletes simple train according to peer pressure...

Read the rest at

Coach Vance

Monday, October 19, 2009

This Wednesday Night at Nytro - Taper & Peaking for Ironman

Are you doing Ironman Florida or Arizona? Are you looking for the perfect taper and peak for the race? Then come to my event on Wednesday night at NYTRO for my FREE talk on effective strategies for tapering for these and other races.

I will be discussing tapering strategies with actual training examples, to help you see how to effectively taper and maximize all the training you've been doing for months! Whether you think a taper works for you or not, I will discuss ways to effectively taper either way.

If you are self-coached, this talk will help you to maximize ALL the training you've been doing.

Please RSVP to tribobbie@yahoo. com

Wednesday, October 21st, 6:30 PM
Food and drinks will be served.

940 South Coast Highway 101
Encinitas, CA 92024
Phone: 760.632.0006

Hope to see you there!

Coach Vance

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Matt Hoover Speaks

Matt Hoover speaks on his critics, in response to someone sending him an email to let him know there were negative things being said on a forum. I thought it was quite the response.


Thanks for the heads up, but I will be honest with you. I actually don’t read any forums. If Jim hadn’t forwarded me the email he sent you guys, I would have never even known that anything negative had ever been said about me on your site. I felt like you were very respectful and professional toward me when we interviewed and if you feel like covering my next Ironman when there won’t be any cameras and hoopla, I’d be glad to talk with you.
I’ve been in the public eye for many years now and have learned that no matter the success or the failure, there will be people jumping on the opportunity to bash a perfect stranger. I did the best I could that day and that is all I can do. At the end of the day, the only people I am worried about impressing are God, my family, and my friends. When it’s all said and done, whether I crossed the line at 16:59:59 or at 17:03, they all still love me and that is what is truly important to me.
This year people will be negative toward me and next year those same ignorant people will do it to someone else and no one will be sitting around talking about my performance this year. The cool thing is that the people I met while I was here, amateurs and pros alike were all so nice to me and that is what I am going to take away from this experience. The people screaming for me when I crossed that line, the strangers that ran alongside me down Alii Dr. and the 2 little boys yelling that I could still do it even though time was way past the cut-off. Those are memories that will be with me the rest of my life and as I said to you during our interview, I will never feel bad or apologize for making the most of an opportunity.
I was inspired that day, by the athletes that passed by me, by a stranger that I will never see again with one leg and one arm who was still going at the energy lab even though neither of us were going to be “official” Ironmen, by the people at the aid stations who never let on that I may not even get the opportunity to cross the line, by thousands of strangers screaming as I made the turn toward the finish, and most of all by my coaches, friends, and family who let me beleive I could actually do this and were still proud when I didn’t.
I didn’t do this Ironman to prove to some stranger wrong or right, I did it to prove to myself and others that we can do anything we set our minds to. For all of the negative statements, there are positives. For all of those feeling uninspired by my performance, there are those who will be. I am proud to think that whether I am a real Ironman or not, (I will be when I cross the line under the cut-off at my next one) there may be at least one person who chooses to chase what may seem to be an impossible goal and not quit until they get to the finish line.
Thanks for letting me know, but I am not going to waste a moment of my time trying to change the opinions of others toward me. Triathlon has been a gift in my life as well as my family and we are going to do our best to promote it and all it has to offer in the best light we can for as long as we can. The athletes that are already involved in this sport should welcome all people into the tri-life whether they are fat, skinny, tall, short, fast or slow. You never know, this sport just may be a new lease on life for someone.
Not crossing the finish line under the cut-off in Kona would be far less embarrasing than knowing I turned even one person off to this amazing sport because of my attitude toward them or their appearance. As I said in one of my interviews last week. “You can only make a first impression of someone by their appearance. You can never judge their heart and mind until you give them a chance.”
I firmly beleive that all of us in this great sport should give everybody who wants to, the chance to experience their own victory in our sport.
Have a great day!

Matt Hoover (Almost an Ironman this time!)

Matt Hoover
Author: Matt Hoover’s Guide to Life, Love, and Losing Weight

Coach Vance

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Letter to

In my last post about Kona and Matt Hoover, I briefly referenced all the pressure which was on Matt. This pressure was some good, but mostly bad. It was amazing to me the negative response so many people had to him getting the spot in Kona. Some of the things which were said were not something I would ever want someone I care about to hear said to them. I honestly believe this is a small minority of individuals in the sport, but sometimes it's not the size the population that matters, it's the strength of their voice.

There is one particular website which has a strong voice in the sport, They expressed a negative opinion of Matt's presence at Kona. I don't mind that, as everyone has their opinion, but later I felt compelled to write this letter and I think you'll see why. I normally try to stay away from controversial topics, but as I get older I am realizing being PC 100% of the time is impossible. I also care about my athletes. Here is my letter...

"Dear Mr. Roman Mica,

I was the coach who worked with Matt Hoover, winner of The Biggest Loser, in his attempts to conquer Ironman Hawaii. I am writing this email to you to express my disappointment in the actions of your website, As the editor-in-chief of the website, I believe you hold the key position in deciding what stories are written, reported and which opinions are expressed.

I especially noted the following opinion piece from May 7th, (which has no name attached to it, and did not make any attempt to separate itself from the opinions of, where it stated:

"Wow Matt, you know what would really impress us and how you could really, 'show a lot of people who have the idea that an athlete is 5'10" and 160 pounds that a big guy can do this?' Put in the hard work and ACTUALLY QUALIFY FOR KONA, or at least enter the lottery like everyone else! All that you are showing us is that like the other Biggest Loser who ran a marathon in a van, your biggest accomplishments are all for the camera with a lot of help and special treatment that in our opinion don't add up to a hill of beans at the end of the day."


I did not confront your opinion, because you are entitled to it. However, it seemed very clear that your website has a serious problem with the human interest stories. It seemed clear you did not like to see Matt in the race. Never mind the fact these stories can help the sport grow, they also help Ironman grow as a business.

Ironically, last weekend in Kona, Hawaii, you had Mr. Ben Greenfield do not one, but TWO interviews with Matt. You used them as both article-based posts for your website, and audio podcasts of the interviews, unedited, pre- and post-race. See below:

I have no issues with Mr. Greenfield's portrayal or treatment of Matt during the interviews, but I do find it rather hypocritical of to criticize Matt for bettering himself and his life to be an inspiration to others, and for Ironman and NBC to help grow the sport with the exposure from his participation, all the while you are blatantly doing the same with both articles and audio of interviews, trying to attract viewers for your website and business.

I also found the piece you originally wrote added to an extremely pretentious attitude in our sport, and is not what will help it grow. Nor will it positively influence the millions of Americans battling weight issues to use the sport to enrich both their lives and health. I hope you will consider these further for your future editorial decisions.


Jim Vance"

Coach Vance

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kona Coach's Race Report Part 2

After watching my first two athletes have the best races of their careers, even thru the lava fields, I turned my attention back to Matt Hoover. Matt’s day started off about as bad as it could have. I was standing with him briefly to review the plan for the race around 6:15 AM, and he suddenly was complaining of getting stung by something. “I think something just stung me in my back, and on my thumb.” I turn him around, and there was a HUGE all-black bee-like insect. I had never seen anything like it. I flicked it off him and stepped on it.

Now my concern was for Matt, and if he would have a reaction to the sting, but he assured me he was not allergic to anything. I took a deep breath of relief.

I had told Matt if he was off the bike by 5 PM, we could get this done. Sure enough, a couple minutes after 5 PM he rounded the corner from the transition area and onto Kuikini Highway. I was jumping up and down, excited for him. He looked rather tired though, and he confirmed that when I asked how he was doing. I grabbed my bike and rolled behind him, encouraging him and reminding him about the pace he needed to hold to make it in enough time. He wore a Garmin to help him keep track of his current pace.

I told him I just wanted him to brisk walk for the first 10 miles, then we would try to run. Things were looking fine thru 5 miles, despite the fact he kept vomiting. All the liquids he would take down would just come back up. We tried simple water, but it just didn’t matter. The heat was really getting to him, as coming from Seattle it was very hard to prepare for the temperatures and time he would spend out on the Queen K.

He had followed the planned watts on the power meter for the ride, and said he only had a cramp once, so I felt he should come out of it just fine. Meanwhile, people are cheering for him, taking photos, telling him, “America’s cheering for you,” and tons of other positive support. I was thanking people for him, because he was in such bad shape he couldn’t really talk, and with so many cheers it was draining him out.

Just before mile 9, I began to become concerned. He was dropping from 16 min miles to 18, and the vomiting persisted. He was not walking a straight line, and he began to complain of poor vision. I went up ahead to the aid stations to ask for a race radio, but no one had it. I later found a race official on a scooter, who called the medical van. It took until the Palani climb about a mile later before they came, and by now Matt was dropping to 19 minute miles. It was not looking good.

Up Palani, Matt was in really bad shape. He was staggering up the hill, and I was worried he might fall over. The medical staff was walking with him and asking him questions, and also discussing the situation with myself. His continuous vomiting worried them, and they said if he fell down, or became delirious, his race would need to be over. Suzy, his wife from the show was crying as she watched him, clearly worried.

Matt was vocal in that he would not drop out. We got to the top of Palani, and I tried to convince Matt to just stop for few minutes and regain himself. He didn’t want to stop. On we continued. By now, two of his friends had joined me to cheer him on, (Joe and Colin), and it was clear Matt was one of the last people on the course.

The run sweep guy, whose job it is to follow behind the last athletes, and decide when to pull the plug on the aid stations, was checking Matt’s split from 13 to 14 miles. It was not good. He had now drifted so far off pace, and was looking terrible. The run sweeper told me, “His last mile was almost 20 minutes. No one gets to 14 miles and then picks up speed. It’s over for your guy shortly. He has 12 miles left and must run no slower than 15 minutes per mile, or he won’t make it. And as of right now, it’s looking like he will finish around 1 AM.” He made me aware that soon he would need to pull the plug on the aid stations and there would be no support out there for Matt.

Meanwhile, NBC cameras are all over and following us on the Queen K, with their lights being the only thing keeping us able to see in front of us at times. (The Queen K is a dark hell at night). When they were filming, it was bright and easy to see, but when they turned off the camera and lights, you couldn’t make out the road.

Rich Cruse, a great sports photographer had become good friends with Matt thru some photo shoots, and he had asked me to keep him posted on how Matt was doing. I went to my Blackberry to send him a message that it wasn’t going to happen. I was just so bummed, I hesitated to send the message. Then I recalled Rich’s famous picture of Paula Newby-Fraser sitting on the side of the road while aid station workers and race officials poored a cold bucket of water over her. Rich had described the scene to me, and how it was amazing how Paula suddenly came back to life, and went on to finish fourth.

I rode back up to Matt and asked him if he still felt really hot. He replied yes, and I suddenly knew what to do. Matt was still a big guy, around 250 lbs, and certainly working that hard for this long left his internal temperatures high, and with the insulation of his body weight, he was burning up.

I surged ahead to the aid station and got 2 volunteers to get a half trash can full of COLD water and ice, and that they would dump on him when he would arrive. True to form, it changed him almost immediately. His next mile was back under 16, and more importantly, HE STOPPED VOMITING! He entered the Energy Lab looking clearly rejuvenated and we did the same thing. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing, and neither could the run sweeper! Matt’s fastest mile splits of the day to that point were thru the Energy Lab! That was just astonishing, because no one EVER does that! They were all under 15 minutes per mile, despite the hills! He knew the reality of the situation, and he knew he had to dig deep.

The aid stations meanwhile were overly excited to see The Biggest Loser and help him with whatever he needed. They were so loud when he came thru, you would have thought it was a packed football stadium in an overtime game! As ironic or cliché as it sounds, he really fed off the energy he found from the people in the Energy Lab.

When we left the Energy Lab, the run sweeper was in disbelief. He said he’d been doing this for years and had never seen anything like it. He shouted to me with an incredulous smile, “If he keeps this up, he’ll make it!” It was getting very close though out on the Queen K, and Matt was reduced to intervals of jogging for 30 seconds, walk thirty seconds. There was no way we could walk anymore. He had to find a way to get it done for the last 10K.

NBC had a lot of his family meet him at the 23 mile marker, and running behind him cheering. Then vounteers from the aid stations were joining in. It was amazing how much people wanted to see him make it. When we hit mile 24, I did the math, and he was back over 15 minutes per mile. It was looking so close, that I knew our only hope would be the Palani downhill and hopefully the crowds could feed him their energy to get him there. We could hear Mike Reilly’s voice from way out on the Queen K, and Matt was reduced to a shuffle, but just focused on the voice getting louder. We started counting out-loud from 100 down to 1, over and over, all 20 of us now, just to help him take his mind away from the pain.

He hit Palani, and we had to let him go. I told him he had 9 mins to make it from the top of Palani, I had to go past and get to the finish. It would now be all on him.

At the finish, I witnessed the clock begin to expire, as I prayed for him to come around that final corner on Alii Drive, as though the miracle would continue. Mike Reilly counted down the final seconds, as I watched Richard Decker be the final official finisher. I had spent a good amount of time out on the course talking with Richard as well. He had no idea if he was going to make it, and I was constantly telling him he was fine, trying to keep him focused.

I had felt so bad for Richard. Here Matt was about 400-800 meters behind him, and all the attention of the world. Constantly given splits, crazy cheers, and NBC cameras and lights. Richard had none of that. He was alone. No one telling him if he was going to make it. I had to help him keep his sanity, and eyes on the prize. He thanked me out on the Queen K, telling me how kind of a person I was to consider him and help his mind thru those miles. But I could only imagine how hard it was for him. I felt an amazing joy for him in that moment of seeing him finish. His fists pumped in the air, and he reached out and gave me a high five before hitting the finish chute.

And the emotional roller coaster continued. Joy for Richard, and utter disappointment for Matt, as he came charging around the corner, and actually running. He had already missed it, but he didn’t know that. The crowd didn’t let on either. People were high-fiving him, the music was playing, and he was still so delirious, he stopped before the chute, not aware of where the finish line was. He just saw all the people. I yelled for him to keep going. He crossed the line with his arms raised. Turned back to the people who waited the extra 3 minutes and 35 seconds past midnight, to thank and acknowledge them for their support.

Months of hard work, and lots of suffering, to come so close. I wasn’t disappointed in Matt, but rather disappointed for him. He was definitely a guy who had a lot of pressure on him.

Many triathletes were upset that he got a free-ticket to the race. Others made horrible comments about his weight problems in online forums and lead-up to the race. One of the things we told him late on the Queen K was that many would like to see him fail.

Matt battled a need to change his mental approach from wrestling, where they try to cut calories and constantly feel weak and under-fueled, to that of an endurance athlete who must fuel constantly, and doesn’t deal with much body-image issues. It affected his ability to recover from workouts and his consistency. It was more than a physical battle for him, like most people who deal with weight issues.

Matt was one of the most unique individuals I have ever coached. He possessed a stubbornness, and competitiveness that I’ve rarely witnessed in sport. He was also very good with technique, almost improving his technique and skills overnight, as witnessed by his dramatic swim improvements. We battled a beast. We lost…just barely.

From crying in the morning pre-race, to just speechless at night after coming so close. I sat on the wall along Kailua Bay, and thought about it all. From Scott and Adam’s incredible performances, to when I first met Matt, and getting this opportunity. To his near medical discharge from the race just a few hours before. And now, his amazing comeback to miss it by 3:35.

My friend Ryan found me there, and handed me a beer. He didn’t say a word, just handed it to me. A much deserved Longboard Lager beer! I guess my facial expressions were enough to tell him.

As a coach, I will always wonder where I could have gotten those 3:35 back. What an experience…I can’t wait to go back next year.

Coach Vance

Monday, October 12, 2009

Kona Coach's Race Report Part 1

Wow, it's almost overwhelming to think of all the things that happened yesterday. It was one of the biggest emotional roller-coaster days of my life, but luckily, the highs were so incredible it is hard to sit and tell someone about them without becoming emotional.

Emotion was a huge part of the day. It was always a large part of my racing, and it continues to manifest itself on race day, even as a coach.

Got to the race-site with my athlete Scott, and helped all my athletes get everything set. After that, started walking to the start area and I called my wife around 5:30 AM. She asked me how it was going. Seemed like a typical enough question. I thought about it, and before I could say anything, I just started to cry. There I was walking thru a crowd of people, phone to my ear, and I’m starting to sob. I had to pull over to a corner and lean over to gather myself. It didn’t work. I cried harder, and all the while I couldn’t speak to Orlanda. She was still on the phone, hearing me breathe, and asking me, “What’s wrong?” I think she thought I was about to tell her some very bad news. But there was no bad news to tell her. In fact, everything was perfect. It was hard to imagine how long I had worked with my 3 athletes to get them there, healthy and prepared for the task of the day.

I also knew, rightly or wrongly, that I would be judged by what my athletes do that day. I think I also was dealing with a few of my own demons from leaving the sport, and here I was back on the island. I was prepared for a very long day, and it was a lot to handle and come to grips with at that moment. Orlanda understood. She has seen it all with me. Our conversation was brief, because I knew if I kept talking with her I would continue crying. Brian Long, longtime president of the Tri Club of San Diego, and good friend, saw me crying as well, and he helped me get my composure back.

Found the family and friends of my athlete Adam, and watched the start. It was quite a site to see. I never got to really see the pageantry of the event when I was racing. I was so focused on being race ready. It really has become a spectacle.

After the start we headed onto Palani, the big hill out of town, where all the athletes cross a few times early in the bike. I waited there with the family and friends of all my athletes, tracking and speaking with them as they came up the climb. First was Adam, with a great swim of 56 minutes, then Scott at 1:08, (not so great for him), and then Matt Hoover at 1:38, (FANTASTIC!)

The three athletes had astounding experiences. I knew Scott had a chance to go Top 10 in his age group, 30-34, and Adam I just wanted to have a solid race of all three. I had no idea where it would place him, but his confidence needed a boost from a solid race. Matt Hoover, The Biggest Loser winner, had a simple goal of “just finish.”

I had a plan to ride a bike during the run, checking on Scott and Adam at certain points in the race, riding up the road ahead. I couldn’t find a bike to rent or borrow, so I just went to Walmart and bought one. It was a good call, but a busted pedal late in the night made things interesting!

I had calculated that right about the time Adam and Scott would finish, Matt would probably just be starting the run. It’s amazing how it worked out almost exactly like that! I think it was 5 minutes from the time I saw Adam cross until Matt was walking on Kuikini.

Scott had an amazing day. 9:29 and 8th in 30-34 Men, amazing. He rebounded so well from his poor swim to ride strong all day and run well of the bike. He was one of the few athletes whose speeds got faster as the race went on. He followed the wattage plan, and ran according to the plan all the way. He struggled a bit on the Queen K for the run, coming back from the Energy Lab, but held on well enough to still pass a few more guys and finish with a smile on his face.

Adam had an incredible race, almost perfectly pacing his run. His best finish here ever, his fastest Ironman run ever, and nearly breaking 10 hours, with 10:04. I knew when he was so close to Scott in the Energy Lab, that he was going to hold on for a great race. He was so close with 2 miles to go, but he was just left to a shuffle and holding on. I was telling him all sorts of things, just to try and get him to go a little faster.

When he knew he wasn’t going to make it, he told me he was just going to enjoy Alii Drive. I followed him down and watched him cross the line on the big screen. I was really proud of him. 4 weeks after nutritional mistakes in Wisconsin lead to a meltdown on the run, he put it together and held on for the best Ironman performance of his career.

As if the day wasn’t long enough with their races, here came Matt Hoover off the bike. It was the start of something which I will never forget. It was truly one of the most inspirational and heart breaking things I have ever witnessed. I will share that in Part 2, tomorrow.

Coach Vance