Monday, November 29, 2010

Mean Max Curve Graphs & Fitness Comparisons

Here is another article I've written on WKO+ software and using it to better assess fitness and base training decisions upon.

Mean Max Curve Graphs and Fitness Comparisons

One of the great things about collecting data from training is that data always tells the same story, with the same details. Ask a friend about their best time, or a great season they had, and the chances of them remembering and telling the story as accurately as they used to, is highly unlikely. It’s natural for athletes to embellish a bit. So a ride where an athlete averaged 290 watts might actually become 300 a few seasons or months after it, if left to them telling the story. But if we refer back to past data, especially power and pace data, it will tell us the real story.

Athletes often get hung up in where their fitness is in a single moment. This is especially true after a few months of working back at training. Athletes can get impatient, wanting the fitness to get back to top form ASAP! They might even think the prior season they were much fitter than at the current moment in time, but is that really the case?

I hear many athletes ask questions like:

  • Where was I at in my training and fitness last year at this time?
  • How did my fitness look in the early months of that great season I had a few years ago?
  • How am I doing right now with my fitness, compared to earlier this season?

With WKO+ software, we can actually get a direct correlation and comparison of where fitness is right now, and compare it with where we were at any other point in time, such as the exact moment last season.

How can we do this? One of the easiest ways to do this is with the Mean Max Curve graphs, for power or pace.

Mean Max Pace Curve Pod


Coach Vance

Monday, November 22, 2010

You've got 23 other hours in the day

When I was a distance runner at the University of Nebraska, Coach Jay Dirksen used to tell us, "You've got 23 other hours in the day for your other commitments, so give me this hour." It was his way of saying, "no excuses for missing practice!"

Of course, Dirksen didn't acknowledge the fact that practice rarely was only 1 hour, but his point still resonates with me. Workouts and training are important, especially when you're wanting to excel. We did morning runs on our own, and Sunday long runs as well. If he had said 22 hours, he would have been more truthful, but again, the point still resonates. We had to do the work to reach our goals, no matter what our other commitments.

Joe Friel recently said in a tweet, "#6 mistake of self-coached athletes? Inconsistent training. High goals? Don’t miss workouts. Ever." There is no greater truth than this.

So if you've got high goals, don't give me excuses for missing workouts, especially when it comes to life and commitments. School is important, work is important, but so are your goals, right?

If you sleep for 8 hours, work for 8 hours, and fill 4 hours eating, commuting, studying, etc, then you still have 4 hours of time to get your workouts in. Don't tell us you can't do it, just be honest and tell us, "I chose not to do my workouts, and to not work hard toward my goals."

Dirksen's quote still rings true, and Friel's as well.

Coach Vance

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Don't Fear Failure - Just Don't Accept It

"Don't fear failure. Just don't accept it."

This is a quote from an email I wrote an athlete tonight. I wasn't quoting someone else, I just was trying to figure out how to tell this athlete to quit focusing on negative outcomes, and instead focus on controlling what happens in their race. He's a 17 year old cross country high school runner, who is about to qualify for the California State Cross Country Meet individually. He has control of the outcome, more than he realizes. He will do more than qualify if his attitude on the start-line is assertive, like I hope. This quote is assertive.

I felt it was a great quote to share.

Coach Vance

Costa Rica Triathlon Camp 2011

TrainingBible Coaching Costa Rica Triathlon Camp 2011
Guanacaste, Costa Rica
February 13-20, 2011

Prepare for the 2011 season in beautiful Costa Rica for a week-long triathlon training camp with TrainingBible coaches and athletes. The week-long camp will be 3 days of intense training followed by 2 skills and learning-focused days, and 2 races at the REV 3 Event (Olympic distance on Saturday, Half on Sunday).

The camp is Monday-Sunday, but the overnight stays are Sunday-Sunday. This camp is nearly ALL-INCLUSIVE, (transportation, resort stay, 2 meals per day, training and race entries). I promise you won't find a better camp or experience, much less for the price. You can even bring a non-participating spouse or significant other, at no charge! (See details below)

This camp already includes top Kona age-group finishers, pro-triathletes, and top TrainingBible coaches from around the world. (Discounts for TrainingBible athletes and camp alumni.)

Camp Features:

  • • 8-night stay at Coco Bay Estates (an $1800-$2400 value)
  • • Option for private room or shared room available
  • • 2 Meals provided per day, (catered breakfast and lunch buffet)
  • • All sessions coached and led by a TrainingBible Coach
  • • Entry into REV 3 Olympic and Half distance triathlons (a $450 value)
  • • Low traffic, paved roads for riding
  • • Coach on-deck for pool sessions
  • • Incredibly beautiful open-water swimming in Coco Bay
  • • Underwater swim video technique assessment for each athlete, ($115 value)
  • • Run technique video assessment for each athlete, ($100 value)
  • • Transition competition
  • • Classroom sessions for individual learning
  • • Complimentary airport shuttle to/from Coco Bay Estates from Liberia Airport only
  • View the Camp Itinerary

***If a spouse or significant other would like to attend, but not participate in the camp, they are welcome to stay free if the athlete purchases a private room. Food is included for spouses/significant others as well. (Limit one per private room camp entry).

***If friends, couples, etc, want to split a room, they are welcome to both purchase the shared room, and state their desired room share partner in registration.

Hope you can join us! Register soon!

Coach Vance

Friday, November 12, 2010

Growing the Sport - TriJuniors

Before I was a professional triathlete, I was a school teacher. I spent 6 years teaching, mostly elementary school, but one year of high school as well. After leaving racing, I came back full-circle to teaching again, starting the first junior triathlon team in San Diego.

I knew the sport didn't need another pro-triathlete, it needed leadership, and I felt the most qualified for the job. With Junior Nationals here in San Diego, in 2010 and 2011, it seemed the obvious timing to make it happen.

When I started the program, I faced many challenges, from competing with high school sports, to the costs involved in a sport like this. I've made the sport and our team a fun experience, so competing against other clubs and school sports hasn't been a problem, and I actually encourage our kids to do the single sports as well.

But costs, and helping families overcome the prohibitiveness of starting triathlon, considering buying a bike, wetsuit, helmet, goggles, clothes, etc, still continue to be a challenge. In general, no parent wants to drop $1000+ on a bike, just to see if their child will like the sport.

One of the main goals I've had since the start was to eliminate or greatly reduce these start-up costs, and I'm very proud to announce that in a partnership with Focus Bikes, I'm now able to offer any athlete who joins our program, a road bike for their use, FREE OF CHARGE!

If they are a member of our team, in good standing, the bike is their's to use. We are a team whose main race goals are centered around draft-legal triathlon, with road bikes, and the skills required to be successful require using a road bike, not triathlon bikes. Focus Bikes has made this possible with some incredible bikes and technology for the kids, which will perform at a high level in all races we do, from draft-legal to non-drafting.

This is an exciting time for the sport, for TriJuniors, and myself as a coach, trying to lead the way for youth and juniors.

If you know a teenager, (13-19), who might be interested in our TriJuniors program, have them visit our website,, and contact us there. If you love this sport as much as I do, then you understand what a great opportunity this is!

Coach Vance

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Twitter Answers #1

Each week I ask over Twitter if people have training topics they are interested in learning about. I get a number of responses and questions, and 140 characters doesn't provide good opportunity to answer them all. So I hope each week to post some of the questions and my responses here.

From: @nuuutymel
"maximising every session without overtraining?"

Mel, the answer is that every session should have a goal. That doesn't mean every session should be hard. Some sessions the goal is improved flexibility, general aerobic endurance, anaerobic endurance and capacity, neurological training, or simply creating blood flow and warming the muscles up for active recovery.

If every session has a goal, you will likely maximize the session by accomplishing the goal. If you train without goals then it's hard to maximize, since we don't know what we are trying to maximize.

From: @kstravelbug
"training topics: im very slow but can endure - never ever focused on speed. Where do I even start to focus on speed in 3 events? while weight training, doing yoga, working on core (and not losing endurance or getting injured!) where to start?? Thx! :)"

KS, thanks for the question. Don't fall into the trap that speed is only going hard. Speed is simply moving quickly. This can be for a few seconds, or longer. If you really want to improve your ability to fire muscles, and increase run cadence, bike cadence, etc, then you need to work on shorter intervals. Try surges in your run of 7 to 20 secs, at fast speed.

Remember that speed is simply the product of Force, (f) and Velocity, (v) in a movement. The only way to run faster is to apply more force(f) into the ground with each step, or take your steps faster(v), or both. In biking, we can apply more force to the pedal, or spin at a faster cadence, again f and v.

You've got the f down with the strength work, but work on the v! Work on keeping technique good when increasing the velocity of the movement.

Coach Vance

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Staying Cool - Mental Discipline

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I have a tendency to repeat myself. Here it is again. Racing is mental, especially when it comes to long course racing. It’s one of the biggest reasons I retired, mentally I didn’t have what it took anymore.

In long course racing, you have to keep your cool, mentally and emotionally, riding the highs and lows. You have to have mental discipline. You can’t get all excited in the highs and make stupid decisions, taking needless risks. You have to be very calculated in your maneuvers. When things aren’t looking good, you have to be clear headed, and get thru it, trusting your plan and preparation.

This past weekend I went to Ironman Florida and witnessed an athlete of mine have a performance which was the epitome of mental discipline. Scott Iott suffered a broken collar bone in May, and missed about 6 weeks of training. The challenge was not easy to prepare for Florida with that injury, early in the game. But he stuck to the training, stayed consistent, day in and day out.

On Saturday, Scott came out of the water with a 1:03 swim. Not great, but still right at his best ever, (we’ll continue working on this). He didn’t panic or get all excited, he just stuck with the plan. He went onto the bike and started rolling, checking his watts.

About 20-30 mins into the bike, his power meter began shutting off on its own. No guidance. He had to go by feel most of the time. Kept his cool, strolled in 6th off the bike in his age group, (Men 30-34), in 4:47:18, just as we had hoped. He was quick in T2, under 2 mins, and out on the run course.

He had no idea where he was at place-wise in the first mile, but he didn’t worry about it, he knew it was my job to tell him that. His job was to find his rhythm, and go with it. The goal was sub 3 hours, and that meant just running sub-7’s for each mile. First mile, 6:40. In fact, every mile in the first 10 miles of the marathon was between 6:40 and 6:45. Cool, calm and collected.

Add to this the fact he was passed in the first few miles and saw an athlete in his age-group begin to put a gap of nearly 2 minutes on him. Didn’t matter, 6:40’s and change. He brought him back in the second loop. At mile 14 and 15, the gap between 1st and 3rd place was only 20 seconds in his age-group! He and his competitors were well aware, because I was telling them all this. The leader was then a different athlete who had come from behind Scott and pulled away to nearly one minute. It didn’t phase him. He was steady at 7:00’s on the second lap, like a machine.

Scott would catch the leader at the far turnaround and lead the race into the final mile, where Sergio Dias’ was able to finally catch him, and take home the win with an excellent 2:54 run split. Scott’s marathon time, 3:02:02. 1:28, 1:34 for each half. Very solid. Total time, 8:59:48, 22nd overall, 2nd in AG, and 5th AGer overall. His best finish time and place yet. Congrats to Scott. A testament of what mental discipline is in a race.

Scott will return to the Big Island of Kona again next October, ready to improve on his 8th place in his AG at Kona last year, and I expect his venture into the 35-39 AG will be a fun challenge for us both.

He has the mental discipline required to perform well there. He continues to prove that.

Coach Vance

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

St. George Triathlon Camp 2011

TrainingBible Coaching St. George Triathlon Camp
March 9th-13th, 2011
St. George, UT

If you're preparing for the St. George race, or are considering doing it in the future, racing Oceanside half, or any other early season long course race, then this is the training camp for you!

Camp Features:
  • 4-nights hotel accommodations, private room, at Wingate by Windham Hotel ($475 value!)
  • 2 Meals per day, (breakfast and catered lunch)
  • All sessions coached and led by a TrainingBible Coach
  • Training on St. George triathlon course
  • Fully sagged rides
  • Coach on-deck for pool sessions
  • Open-water swim sets, (weather permitting)
  • Underwater swim video technique assessment for each athlete, ($115 value!)
  • Run technique video assessment for each athlete, ($100)
  • 3 classroom sessions for individual learning, discussion, Q&A, totaling 4 hours in length
  • Complimentary airport shuttle to/from Wingate by Windham Hotel and St. George airport
  • 16-25 hours of training in 4+ days!
  • Camp limited to 24 athletes
  • FREE Skinfit products! Base layer shirt, tech-tee and beanie! ($145 value!)
Camp Training Totals
Swim: 4.5 hours
Bike: 8-13 hours
Run: 4-6 hours
Classroom: 4 hours
16-25 hours of training, plus classroom sessions

With hotel and 2 meals/day:
  • $1199 if registered by December 31st
  • $1299 if registered between January 1st - 31st
  • $1449 if registered after January 31st

If hotel is not needed, (only one meal/day provided)
  • $849 if registered by December 31st
  • $949 if registered between January 1st - 31st
  • $1049 if registered after January 31st

  • $50 off for TrainingBible Athletes
  • $50 off for members of a triathlon club
  • $50 off for previous TrainingBible camp attendees
  • Discounts can be combined! (Up to $150 off for some!)

If you're looking at camps, compare our's with the competition, and you'll see we offer more days, at a comparable price, and no other camp offers hotel and meals. We know you'll enjoy this camp, training hard and learning a lot.

Hurry, this camp will sell-out!

Coach Vance

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cramping - I've said it before & I'll say it again...

A few emails came out over the USAT coaches email group, discussing how to reduce or eliminate cramping in an athlete who chronically cramped in their calf muscles in the latter 1/3 of a marathon.

The suggestions were the typical response you hear, more salt, more electrolytes, better hydration, and even compression socks. Here was my response...

Perhaps I'm in the minority, but I believe there are three things which need to be addressed in individuals who deal with cramping.

1. Better race-specific fitness.
If the athlete continues to cramp "when trying to hold a challenging pace", then the athlete has not trained enough at that pace, to perform it over the distance of the event.

2. Reduction of chronic tension in the muscles which are cramping.
I am willing to bet that the athlete has chronic tension in the calf muscles. Think about where you have cramped in the past, and chances are those muscles are tight on a regular basis for you. The athlete needs to address the tension in the muscles, via massage, ART, Rolfing, Trigger Point Therapy, Yoga, or any way they can. A looser, more pliable muscle I find, cramps less, or never.

3. Pacing.
This is related to number one, but I think needs to be pointed out specifically. The hotter the temperatures, the more fatigue they will face, and therefore lack the race-specific fitness needed to perform in the heat. If they pace themselves at a speed they have not trained for, or have not prepared for the heat they are racing in, then they lack the specific fitness to perform at that pace. Seems simple, but a basic flaw in many athletes' racing strategies and executions.

I also want to say, I believe hydration, salt and electrolyte intake in races are either overemphasized or a complete waste of time and actually hurt athletes, in longer races, such as the marathon and Ironman. I do not allow my athletes to take in salt tablets, and tell them to drink to thirst. Studies are showing the most dehydrated person in a race is the winner. If the athlete comes into the race adequately hydrated, these needs are small.

Stuffing your gut with salt and electrolytes is only going to interfere with the body's ability to process calories needed to complete the event. There is not a single study which has shown athletes taking salt tablets or electrolytes do better than those who don't. Better training for metabolic efficiency would do these athletes more good for longer distance events.

Coach Vance