Friday, December 16, 2011

Over-reaching in training?

From twitter the other day:

@behrenst asks:
"Would still love to hear your thoughts on intentionally overreaching and where in a training plan it might offer the most benefit"

Thanks for the question. The whole of point of training in general is over-reaching, just how much we should over-reach is the art of training/coaching. This is incredibly individual, even in the timing, given career and family responsibilities, as well as climate and race schedule.

One athlete I coach is a school teacher who has his summer off. We use this period to focus on either Ironman Wisconsin, or Kona, as he alternates years usually with these events, qualifying for Kona one year, racing it the next. The fact he has so much free time, allows this to be an excellent time to over-reach more than we would during the school year. It also coincides with the 12-week lead-up into Ironman Wisconsin for him, so this becomes a perfect time-window for specific preparation for the race.

So to answer your question, the specific preparation period is most important, and if you can over-reach there, you'll see a better transfer of that effort into actual performance. But I also want to caution you to be careful in your over-reaching, as this 12 week period is CRITICAL, so a mistake in over-reaching can lead to injury, burnout, over-training, and missed training during this time.

If you've given yourself plenty of time to build slowly into this specific preparation period, you won't require over-reaching beyond a normal amount. Remember, the more time you have, the less risk you need to take in training. The less time you have, the more risk you must take to be prepared.

Consistency of training over the long haul will trump a few big weeks of training, always.

Coach Vance

Monday, December 12, 2011

How much running is enough?

I was asked a question the other day about how many runs in a week is enough for a triathlete, given the need to swim and bike, especially when preparing for a half or full Ironman. It's an interesting question, and one which is entirely dependent on the athlete's strengths, weaknesses and goals.

However, most athletes are time crunched, and looking for the minimum needed to get by and compete sufficiently, and I do believe that number is 3. Here are a few key points to this:

- For most time-crunched Ironman athletes, the easiest training session to get completed is the run. Pool sessions require going to a pool and then returning, and a minimum of time in the pool needed to do well is about 45-60 minutes, but most likely 60 minutes will do better than 45. Biking for 60 mins doesn't give you much, unless on a trainer. So adding a run should be the easiest part of training.
- 3 is a good number, but 4 is better. 5 is better than 4, but this is not universal. The key is consistency, as missing just one run means reducing the training load by about 33%, or more. The less runs you do, the more important each run is. You can't afford to miss them.
- 3 is a good number if one of the runs is a long run. How long is a long run? That depends again on the athlete, but a minimum of 90 mins, and as much as 2-3 hours, if the athlete can handle it.
- 3 is a good number if another one of the runs is a medium distance run, perhaps with some tempo effort in it. This means about 80% of the long run.
- 3 is a good number if the third run is high intensity intervals! As an athlete gets closer to race day, these intervals should get longer and longer, generally speaking.
- If you can get a 4th run in, what should it be? I think it should be a zone 1 economy building run, or something which addresses the key weaknesses of the athlete.

Coach Vance

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Costa Rica Tri Camp & Rev3 Races, March 12-18, 2012

Brief Description


Join us in beautiful Costa Rica for a week-long 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 up to 2 races at the REV 3 Event (Olympic distance on Saturday, Half on Sunday). Fly into Liberia airport on Sunday, we will pick you up, take you to villa, camp starts on Monday. Athletes can leave either the following Sunday late evening or Monday morning, accommodations are included for this entire time-frame.

Additional Information

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
  • 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)
  • Discounted entry fees to REV3 Olympic and/or Half
  • Classroom sessions for individual learning
  • Complimentary airport shuttle to/from Coco Bay Estates from Liberia Airport only
  • Camp Head Coach is Jim Vance -
  • View the Camp Itinerary
For photos of last year's camp, see this post I wrote about the camp.

Coach Vance

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Old and Slow?

If you feel like you're getting old and slow, then consider your training. Running long and slow, as you get older, probably isn't going to help the problem.

Think INTENSITY!

Coach Vance

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Junior Tri Winter Camp & F1 Race - San Diego

EDIT: Due to permit issues with the city of San Diego, this race has been cancelled.

One of my passions is teaching and working with young people, exposing them to the world of endurance sports, and all the great rewards it offers to simply hard work and commitment, especially the sport of triathlon.

I started the TriJuniors program a few years ago, and in just 2 seasons, the team has finished top 5 in the National Team Championship standings, and has produced 1 US Worlds Team member, 2 Top 5 nationally ranked athletes, 7 total nationally ranked athletes, 2 PATCO North American Championship finishers, and as of today, 49 individual champions at major triathlon events throughout Southern California. There wasn't a program like this that even existed in this region when I started it, and now these accomplishments have happened in this short window. I now recognize the biggest challenge facing the sport at the junior level is not a commitment from the athletes, but rather opportunity for them to show their commitment.

The sport lacks an event to bridge the summer seasons together, and keep our young athletes sharp in their skills, and committed to a triathlon-focused training approach. I'm attempting to change this with 2 events this December, which I hope to become annual, a youth and junior triathlon winter camp, and a youth and junior major race event, (draft-legal F1, and a non-drafting fun event for those just learning the sport).

The camp will include training at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA, swim sessions in a long course, 50-meter pool, and more. The camp is open to athletes from 11-19 years of age. All the information on this incredible camp can be found here:
Youth and Junior Triathlon Winter Camp - San Diego, December 28th and 29th

The F1 race will take place at Fiesta Island, on Friday, December 30th. The distances will 600 meter swim, 16K bike, and 4K run. Youth, non-drafting athletes will do a 150m swim, 4K bike, 1K run. All the info for the race can be found here:
San Diego Youth and Junior F1 Triathlon - So Cal Winter Championship

Please help us grow the sport and share this with athletes who might be interested. Thank you!

Coach Vance

Friday, October 28, 2011

Kona Counts - "If they use it, it MUST work great!"

I recently received an email from a company which claimed their product was the most used, compared to all their competitors, in Kona. This type of marketing is deceptive, but unfortunately effective for getting many athletes to use their products, and believe in them.

This company in particular gave away their product for FREE at Kona, and the only stipulation for receiving it was that it be used in the race. 

Kona equipment counts have now become a measuring stick for success among the businesses in the industry, since it is a sampling of the best athletes in that aspect of the sport, just like when a team in the Tour de France uses a certain product. Different independent groups are assigned with counting everything athletes use for the race which can be measured, tallied, seen and distinguished. Common things include bike frames brands, wheel brands, shoe brands, race kits, helmets, components on a bike, and much more. These counts begin at bike check-in, and continue thru the entire race.

The belief is among the athletes who see these counts, that these are the best athletes in the sport, so they must be great products too, right? 

The problem with this thinking is flawed in many ways:

1. These athletes were great anyway. In the case of the company who gave their product away for FREE, if they are just getting the product in Kona, it had no affect whatsoever on their preparation, and so the result being from the product isn't just in question, it's wrong. Many just wanted a free piece of equipment, which could save them some dough. Heck, many might turn around and sell it, using the marketing of the company as it being the most used product at Kona, and say on their classified sales ad, "Only used once!"

2. Performance at Kona has more to do with talent, athlete background, effective preparation, heat tolerance, pacing, nutrition timing/execution, mental toughness, luck and conditions, than equipment. In fact, I would list equipment behind all those in terms of importance.

3. When a product is given away for free, then an athlete is probably more willing to accept the flaws, than if they had to pay for it. Think about this when it comes to elites, who rarely pay for items, just get what they need from the highest bidder. Sure, some might be in a position with multiple offers to say, "I like this company over that company," so they can be a bit more honest, but many just sell to the highest bidder, or in some cases, the only bidder.

4. Really what the Kona count shows us is not which products are best, but which companies are selling the most products among the faster population. This is more so a good measuring tool for their marketing, but at the same time adds to their marketing arsenal. 

5. Many products are very individual-based. What I mean by this is that there are some products I used in my racing as an elite which wouldn't be advisable for many/most/all athletes. Bike fit is very individual, and different bikes will fit different bodies and flexibilities. Top finishers will run with racing flats, while someone walking the whole marathon has no need or might get injured with them. The examples could be listed here at length.

Bottom line, use your judgement, thinking for yourself. Read, ask, listen, touch, test and learn. You will learn what works for you, but don't be preaching to everyone that X-company is the best for everyone, and the best overall, (especially because of Kona counts), because that is just not the case.

Coach Vance

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Goals for the off-season

The off-season is pretty much here for most triathletes, a few may have a late-season Ironman, but even the time until those is not long, and the off-season will begin.

Athletes tend to be pretty good at setting goals for the season, but few really set goals for the off-season. Off-season goals can really help to motivate and provide the big break-through the next season.

What types of goals should one set? This depends on the athlete, but usually, the off-season is the best time to work on weaknesses.

What weaknesses do you have as an athlete? Chances are you are fit, but lack the top end speed needed to race at a higher level. This should be your focus and where you set your goals. For some, this means training for a new 5K PR, while for others it might a new mile PR, in terms of setting goals.

It could also be a goal time in the pool, for the 400, 100 or 50, or perhaps even doing fly for a full 100 or 400.

On the bike, athletes can set a CP 1 or CP 6 wattage goal, or even a goal time for a shorter local climb in their area. Another opportunity is in cyclo-cross, racing a local series, with a placement goal for the series.

You'll notice these are sport specific goals, and not related directly to triathlon performance, but rather indirectly. The time frame of these is much shorter than what triathletes will do on race day, so it is general preparation, not specific. Periodization is basically the idea of going from general preparation to specific, in phases of time, changing the training stress to more closely resemble the demands of race day.

For most triathletes, race day is aerobic, so aerobic work is more specific, whereas super intensive, neurological training is more general, and what most triathletes need to train. But many get stuck on the same habits and workouts, performing a lot of race-specific work in the off-season. Then when the specific period of training comes, they are not introducing a new stress, so the body is not responding to it, instead plateauing and showing no improvement for the athlete.

Sit down and set some specific, measurable goals for the off-season, which address your weaknesses, and bring a new training stress to your body.

Coach Vance

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Continuous improvement?

Should you be seeing continuous improvement in your fitness and abilities throughout the year? Well, isn't that the point of training, to get better? If you're not getting better with your training, why train? Seems obvious, by how many times do athletes train and not see improvement?




The chart above is one I showed in a blog post a few months ago, where the athlete was progressing in the average pace off all runs in a week. (Click on images to enlarge). The challenge as a coach is to try and keep this upward trend going, for the entire season, and at as steep of a rate of incline as possible, without injuring the athlete. (Injuries will inevitably lead to a decline). So what has happened lately with this athlete? Well, see below. (Again, click on image to enlarge).


Now you can see we've been able to keep the athlete progressing well, on an upward trend, which is something he wasn't able to do at all in the first half of the year. In fact, not only is more of the first half of the year flat, there is a decline in performance come the months of May and June. 

When you use data and track how the athlete is progressing, you can continue to look for consistent improvement, and prevent performance plateaus, ahead of time. This is the key reason I have my athletes use technology in their training.

Coach Vance


Friday, October 21, 2011

Run PMC Chart for Ironman FL 2011


Thought I would share this Performance Management Chart for all run files and data, from a 60 year old I coach who is doing Ironman Florida in a few weeks. (Click on the image to enlarge).

This athlete has seen a huge jump in his run training and performances, as I record the top 10 performances for the season, for 6, 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes. Probably the most impressive aspect is the runs have been much more focused on becoming more economical over the longer durations, 90-120 minutes. And yet, even during these runs, his best 6 minute sample from those runs are some of his best of the year for 6 minutes! His confidence is very high seeing this, and he knows he will likely have the best run he's ever had off the bike at Florida, as long as he executes his plan effectively for the swim, bike and nutrition.

Coach Vance




Monday, October 17, 2011

Special Needs Bag?

One of the tools I believe is often misused at an Ironman event, is the Special Needs Bag, or sometimes called the "half-way bag". Problem with the name half-way bag, is that many times this bag doesn't come at half-way.

Why I believe it is misused is because when an athlete puts an important, and valuable piece of their race success in this bag, they put their race into the hands and responsibility of other people, likely which they do not even know.

We hear horror stories of lost special needs bags, but also sometimes given the wrong special needs bag. Though this is unlikely, as probably better than 90 % of special needs bag are delivered without issue, I had one athlete at Kona who was in the top 10 overall age-groupers when arriving at special needs. The volunteers could not find his bag, and as he stood on the side of the road, he watched many athletes he had worked so hard to be in front of, pass him. He estimates it was about 1 minute of time, which isn't much in the big picture, but this was a blow mentally.

This can be avoided with a different approach to special needs, and that is treating it as insurance only. What do I mean by insurance? Put a bottle in the bag in case you drop or lose one. Put a spare tube and CO2 cartridge, in case you flat and need another. Put some lubricant in a small baggie, or a sample size, in case you have some chaffing from your saddle, the salt water, etc, that you need to address or it will become quite painful.

If you can carry all your calories, or better utilize the aid stations, you'll be able to fly by special needs and pass a number of athletes who need to stop and gather their items. Mentally, you'll feel better, you'll be more in control of your race, and should something go wrong, you know you've got items waiting for you, and you can cash in that insurance policy.

Coach Vance

Friday, October 14, 2011

Analyzing the Ironman Run for Kona - Pro Women

In my last post, we analyzed the pro men's run off the bike, to determine what affect pacing might have on the race, and the dynamics of the first mile among the field.

It was clear that those with the least amount of fade/differential between their first mile time as a projected pace, and their actual pace, did better on the whole. It goes to show the value of the run in Ironman, especially the strength to hold a hot pace, if you're coming out of T2 hot. Or one could assume when a smart runner paces himself better out of T2, but within range of the leaders, we could see a surprise winner.


Truth be told, I never believed it was truly possibly to be that pace consistent among the pro's, like Ogden was. I honestly believed you would be too tired from the efforts of the bike in that heat, and you just fall to a sort of default pace. The athletes with the fastest default pace, who are best positioned when the heat really turns up toward the end, would find themselves in contention. Almost like a peloton and positioning for a field sprint. You have to be on the right wheels within the final K of a sprint finish, and in Ironman, that point is around the half-way point of the marathon.

Now Ogden has me rethinking that theory. However, Ogden did not win. He was not even in the top 10. But perhaps if Andi Raelert or Pete Jacobs don't run so fast for the first mile, they give themselves a better chance? We'll never know.


But what about the women? Do we see the same thing? I was able to record the 10 of the top 11 overall females, plus Julie Dibens, (leader off the bike, DNF due to injury).

Obviously, the women run the same course as the men, so no need to review the first mile profile again. Here's how the first mile panned out, according to overall place: (click on image to enlarge)


Here we see a MUCH different result and dynamic than we saw in the men's race. In this race, the lower differentials were found higher up in the top 10, as a general placing, whereas in the men's race, the better differentials were found closer to the podium, as a whole. 4 women actually would have been considered as pacing themselves better than Chrissie, but the only one who was in the top 5 was Mirinda.

So what does this mean? Well, I think there are a few things we can infer from this:

1. The bike plays a very large role, even more so in the women's race than the men's. The top girls are able to go out so fast, suffer some of the highest fall-offs of pace, and still hold/finish in the top 5 positions.
2. There is a big gap between the run ability of the top runners in the women's race, and the rest of the field. They can tolerate such a large differential, that even their slowing/default pace is much better than most of the other girls.

A few questions jump out at me when I see this...
1. Would Mirinda have won if she was smarter at pacing in the early miles? Can she go 2:45 with better pacing? Realize, compared to Chrissie, she did pace better, just not better enough.
2. Leanda Cave the same? Remember, she lead Chrissie and Mirinda by about 5:30 and 9 mins out of T2. Cut her 18 min differential in half, and she's right there with Mirinda trying to chase her down at the end, and making Chrissie sweat it out for awhile. Maybe even running well enough that Chrissie begins to worry, makes an error?

If these girls really want to beat Chrissie in the future, they need to recognize her weaknesses, and this is one that is now exposed. According to the data I collected, (and I missed a few), only 4 men ran the first mile faster than Chrissie.

Exciting information! What are you thoughts?

Coach Vance

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Analyzing the Ironman Run for Kona - Pro Men

One of the things I am always intrigued about is what separates the top elite athletes from the rest, and there is no doubt that the ability to run off the bike is a key determinant of success in triathlon. It was usually very clear to me in my days of racing, that how the first mile went on the run during an Ironman was a likely determinant of my how my run split would  be. Was this a mental thing, which gave me the confidence and desire to push myself? Perhaps.

In professional Ironman racing, you don't see perfect pacing. Instead, we see a strategy more like, "go until you fall apart, just don't fall apart as badly as everyone else!" The run is raced very similar to the bike, almost as a belief of a "peloton affect", where if the pack is let go, they never come back. On the bike, even if the athletes are riding "legally", there is still some draft benefit from the group as a whole, plus motorcycles of draft marshals possibly shielding the crosswinds at times, and possibly media, photographers, etc. And obviously there is the mental help of having others around to keep the pace and intensity high and consistent.

But is this the best strategy for the run? Would someone being smart in their pacing for the run coming off the bike with the leaders or main pack of contenders, possibly be able to take the victory, simply by pacing better? Or would they at least maximize the potential for highest placing, should they not be an outright contender for the victory.

I tried to gather evidence of this last year, but only with a Garmin 310XT, riding behind the athletes on a bicycle for a brief time, but this data was such a small sample it was not accurate, nor did it take into account the gradient at the different points I measured each of the athletes at.

This year, I set out to stand at the mile marker, and with the help of some viewers at home, and a couple of spotters/recorders at the mile mark, we were able to determine the first mile split for the top men and women, in almost real time during the event. I was actually able to tweet these paces live, (@jimvance).

As a preface, here is the profile of the first mile, from MapMyRun.com: (click on image to enlarge)


The 1st mile has a climb based upon this source, but overall has a net gain/loss of close to zero. This was relatively confirmed by some of the files my athletes had from 4 different run files from the race, via Garmins. (There was some variance, but so small, this doesn't really affect the data, as in a gigantic uphill or downhill mile).

The men's data according to place of finish, from those I was able to get splits for: (click on image to enlarge)



There seems to be a general trend of lower differential of first mile time to actual pace performed equating to higher placings, with some exceptions. Meaning that perhaps the better pacers do better in overall placings. Or is it simply the athletes who can best tolerate the fast pace at the beginning, with the least consequences? Perhaps those who train for the initial acceleration?

Courtney Ogden had a differential of only 2:07 from his projected pace at mile 1, relative to his actual performance. It appears he came off the bike in 31st place, meaning he moved up nearly 50% of the pro men's field. This was an impressive performance, as the next best of those I recorded was Bockel, who was the only other under 10 minutes differential. Bockel's pacing helped secure a 4th place finish.

I recognize I did not get each and every elite who came by, so there is some missing data, but I did get many of the leaders and those who I felt there would be interest in, as well as those likely to finish in the top 10, including 8 of the final top 10.

So here are the questions I pose to you, would these elites be better off pacing themselves better in the first mile, or is being a part of the race and getting into the lead group the most important thing? Or is it best to train for this surge, and be able to keep the differential in the 9-16 minute range? Is the mental reward of being in the race for the podium from the start better for the athlete's performance?

Coach Vance

Friday, October 7, 2011

Racing Beyond Your Means

I am writing this from Kona, and tomorrow morning will be the Ironman World Championships here. I'll be watching the race, following my athletes, etc. I know my athletes will follow their plans, as we've rehearsed it well, they are confident.

But there will be many athletes, even at this event where the quality of the athletes is high, who will race beyond their means. Their training has been preparing for a certain output, and they will attempt to race well beyond that output. This will come from a lack of confidence in the plan and preparation, as well as peer pressure in the race to go as hard as possible for as long as possible.

Most athletes, even the competitive age-groupers that are fighting for a podium spot, would benefit from a strategy where they let the competition make the mistakes and take advantage of that. You don't have to be super aggressive to be successful here.

Pro's on the other hand, (at least on the men's side), have to take an opposite approach. They must take risks if they want to win. They must race beyond their training, because the difference in winning and getting 10th is very small. Different race, different strategies, different demands. It's hard to represent a certain race output, when such an effort is so taxing, they wouldn't be recovered and ready to race. They are going on faith that they are prepared for that huge, single-day stress.

It will be fun to watch, as that's what makes it so exciting, seeing who blows up and when. And my picks....Rasmus Henning and Chrissie.

Coach Vance

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Transitions Lose Races

We say you can't win a race in the swim, but you can lose it. Swimming is a very technical sport that takes years of dedication to master and perform at a high level. Trust me, I know from experience. But what about transitions?

It's amazing how many athletes lose races with their slow and poor transitions. All that time, money and effort spent training on swimming, biking and running, and it comes down to the thing most easy to control. This is not a very technical skill, it's just ignored and neglected! Quit sabotaging your races with poor transitions, and practice them! Get your flying mounts and dismounts down pat. Quit trying to do a million things in transition, including a bathroom stop. It's a race!

As the sport gets more and more popular, and the competition gets deeper and stiffer, the little things matter more and more. In literally one week's time, you can make transitions a strength in your racing, all that's missing is your commitment.

Coach Vance

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What if there's a better way?

Sure, you can do the regular routine of Saturday long ride, Sunday long run, but what if there's a better way? Most athletes follow this schedule, but does that mean it is the most effective? Plenty of people do things which aren't necessarily the most effective, but is popular enough to bring comfort to the decision.

What if a 10 day cycle worked better? Or 14 days? Or what if you simply did 2 days in a row of biking, and moved your long run to the middle of the week?

Think about your training and performance. If you've hit a plateau, and aren't seeing the steady gains, maybe it's time to try a new routine. Change it up! Plenty of options, as your mind and creativeness, (or your coach's), are the only things holding you back.

If everyone else is doing the same thing, how do you expect to get ahead?

Coach Vance


Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Competition

Sorry about lag in posts, but with so much travel lately, it's been hard to keep up. Working on getting back on track. So, I'll start with something that happened at Duathlon Worlds, where I was working as the US National Team Coach for the Elites.

Some of the women on the elite team told me, "Jim, some of these girls will run 32-33 mins for the first 10K!" 

My response? I said, "So what? We can't do anything about them. We can't guard them, trip them up, slow them down. All we can do is focus on us. Bring the focus back to us, and what we can control. Let's strategize based on what we can do, and what we know about us."

So many athletes worry about the competition. You can't control them. Any energy and effort you put forth on worrying about the competition is a waste. Quit worrying about them, and put the focus back on yourself. That will mean more to your performance than anything else.

Coach Vance

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Power of data when coaching new athletes

This athlete came to me after struggling with another coach. He is 50, looking to do well at Ironman FL. He had all the run data from before, which helped me determine what the real course of action for improvement should be. Another reason data is key for successful training and racing. Check it out:


Coach Vance

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Basic Training Philosophy

I spoke with an athlete yesterday who asked me what my basic training philosophy was. At first, I began to think, "there's no such thing as basic with me," as I constantly monitor and change what I do with athletes based on what I see. And then it hit me, that is the basic training philosophy.

I believe in collecting data, reviewing it regularly, along with feedback from the athlete, and determine how to manipulate the training stress, relative to their goal events and time to the event. There is structure, and a plan, but the plan allows flexibility based on how the athlete is progressing.

How do we know how an athlete is going to be feeling in 2 weeks time? How do we know in 1 month time? Sure, we can write plans according to a "perfect build-up" or timeline, but that's not realistic with most athletes.

Funny how it's very complex, and yet very basic at the same time.

Coach Vance

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Twitter Answers #5

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 every few weeks to post some of the questions and my responses here.


From: @tamcknight
"@jimvance living in chicago i am looking for some indoor cycling advise for the offseason.Ways to mix it up on trainer or trainer alternative"

and...
From: @skottmckenna
"@jimvance some great indoor trainer workouts."

I actually coach 2 athletes in the Chicago area, (2 very successful Ironman/70.3 athletes, Scott Iott and Adam Zucco), and the trainer is a key item to our success in the cold winter, but also during the year. One of the best things you can do to help with your trainer sets is to use a power meter, as now the sessions are objective and you can track improvement, set goals, etc. Power meters make trainer sets much more rewarding and fun, I tend to find.

Another great tool is a book by Dirk Friel, son of Joe Friel, called Trainer Workouts in a Binder. This really helps to give some fun and different workouts, based on your needs. I use a number of them, and even my wife uses the book. I'm looking forward to a 2nd edition!


From: @fedrozo
"@jimvance How about recovery benefits of yoga on endurance athletes?"

This is an interesting topic. People often say, "Yoga is great for cross-training" and also say, "Yoga is great for recovery". I'm often puzzled how something can have a great cross-training effect and be great for recovery at the same time.

I have done yoga/pilates combined classes, and have found them to be challenging, and helpful at increasing my range of motion. I was doing this at the end of long training days, twice a week. I think a lot of it depends on the type of yoga an athlete is doing, and how much of it is stretching based, how much of it is "hot yoga", and how much of it includes strengthening movements. If done on a recovery day, and done lightly, with a range of motion centralized focus, then it could be beneficial for recovery. BUT, there is still the question of whether or not it is better than passive recovery. In a time when active recovery is so popular, sometimes good old passive recovery is better.


From: @DanDan1982
"@jimvance how to taper for half ironman?? No idea what I'm doing!"

I understand the feeling, as there is so much information out there, and even then tapering can be very individual. Some athletes hardly ever taper, or barely do, others seem to live in a state of taper! There are considerations such as how long you've been training coming into the race, how important the race is, and what you have after it.

You can see and follow some of the writings I've done on the subject here. I also have done a webinar on how to use WKO+ software to help with tapering. My best advice beyond that is to keep a record of what you do during the taper, so you can tweak it if you need to for the future, or replicate it perfectly if it works very well for you. Also, during race week, keep the workouts short and to the point, replicating race intensity, a little bit about every day or every other day.


From:@Ironmom10
"@jimvance How to tell when u should train through fatigue vs. take a day off. Specifically interested re: Ironman training."

and...
From:@seeksboston26mi
"@jimvance How to overcome overtraining!"

This is a tough one, as the line between training and overtraining is not clear cut, and varies greatly with each person. I have 3 athletes training in a group together right now in Chicago, and they have 3 different recovery styles/timings/abilities, which I have to consider with each.

Some tips I can tell you...
- As you get fitter, you ability to recover increases. You will bounce back faster, so recovery is not a standard number of hours or days.
- Keep a log, so you can get a better idea of how you're doing with interpreting what your body can take and how much is enough/too-much.
- If you pack 3 days together of good quality work, (and you work full-time), chances are you need one very light day after that. If you do 4-5, you need 2-3.
- If you can't get back to normal after 2-3 days off or extremely light, you've dug way too deep.
- Sleep is your best recovery tool/method. Nothing beats it.
- If you use a power meter, you can tell when you need a day off, as the data is objective. Same with a Garmin or speed-distance device for running.
- If your attitude is poor, motivation is low, you need more recovery.


From:@ClydeWatts
"@jimvance I want a more thorough handling of long course training/racing via Performance management chart on @TrainingPeaks"

I have written a number of blog posts on WKO+, and how to use the PMC to effectively monitor and guide training decisions. You can also find a number of webinars I've done on using WKO+, from the PMC to other charts I use. Don't fall into the trap of looking at only one chart, as there's always many variables to consider. I think you'll find the webinars especially helpful.


From:@JusticeJill
"@jimvance What are ur takes on coconut water?"

I think if you like it, drink it. Is it magical? No. Is better than soda, or sugary drinks? Depends on the timing of when you're planning to drink it. Drink according to your needs, and drink what tastes good to you. Do I drink it personally? No, but I retired from being a pro athlete a few years ago, so what I drink now is not what I used to drink.



From:@run_on_texas
"@jimvance Humidity training advantages/ conversion rates to normal temps"

Hate to be the barer of bad news, but there is no conversion you can do. The variables are just too great, including:
- Pre-event/session hydration levels
- Fitness level
- Distance/length of session/race to be completed
- Course differences
- Intensities and paces
- Prior heat adaptation training
This is all art and takes getting to know your own body and its needs. This is part of the art of racing and training.

Thanks for the great questions!

Coach Vance

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

CrossFit Endurance & Ironman

Sorry for the lag time in posts, but it's been hectic since getting back from Switzerland. Will post photos from the camp here soon. Anyway, will try to get back to regular postings, at least 2 times per week.

In the meantime, here's an email I received, partly because I do CrossFit as a means of exercise and training, asking me my thoughts on using CrossFit Endurance as a means of preparing for Ironman:

"Saw a video article about 10 Crossfit Endurance (CFE) trained athletes who completed Lake Placid 2010 using nothing but the CFE program. The first timers included a 13hr 20 min athlete who did Lake Placid as his second ever triathlon. He had lost 85 lbs during the previous year, again using CFE as his plan. Most of the vets experienced PR’s, one guy shaving 25 minutes to come in @ 10 something hrs. The other link is the CFE website which shows the daily training plan.


I have my crossfit coach working with me to understand it, but here is the basic breakdown.

3-4 days a week of strength workouts (15min or so) combined with a typical Crossfit workout of the day (20 min or so). Then 6 workouts over the week of mainly intervals, 2 days for each sport. It works out to around 8-10 hours a week of very high intensity, mostly anerobic work.

For example, a typical day would be what I did yesterday… First thing in the morning… Front Squats, work up to 1 rep max. Rest 10 minutes. Workout for time, 25 155lb deadlifts, 50 pullups, 100 kettlebell swings @ 53lbs. Including warm-ups and stretching, about 1:15 of work. Then later in the evening (at least 3 hrs after your first workout) do long bike interval training. Ride a half mile, rest for the time it took you to do it, then ride 1 mile, rest for time it took, then do 2 miles, rest for time it took. Repeat this 3-5 times. Should be close to a max effort for each interval.

Eventually you’d work up to a 3 days on 1 day off approach with each sport getting 2 days of work. Their whole concept is to almost entirely eliminate the ‘long, slow’ distance training that sucks up so many hours during a season and can really start to beat up your body. If I do end up using this approach, I’m absolutely going to include one long workout each week, just for the sake of the mental training and nutrition, not to mention the fun of training with the rest of our team. I’ll be interested to hear what you think. Also, if you wouldn’t mind, what does your typical training routine entail? Thanks for the help!"


These are great questions, and here was my response...

I'm a crossfit guy as well, really enjoy it. I think crossfit endurance is a good tool, but mainly best for the off-season months, or base periods, not in the build period, or 12 weeks prior to an Ironman. There's no doubt that doing any exercise regularly, including/especially high intensity training, can get you to the finish line of an Ironman, but to really do well requires more specific training than a single long ride per week.

I think CFE is also a great tool for those who seemed to have plateaued from longer training. Part of the problem is, many athletes go out on long rides and run and simply do the same pace all the time, never changing the intensity or challenging themselves. This would be like going to the weight room and doing 100 squats, 100 pull-ups and 100 push-ups every day. Of course this would plateau, and not give much benefit to a crossfit athlete after awhile.

So use this in the general preparation periods, but turn your focus to more specific prep when the race nears, and I think you'll do a lot better than you would have if you simply did CFE.

Hope this helps!

Coach Vance

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Darren Smith - "Recovery on Demand"

I had the great pleasure this weekend of meeting Darren Smith, one of the best triathlon coaches in the world. You may not have heard much about him, because he maintains a low profile, but you have certainly seen/heard of his athletes and their performances, including Lisa Norden, 2010 ITU Sprint World Champion, who accompanied him here to our camp in Switzerland.

Darren and I spoke a bit about junior development, as he has extensive experience in both elite and junior development, and I was happy to hear him reinforce a lot of what I'm thinking currently. He also gave me some fresh ideas and even helped clarify a missing piece of a tapering strategy and philosophy I've been working on with a number of my athletes for a few seasons. I'm excited to try it out!

I also heard him talk about a popular new concept of "Rest on Demand," which is also something I've been working with my athletes on, especially my juniors, over the past few seasons.

Here's a great post by Joe Friel, on Darren and the topic of Rest on Demand:

For an interview on Darren:

Coach Vance

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sub 2 hour marathon? That's just the beginning!

This is an article I recently wrote for Finishline-Multisport.com, which I thought I would share here. You can also read it in their new 3rd Transition Magazine. I plan to follow-up with more on this topic of the future of training and technology.


The Sub 2-Hour Marathon is just the Beginning

With an onslaught of fast marathon performances over the past few weeks, (Paris, London, Boston and Rotterdam all in 2011), there is a lot of talk and debate about what is possible for performance at the mythical distance.

The sub 2 hour marathon is the modern day 4-minute mile barrier, where we see much of the same doubt that humans aren’t capable of running that fast, (drugs not-withstanding). Recent articles in the New York Times, the Independent, and a host of other publications and forums all discuss the debate.

Haile Gebresalassie, Paula Radcliffe, Emmanuel Mutai, and many other top runners and experts vary in their belief if it’s possible, the possible timing of it happening, what it would take from an athlete, and the course requirements for such a mythical performance.

We’ve already seen the 1 hour half-marathon broken over 150 times. Call me overly optimistic, but the sub 2-hour marathon is coming very soon, by the Olympic year 2024 at the latest, and that’s just the beginning.

The real problem with all this belief that it’s impossible, or the timing is too far away for any of us to see in our lifetime, is that these people look at the result, not at the process. If you know much about me as a coach, you know I’m big on data and training tools. In cycling, we have power meters which have done wonders for training and performance. In swimming, we’ve had incredible leaps in suit technology, but we’ve also had important studies with force plates, swim flumes and video technology for stroke analysis, as well as incredibly bold and knowledgeable coaches creating new periodization models and approaches, across all sports.

Look back to the 1990’s, when a group of young east African men came onto the distance running scene, and re-wrote the record books for 5000 and 10,000 meters, month after month, year after year. We went from wondering if anyone other than Said Aouita could run sub 13 minutes, to today having seen it done over 250 times, and the record standing at nearly 4 minute mile pace, 12:37! Hell, the mile is now down to 3:43! That’s over 4 seconds faster per lap than Roger Bannister was trying to run!

Or we wondered if sub 27 minutes was possible in the 10K, and today the record stands at 26:17! We are now wondering if sub 26 minutes is possible. And believe me, it is. Yes, 2024 sounds a long ways away, but many of use remember the 1990’s performances like they were yesterday. 13 years is not much time at all.

One thing we’ve been missing with running is a way to measure output consistently, throughout an entire race, across different terrains, weather conditions and more. This tool is coming soon, and it’s so simple, it’s hard to believe it hasn’t arrived already, (a few companies are working on it), but when it does, the sub 2-hour marathon mark will be just the beginning. Every world record will fall once again, from the marathon, down to the 100 meters. Every field event, from the horizontal jumps to the high jump and pole vault, and all the throw world records, will all fall.

We are on the cusp of a performance revolution. The blend of the science of training and the art of coaching are entering into a stronger relationship than we’ve ever seen. What we have lacked is the right tool to help measure performance and output directly from the athlete, during the entire performance duration, in order to better understand the events’ specific demands, and the athlete’s strengths and weaknesses.

This tool is the power meter in a shoe. Much like we have power meters on bikes, when we can measure force production, and speed of the force from the foot coming into contact with the ground, we begin to measure output directly, not just in times or marks. Suddenly we will know much more than we have ever known, and this information will open the floodgates of a new level of high performance.

Here are just some of the ways a power meter in a shoe will affect training and performance:

  • Better understanding of technique and the value of technique, as well as how to effectively tweak it
  • Better assessment of fitness, objectively
  • Better tracking of fitness, so performance plateaus can be avoided
  • Better planning of tapers and perfecting tapering strategies
  • Better understanding of recovery techniques and periods required, specific to each athlete
  • Power to weight ratios and the affect of it on performance, proper ratios
  • Better and more effective warm-up routines
  • Better quantification of training stress, fatigue and fitness
  • Better understanding of strengths and weaknesses, and effectiveness of training strategies to address them
  • Objective feedback on periodization models, for improvement and tweaking

Those are just some of the ways we will see a new world of performances we can’t yet imagine. This is just in track and field, but it is safe to say these benefits will transfer to triathlon and other endurance sports, or any which involve running in some capacity, (soccer, basketball, and more).

They said 7 Tour de France victories in a row would never happen, but Lance was one of the few who adopted technology like power meters, early on in his career. Expect something similar with power meters for the athlete on foot.

The initial onslaught of data and feedback for coaches and athletes will be overwhelming at first, but those who study it and try to use the data to their competitive advantage, will be the ones who set themselves apart initially. Once the best athletes come into contact with the best coaches, who know and understand how to use this technology and data to design training programs and improve athlete weaknesses, the next revolution will begin, and the sub 2-hour marathon will be just one of many performances which will leave us dropping our jaws. Trust me, or just look at past history, and you can see the writing is on the wall.

Coach Vance

Friday, May 27, 2011

T1 Nonsense

If you're interested in getting faster, (who isn't?), then take a look at the things you might do that if you eliminated, (or at least practiced for), in T1, would automatically make you faster.

Here's some examples...

- Washing your feet in T1
This is probably one of my biggest pet peeves, both as a coach and athlete. As an athlete, these water bins and bottles just take up space, get kicked around, and make mess. As a coach, I grit my teeth seeing an athlete washing their feet on the off-chance they MIGHT get a blister. I was at an aquathlon last night, and many athletes ask me if they run should run barefoot on the sand for the run. Some of these same athletes are the ones who choose to run in shoes, and wash their feet. What would they do if they did run barefoot? Sand and debris will rarely give you blisters, especially in a short race.

If you still think this is hogwash, try it and it see. Most athletes have already made up their mind, rather than seeing if an actual blister will happen. If you need a little help in trying this, put a bunch of Vasoline on your feet and in your shoe before hand, in the potentially hot-spot areas.


-Bringing a bunch of crap to the transition area
Watch an ITU or elite draft-legal race, and tell me if you see any unnecessary items, or anything they absolutely don't RACE with. Heck, watch a junior elite race, and it's the same thing, the bare essentials. Some athletes bring way too much junk into transition, and they are so busy sorting thru the items, they are wasting valuable time. Less is faster.


-Getting off your wetsuit
This isn't that hard, especially if you practice it, and you have a suit that fits you properly. I run an open-water swim intervals workout here in San Diego, and we always finish with a contest to see who can get their wetsuit off the fastest. Some of the athletes look at me like I'm silly for even suggesting such a contest. I wonder if they see many of the athletes I see in T1 sitting on the ground, struggling for minutes to get their suits off.

Two tips to help you get off your suit:
1. Cut the suit to the mid-calf on the bottom. The last few inches aren't going to mean the difference between hypothermia and total warmth. But it will mean a much bigger whole for the ankle and foot to slide thru.

2. Stick two fingers in between your lower leg and the suit, and pull down on the suit, while pulling up with the leg.


-Shoes
Why sit and do something in one place, that you can do while rolling forward on your bike? Learn to get on your shoes while riding your bike. Practice on the trainer first, and then start and finish each ride getting in and out of the shoes. Leave the shoes on the bike.

Bike shoes are extremely overrated. In my TriJuniors program, we constantly do bike work only with our feet on top of the shoes. I have actually had 2 athletes do complete triathlons without ever getting into their shoes on the bike, since they need to stay with the pack in the draft-legal races, and worried they would slow and miss the wheels putting on their shoes. They understand, shoes are just a tool, not necessarily vital.

Learn to ride on top of your shoes and see how it feels. I think you'll be surprised.


-Mounts
A good mount means more than you think. Most of the time there is total havoc at the mount line. Your ability to mount and get away from all this can sometimes mean the difference between a good finish and a DNF. Seriously, I've seen bad crashes from poor mounts, not looking, crowds, etc.

I have one adult athlete, (in his 50's), who enthusiastically practices his mounts and dismounts before and after each ride. It's no surprise how good he is at it now, and what it has done for his confidence. It's amazing to me how the philosophy of pushing for speed has transfered to all the other aspects of his racing. Speed is a mindset!


-Course knowledge
Seems obvious that athletes should know where to go, right? Watch a race in T1 or T2 sometime, and you'll be amazed how many athletes don't know the basics of which direction to go or where their stuff is. Learn the environment you're racing in, and that's not just the course map, but the transition area as well!


Eliminate the nonsense. Be faster!

Coach Vance

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Marathon in your Ironman Prep?

I got an email this week from an athlete who wants to do an Ironman in 2012, and told me of their desire to do 2 marathons before that. They asked for my thoughts. My answer is....

Doing a single marathon, let alone 2, is a bad idea, if the Ironman race is important to you. Chances are, the investment of time and money into the Ironman, compared to a marathon, make it more important than a marathon, to most athletes.

But the key here is that any major effort, like a marathon, is highly risky. The chances of breakdown and injury are very high, and there is no need to do a marathon. Your stand-alone marathon time has little to do with what you can actually run in an Ironman. What you can run in an Ironman depends more on bike ability, training hours in the saddle, nutrition, and race execution. Look at the marathon times of the athletes who run "fast" in an Ironman, and they will tell you that training at that intensity is very easy. It's not about their stand-alone marathon.

Even if an athlete doesn't get injured from the marathon effort, they will certainly require at least 2 weeks of recovery time, with light activity, plus a 1 week taper minimum. Do 2 marathons, and all of sudden, you've lost 6 weeks of training time, a month and a half! If you do a 2 week taper into each, you've lost 2 whole months!

The key to performing well in an Ironman is consistency in your training, never going over the edge into injury, and coming to the start line confident, with a plan you know you can execute. This comes from months of dedicated preparation, sometimes years!

If you're planning to do a marathon and an Ironman in the same season, my suggestion is to do a half marathon, and keep yourself healthy and consistent in your preparations for your Ironman.

Coach Vance

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mental Choices in a Race

This past weekend, one of my junior athletes struggled with her mount. She told me she couldn't do the flying mount because it was an uphill. She stopped and tried to mount slowly on the uphill. She fell over. Her shoe fell off the pedal. She struggled with all of it. It literally took her minutes to get on her bike. What if she chose to just try, instead of deciding it couldn't be done?

How many of us make choices in a race where we decide WE CAN'T DO SOMETHING? How powerful of a moment is that in our performances? Every other athlete of our's in the race had no problem with the flying mount in the same place. She just chose that she couldn't do it, rather than trying to do it.

What choices are you making in your race? Are they choices which help you, or hinder you?

Coach Vance

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Race and Disc Wheel Dilemma - New Data


One of the common questions people ask me about is race wheels, and whether they are worth it. I've always thought worth is a relative question, based as much on budget as performance. I remember asking Joe Friel why he always rode such nice wheels on his road bike, (Zipp 808's), for all his rides. He responded with, "Jim, by the time these wheels are worn out, they'll be obsolete anyway." Very true.

I came to ride the wheels I would race on, all the time. I was training on a 404/808 combination with a PowerTap, and on race day I would just add a disc cover I bought from Wheelbuilder.com.
A disc cover is simply two pieces of plastic which attach over the wheel securely, and make it a full disc wheel, in essence.

I had heard from John Cobb at a wind tunnel camp, (one of the aero gurus), that the disc cover was, "not as good as a disc wheel, but pretty darn close." Considering the investment difference, I was fine with pretty darn close.

Then I read this study, by Wheelbuilder.com themselves, and how the disc covers did compared to uncovered wheels, and solid discs. They even compared an 808 covered and an open-pro rim, with little to no dish.

Now, Wheelbuilder.com is in the wheel sales business, and the disc cover sales business, so one might argue their results are not independently verified, but one could argue by showing an open-pro with disc cover does better than an 808 with one, that they would likely be losing money if they sell open-pro's instead of 808's. (This doesn't take into account the rolling quality of the 808 vs open-pro, or bearings).

Perhaps it's time to put a disc cover on that wheel, and saving yourself some dough!

Coach Vance

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Twitter Answers #4

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 every few weeks to post some of the questions and my responses here.

From: @smernicki
@jimvance Managing disruption - how to adapt when life gets in the way. How do you minimise fitness loss and manage mental stress caused.

Managing and balancing life, family responsibilities, and work demands with training is exactly the challenge of triathlon. First off, don't believe that more training is the key to being better at the sport. For many, that's just not the case, but somehow we're all enthralled with how much volume we do. If volume was all that mattered, whoever trained the most would win. We wouldn't even need to race, just give out the rewards based on training volume.

What you do with the training time you have available is most important. Making sure you are working on your weaknesses and getting in the KEY sessions which are specific to your race goals. Focus your training on being technically excellent, addressing your weaknesses, specific to your race goals, and give yourself a cushion day or two, where you can adjust to disruptions easier. Also, try to foresee the disruptions ahead of time, and adjust early. And again, don't sweat it, volume isn't most important.


From: @massayaka
@jimvance how do u train/prepare for windy bike leg..?

It takes mental toughness, that's for sure. I have an athlete I coach, who is also a coach with TrainingBible, Scott Iott, who wrote a great article on this. Scott has been a very successful triathlete, Check it out:


From: @milesmusclesmom
@jimvance stength training that helps to build muscular endurance and power on the bike ;)

Good question. There is nothing that will build better power and muscular endurance on the bike better than doing workouts on your bike, focused on that itself. Remember, you need to be specific in your training. Doing force reps on the bike, longer intervals at the specific goal intensity or wattages you want to hold on the bike are key, not the weight room. That said, basic core strength and full body movements with free weights, like squats, lunges, kettlebell sets, and others will help, but it must be periodized and specific to what you need.


From: @njolly
@jimvance I am a fast Triathlete. How much will paddleboarding/kayaking/surfing affect my run mainly. In terms of too much muscle developing

I don't think you'll see any real muscle mass gains or problems with this, as the resistance and intensity is just not there. If anything, you'll see some endurance and strength gains, but you can't simulate heavy lifting sessions with these types of cross training exercises. Good sessions though, and fun!


From: @chrissimmons
@JimVance pacing for wildflower longcourse

That course is tough! I've done it twice and both times suffered. The race should definitely be ridden according to your strengths. Are you a hill rider? Are you a flats rider? There's plenty of both on it. Honestly, the toughest part of Wildflower is typically the wind and rough road surfaces, jarring you. The heat later in the day takes its toll as well. Just need to find ways to conserve energy, and be on your game for fitness when you toe that line!

Thanks again, and keep them coming for next time, let me know on Twitter, @jimvance.

Coach Vance

Thursday, April 7, 2011

There's no such thing as "The Only Way"

Here's an article I recently wrote for Finishline-Multisport.com. Enjoy...

There's no such thing as "The Only Way"

Recently, I read a blog post from 2-time Ironman World Champion, Chris McCormack, "Macca." The blog talked about the simplicity of his training, and he illustrated a great point, that many athletes get too caught up in numbers and data, not trusting their instincts. (The post can be read here:http://www.chrismccormack.com/2011/03/20/keep-it-simple/)

Chris' blog post was motivated by a great interview with one of the top coaches in the sport, Brett Sutton, on IM Talk. I listened to the entire interview, and I agree with a lot of what Brett says, but of course the devil is in the details and he speaks in large generalizations, because he has to, each scenario is different. (Brett's interview can be heard here: http://tinyurl.com/23l6pgz).

As a guy who is one of the biggest preachers of periodization, data and numbers, it might come as a surprise to find out I agree with Brett and Chris' basic concepts and beliefs. So many times athletes end up relying too much on numbers, and end up doing a numbers dance on race day, instead of RACING. Many times I see athletes who view their current power zones and think they can't surpass them. Suddenly the numbers are limiters, instead of being simply guidelines.

If you listen to Brett and Chris speak in the interview and blog, they are very critical of the use of tools, and Brett is especially critical of the idea of periodization. They call power meters and GPS devices gimmicks, toys or gadgets. To hear them, anything which seems close to periodization or provides feedback is blasphemy. I would argue they simply disagree with the common use today of these tools, and instead differ in the tools they use and the periodization model they follow.

So before every age-grouper goes and totally trashes these tools and decides to eliminate periodization from their training, I think it's important to consider the following...

Periodization

Periodization simply means, "training periods." I highly doubt that Brett and Chris never change the training stimulus, and conduct the same workouts all the time. Chris even discusses the need to balance all three sports, which requires changing training stresses.

Even in the interview, Brett discusses the need to train specifically for the race demands. So basically, Brett doesn't believe in traditional periodization, and to some degree, I can agree with that. Macca the same. But it is not that they don't believe in adjusting training stress, they just disagree with how it has been traditionally done. Anytime you change the stress for a period of time, with a different focus, that is "periodization."

Though it is effective for beginner to intermediate level athletes, (even many advanced level), traditional linear, reverse, undulating and similar periodization models do not seem to be as effective for high level, elite athletes to be competitive at the top of the sport. But you need to be at a high enough level of an athlete to make a different periodization model more effective than the traditional ones. You need to be able to advance the training at a rapid rate, and at a high enough volume. This requires a very high level of commitment, which most age-groupers can't do. Brett even discusses the level of commitment required, and how long it takes.

Training Tools

When it comes to their dislike for tools and "gadgets," Macca discusses using the clock on the wall to determine an hour run, trying to be back just on feel to one hour. THE CLOCK IS A TOOL! It provides feedback to Chris as to how in touch with reality his perception and perceived exertion is. This way, when he feels like he can make a move on the run in a race, he trusts that he can do it. He's proven it in his training.

Brett says he wants his athletes to stop using tools, and doesn't use a stopwatch either at track. But Brett pulls the reins in on his athletes during their 20x800 track sessions. Guess what Brett? YOU ARE THE TOOL FOR THE ATHLETES! He is the tool the athletes use to hold themselves back and reach the goals of the workout. Brett is the measuring stick by which the athletes measure themselves. Does Brett approve of their pace, their training intensities, their fitness levels? The athletes under him have their own perceived exertion levels, but if Brett disagrees with it, then it is not in touch with reality.

Our perceived exertion levels are only as reliable and good as their connection with the reality of our fitness and capabilities. Chris and Brett simply don't like to use the common power meter and GPS or stop watch for running to determine this. The better they see the skill of perceived exertion being correct, the better feedback they get/give.

Again, even as a "data and numbers geek," I agree athletes need to RACE, and quit staring at the numbers. Athletes need to build trust in their perceptions, take risks and learn what their capable of. Chances are they are more capable than they realize of better performance, if simply break the chains of the power meter zone, or running at a set pace.

But this is an acquired skill that takes months, if not years, of development, and has to happen over the course of each season as well. Brett and Chris are guys who don't balance a full time job with coaching/training. They can conduct the sessions required to learn this skill in a much more rapid timeframe than the average age-grouper. Brett can isolate athletes in a camp and keep an eye on them on a regular basis. He does this well, and the results are clear, but that's not reality for many athletes in the sport.

What can athletes do to improve their perceived exertion? USE THE TOOLS AND GADGETS! However, conduct many workouts where you simply cover them up, and stop looking at them. When the workout is complete, look and see how you did, relative to what your perceived exertion levels were.

Probably the best aspect of using tools and gadgets is the data provides a record of what actually happened. It provides guidance and feedback for how the training is progressing, and helps sets benchmarks for athletes to review and try to exceed. In future seasons, it helps show a path, or give guidance to new training decisions.

I tell athletes all the time, "The data isn't for you, it's for me!" I'm the coach, and I need more than just you telling me, "It went well," or "It went bad." My ability as a coach to give you feedback, especially if I can't be there to see and watch the sessions, is dependent on the quality of the feedback I get from you, the athlete. Tools which provide data about the sessions are the most pure feedback there is, and when used in conjunction with athlete feedback, becomes even more powerful.

I get the sense it is better for these two to say it is all art, and not science, because then it sounds like they are the only ones capable of doing it correctly. It is certainly an art and science mix, but to say one artist's way is the only way is not something most would ever agree with.

In short, Brett and Chris are very successful, but don't believe that their way is the only way or the best for each athlete.

Coach Vance