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.

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.

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
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 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, 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