Friday, December 28, 2012

New 70.3 Podium Training Plans on TrainingPeaks

If you're using a power meter and GPS with HR monitor, and looking to take advantage of what TrainingPeaks has to offer for training feedback, check out my new 70.3 Podium Training Plans with Power and GPS.

If you're looking to try and qualify for Vegas 70.3 Worlds, or do really well in your local race, this plan will help you get there. I have listed it as a single 25 week plan, which can be changed to 24 or even 23, with different plans for Saturday races, and even Sunday races. If that is too long, which for many athletes might be, the plan is divided up and available as a Base Plan, and another as Build and Peak.

What makes these plans "podium"? Well, I know the training load and effort it takes to be prepared to do well in one of these events. I also know what specificity is, about how long the specific phase should last, and these plans give the athlete specific guidelines for specificity, in terms of TSS, Intensity Factor, and race preparation details. The plan also gives guidelines on the metrics to follow, and if you haven't reached a certain a threshold or mark, how to adjust the plan accordingly. The hours are right in line with what it takes to be successful and contend for a podium spot as well.

If you don't use a power meter, then I would suggest some of the other plans I offer, but if you do, this is right up your alley. Best of luck!

Coach Vance

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

30 Indoor Trainer Workouts Posted at @TrainingPeaks Store

If you're looking for something to break the monotony of indoor trainer rides thru the winter weather, then you will want to check out my indoor trainer workouts for sale in the Exercise Library section of TrainingPeaks.

The workouts range from 36 to 90 mins, and I give intensity prescription for zones, (power or HR), perceived extertion, (RPE 1-20 scale), and even some Critical Power value ranges. If you use a power meter, that will be perfect for this, but even those using HR or RPE will enjoy this.

I also list the workouts by goals, if you wanting to do some sprint work, endurance work, or other needs.

For those of you looking for something for the really LONG indoor rides, I have one in this which is a great set I use with my athletes to break-up those 4 hour rides on the trainer, while still working on the endurance needs of the athlete.

Enjoy, and if there is more demand I will create even more of them. Thanks!

Coach Vance

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Analyzing Ironman Run Training Prep - Part 2

(Click on image to enlarge)

The last post was rather popular, and sparked some email conversations from readers, and got me wondering about some other things. Some suggested that execution or heat/conditions from the races probably had more effect than necessarily judging the performance strictly by run split time. Others suggested that specificity of the run training mattered more in the weeks preceeding, rather than the volume of miles run. 

I agree with all those statements, and I believe there is not one clear cut answer to find out what we should do next, what training this athlete has responded well to, which race performance was actually best, and more. 

Before we get started with some analysis on this, let's define some of the items above:
NP = Normalized power from the race
IF = Intensity factor of the ride, (NP/FTP)
VI = Variability Index, (how well paced was the ride, steady = 1.00 or close, big variance = 1.05+)
bTSS = Bike Training Stress Score, the stress the bike put on the athlete, faster/harder bike will have 300+
rTSS = Run Training Stress Score, the faster run should have higher rTSS, as the athlete is able to hold faster pace, relative to their threshold

It is absolutely true that the training must be SPECIFIC to prepare the athlete, I can safely say that each of the 12 weeks leading into the races for this athlete was specific to Ironman. So if the training was specific in it's intensity and designed adaptation, then the type of training is consistent and isn't going to skew the data interpretation.

From this, what I want to see as a coach is, was there a mileage that gave us the most benefit? Was there a mileage number which was high, and not really any better than the lower mileage of specific training? If I can pinpoint a number for this athlete, a bell curve where I can keep the mileage range, and instead of doing more run miles, maybe do more bike or swim? 

Also, one thing I am considering with this athlete is that their highest mileage times have always come in the weeks preceeding their Ironman event. What I manipulated the timing of that volume to come before the 12 week out mark starts? Now the athlete comes in strong, and I can lower the volume, increase intensity. Definitely something I am considering. 

Some might say he ran great when he was just doing 32 mi/wk in 2008, why not go back to that? The main reason is that this was a new stimulus to the athlete back then, and expecting to get the same result is probably not realistic. But certainly it is strong evidence that mileage volume isn't the biggest determinant of run performance in an Ironman.

You can see that in 2011, we decided to do the most volume we have, thinking that would be the new training stimulus on the athlete, and perhaps give him the breakthrough he needed. You can see that didn't happen. He flatted in the race, but still, the run was not what we had hoped. 

As some have suggested, running at Wisconsin or in Florida is not the same as running in Kona, and the performances may be equitable, considering the conditions. This is always something which must be subjectively considered with analysis of the data, along with place in AG, course being in favor to an athlete's strengths or weaknesses, and even the mindset of the athlete. 

If you asked me, the athlete's best race all-time is probably Kona 2009, when he was 8th in his AG there, against stellar competition, in hot conditions. This takes into the account all the subjective things, and the fact this was a peak, championship event. His next best performance was his 8:59 at FL the year after, (because of the the significance of the 9:00 barrier), and the third best was probably IMWisc this year, where he just raced hard and well against a tough field, just missing a top 20 overall finish.

One colleague told me he thought VI mattered more in Ironman than even IF or TSS, but this athlete's two highest VI's we have were his fastest and third fastest runs. Also TSS seems to have very little reflection on his run times, as he either runs 3:13-14, or 3-3:05. Missing the bike data from Florida 2010 is a bummer, as the unit malfunctioned in the race and the data is incomplete, didn't want to draw conclusions from incomplete picture. So is it that this athlete handles courses which require higher VI better than steady state, flat courses? Could be. 

A lot of information to consider, and as a coach, reflection on the past is very important if you want to set the right path ahead. 

Coach Vance

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Analyzing Ironman Run Training Prep

(click on image to enlarge)

How much should you run in training for Ironman? It's a very common question, with the very common answer of, "Well, it depends." It depends on goals and run ability, and even lately I'm reminded that it depends on what you've done in the past. Experience is a great teacher, and the body tends to respond well to new stresses and fresh stimulus.

The athlete whose training is shown above I've worked with for 5 years, going from 11+ hour Ironman to the results you see, and this year we did something quite different, we raced 2 Ironman events in about 14 weeks, (Wisconsin and Cozumel). He podiumed at both events this year, and qualified for Kona, which leads me into planning for 2013.

When this athlete and I talked, we both agreed we would need a new approach if we want to accomplish getting on the podium in Kona. He believes he needs to run sub 3 hours off the bike in Kona to accomplish this goal. Well, after 5 years, we have tried a number of different approaches, and with 5 years of data we can look back and see the different approaches we've tried, what seems to have worked best, and how we might change it to accomplish running sub 3 off the bike. I had an idea in my mind of what we've actually done, and I have the Performance Management Charts, but I wanted to dive in a little deeper and examine the volume we've done in the past, and see the bigger picture.

I was able to go into TrainingPeaks and get all this run volume data in one chart, for the last 5 years. It is showing me as well that I have certain tendencies as a coach, and perhaps I need to try something different, or perhaps I am missing something which may be the breakthrough he is looking for.

I'm not going to share the plan for him based on the data in the chart, (that will be a work in progress anyway), but when I was putting this together, I found it interesting, and worth sharing. Many athletes read this blog, and there are certainly some great things to learn from the data within it, especially what type of run volume a perennial Ironman podium contender has done in his prep. I plan go back and do the same with some other metrics, might share those here as well.

Coach Vance

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The power of a power meter...

I am coaching a young triathlete with a lot of potential. He was hesitant to purchase a power meter, with the usual excuse of cost. I estimated this athlete had an FTP of about 400-410 watts. I was wrong, it was 448. He got the power meter finally and his first ride was a test for FTP. Here's where he stands now in his power profile in TrainingPeaks...

I think you can guess that when he saw this, from a single power file and test, that his confidence grew tremendously! He rates near a domestic professional cyclist, and his confidence will only grow as the numbers continue to grow.

If you're looking to get faster and better on the bike, consider a power meter. The data which comes from it can build confidence, and many times a belief in oneself is all that is missing from great performances.

Coach Vance

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Routine Race Week

This week I have a number of high school cross country athletes getting ready for the state meet, and a number of athletes competing at Ironman Cozumel this week. It's interesting how much similarity there is in the race week approach for high school cross country runners and Ironman triathletes.

This week is especially challenging, due to the holiday. Kids are out of school for the week, which means they tempted to change their sleep patterns, staying up late or sleeping in, and sitting around on the couch, munching on snacks they don't normally get to eat. Changes in sleep and diet patterns during a race week is NOT a formula for success, no matter what you're preparing to race. I hear athletes starting to carbo load, which is simply changing your diet, unnecessarily.

Try to keep things as routine as possible. Might be difficult with the holiday, and the normal diet change that happens with Thanksgiving dinner, as well as travel to your big race. But try to resist changing your diet dramatically, and keep the sleep patterns at night the same. Napping during the day is fine, and I encourage that, but stick to what the body is used to, as much as possible.

Good luck to all those competing this weekend!

Coach Vance

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ironman Tapering Tip

We are entering the final week or two for many Ironman athletes, with Arizona this Sunday, and Cozumel the following. Some athletes I consult with by reviewing the program they write themselves, and I give feedback on that. When it comes to tapering, it can be as much art as science. Many athletes struggle to find the balance of what is enough, what is too much.

Here's a tip for tapering for Ironman; if you are going to risk overdoing the volume, make sure it is more on the bike than the run. If you really want to do more, add more bike volume, do less run volume. Running in general poses more risk of injury, and requires more recovery time. For example, instead of doing a 90 min run 1 week out from the race, do 60 mins and then add some bike time, say 30-90 mins spin afterward.

Best of luck!

Coach Vance

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Principle of Unending Improvement

"You must believe and adhere to the principle of UNENDING IMPROVEMENT and the setting and achieving of even higher goals." - Joe Vigil, San Diego USAT Arts & Sciences Symposium 2012

This quote from Joe's presentation in San Diego recently hit the spot with everything I agree and do. I am constantly using data from the athlete's workouts to determine the exact next step, so we can have "unending improvement," skipping over any performance plateaus.

With the increase of depth in the sport, more talented athletes in it, the difference between accomplishing goals and not is becoming a smaller and smaller margin. We can't afford to train poorly, or waste training days with too much recovery, too much training stress, or injury. Data will help you to do this. If you're not using data to do so, you do not believe and adhere to this principle.

Coach Vance

Friday, August 17, 2012

Recovery Week? Not really needed.

We all need recovery, especially when training hard. A common approach is to install a "recovery week" in the training plan. Many do a 3 weeks hard or building intensity/volume, followed by 1 week recovery. Some do a 2:1, or even a 1:1.

But is that really what you need? And how do you define a recovery week? Sitting on your butt? How much recovery do you need? The answer is: it's complicated. It depends on a number of factors, not limited to:
- Amount of fatigue athlete is facing
- History of athlete's response to training
- Weather
- Stress outside of training

Most of my athletes never take a "recovery week". We do recovery "days", but never a week. Too much good work can be lost if given too much recovery. And if you need an entire week to recover, you likely are training too hard during the week.

I find if an athlete can't have great performances in training after 2 light days of training, 3 at most, then the load the athlete is under is too much. 

If you're looking for a jump in performance, perhaps you simply need to reevaluate the recovery you're giving yourself, or the intensity and volume of the training you're doing.

Coach Vance

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Champion Admits He Got Lazy...

In the following video, a few hours after Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian in history, and shortly after being upset in his signature event of the 200m Fly, he was asked by Bob Costas, "what went wrong?" (1:40 mark of the video). His response was incredibly honest, and one which most athletes can learn from. He admits that he got lazy in training, and it carried over to race day. All those lazy touches at the wall in training, and more, came back to bite him.

Bob Costas: “Let’s talk about that 200 butterfly. You had the lead much of the way. You were out-touched by Chad Le Clos of South Africa 5 one-hundredths of a second.It’s hard to say that when you win a silver medal that something has gone wrong but your standard is so high that I guess we can put it that way. What went wrong?
Michael Phelps: Um… It”s probably the finishes I’ve done in workout. It ended up coming out here. There are times I go slow into the wall or touch lazy and it showed. But at the same time I’ve had a great career. And that’s my fourth Olympic final in the 200 fly. And, sure I’d like to have been 6 one-hundredths faster but there’s nothing I can do about that right now, it’s time to move forward. And I have a couple of more events coming up and that’s what I’m preparing for.

How many athletes can admit that? How many athletes when they lose or don't have the result they want can look in the mirror and recognize the little things, the details they have ignored? Everyone trains and prepares, everyone cares about the result. But very few care enough to do the details, and the ones who do win the races.

Watch the video here or below...

Perhaps another telling part of the interview is that he is satisfied, and he seems ok with the result he got, especially given how he hasn't been as committed as he knows he could have been.  This is not a criticism of him, as it is admirable. Many athletes struggle to find this balance, and even some athletes don't realize their commitment level is not up to par, yet hold an expectation of almost gold standard.

I think many athletes can learn a lot from his brief statement.

Coach Vance

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Core strength does NOT equal speed

I have an athlete I've been coaching, and they have incredible core strength. Years of swimming, and lots of core work, 5 times per week, up to an hour per session.

This athlete though is not happy with where their performance is. The first thing I am doing as the coach is cutting back the core strength. This sounds like blasphemy to some, as core strength is the "in" thing. But if core strength translated to speed, this athlete would be one of the fastest around. But they're not.

Strengthen your core, sure, but there comes a point where the effort you put into getting the extra few percentage points of improved core is wasted, as you could be putting that effort toward things that actually make you faster.

Coach Vance

Monday, July 16, 2012

Attitude Part 2

"If you have a bad start, you've got 99 meters to be pissed." - Carl Lewis, sprinter, 9-time Olympic Gold Medalist in track and field

This past weekend I took my TriJuniors athletes to Des Moines, Iowa for a major Elite Cup, which is one of the toughest events on the Junior Elite Series, to get athletes qualified for Nationals. I had 2 girls race who it was their first major event. They told me, "That swim was really rough". Nevermind the fact I told them to expect this for months leading into the race, they didn't have good starts and they dealt with the consequences. If you want to have a good start, it is all about attitude in swimming, being aggressive. So you can either have a great start and enjoy it, or have a bad one and be pissed about it. Make the choice.

Coach Vance

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Attitude on the Start Line

The attitude you have on the start-line will be the biggest determinant of the race result.

So what attitude do I want you to have on the start line? "Who's getting 2nd?"!!! That's the attitude I want. But you have to believe it for it to be effective. If you don't do the work, you won't believe it. If you've done the work, BRING THAT ATTITUDE!!!

Coach Vance

Friday, July 6, 2012

Belief of Improvement

I see a number of athletes not sure they believe they can improve to a high level of performance. Funny how I look thru the careers of every top level athlete, age-group to elite, and there took a period of improvement and increase in belief they could reach a high level of performance. No one ever heard of Peter Sagan in cycling, now he is the biggest name in the sport since probably Lance. Look at any athlete who we talk about today, and you'll find they improved beyond what most of us expect of ourselves. I wonder if they believed they would improve so much. And if they did believe it would happen, how many of us limit ourselves simply in what believe the limit is of our own improvement potential?

So where are you? Do you believe you can improve? How much? If you believe, then don't get in your way, take some risk and go after it.

Coach Vance

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Advantage of Forced Change

This year our venue for my TriJuniors regular Tuesday night track workouts was under construction, and we had to look for a new one. We were able to secure a much nicer venue, at the time we wanted, but they would only be able to accommodate us on Wednesday nights instead.

At first this was quite frustrating. I didn't want to change what I was doing as a coach, as I felt I had a good rhythm with our program. Changing what I was used to was uncomfortable to say the least. 

Then we started the new workout, and restructured the week we use for training. It was interesting to see how in many cases, the change was actually advantageous to the training I was writing for our group. Of course, at first I didn't even want to consider that possibility. Changing what I was used to was wrong, bad and just plain annoying! 

I preach a lot here about athletes changing what they do, and their unwillingness to do so in many cases, despite the clear benefits. I learned that lesson again myself. We are seeing the benefit. I changed training structure and approach because I had to, it was forced upon me, and low and behold, it was probably the best thing to happen to us. 

Seek out change, force yourself to try something different. If you're not happy with your current results, what do you have to lose?

Coach Vance

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Show me the heel-striker

This was last weekend, at the ITU WTS Triathlon in San Diego. These guys are running very fast. The reason? They don't let their feet spend much time on the ground. Even Huerta, who looks like he's about to heel-strike, isn't actually, as he quickly moves the foot more under his hips, from a supinated landing to toe-off. 

Want to get faster at running? Perfect the foot-strike. Go on runs where all you do is pay attention to your foot-strike. When the heel contacts first, the foot can not get off the ground until the forefoot lands, and then it can toe-off. That takes time, a lot of time when you add it up over hundreds/thousands of foot-steps. If the forefoot to mid-foot lands first, that will reduce the time, so the athlete can spend more time propelling themselves. More propelling means faster.

Focus on perfecting your foot-strike to be more mid-foot to forefoot, and you'll be faster. 

Coach Vance

Monday, April 9, 2012

Coaching Triathletes with Power Meters Seminar

If you're in the Southern California area, or will be here for the ITU San Diego race, and are interested in learning more about how to train with power, or how to coach different triathletes, (Sprint to Ironman, drafting or non-drafting), then you should check out this seminar I'm conducting...

What: Coaching Triathletes with Power Meters, Sprint and Olympic to Ironman
When: Thursday, May 10, 2012, 9 AM to 12 PM
Where: DoubleTree Hotel, Hotel Circle, (Balboa Room)
Why: 3 CEU's for USAT Coaches, and lots of learning!

Elite Coach Jim Vance will present how to coach triathletes with power meters, using the data to plan and assess training, for triathletes using a power meter, from Sprint and Olympic distance to Ironman.

Jim will compare and contrast the different power files of varying athletes, from elites, to top age-groupers, middle of the pack athletes, and those just trying to beat the midnight cut-off. Citing the differences between the demands of the different athlete levels, Jim will discuss the training strategies for coaches to consider.

Topics Include:

-          What is power?
-          How to analyze a power file
-          How to track improvement within athletes
-          Examples of different race files, from varying abilities and distances
-          Power differences for draft-legal vs. non-drafting events
-          Understanding the differences in order to better plan training
-          Quadrant Analysis
-          Q & A
-          And more…

You can register here:

Hope to see you there!

Coach Vance

Monday, March 26, 2012

Training isn't perfect, but we can learn to do it better

I came across this PMC chart for an athlete who got hurt a few years ago, and unfortunately was not able to start their Ironman event. Anytime you work with an athlete, you're dealing with a unique experiment of one. You can bring experience from other athletes and training philosophies, but in the end, no two athletes are the same.

From reading this blog, you know I am big on data, and this photo helps illustrate why. This athlete got injured, and I was wondering what might have been the trigger to getting injured. Was there a mistake I made in planning, or they made in possibly not following the plan, that we can learn from for doing better training next time?

In the above photo, you can see where I identified 2 instances where Acute Training Load, (ATL), shows a very large jump, followed not much later by an injury. There's even another moment where the athlete is sick, and identified in the graph.

This information showed me what some key metrics and numbers to avoid with this athlete, and how much risk is reasonable in training, versus just likely to injure them again.

If you're using technology on a consistent and committed basis, you can begin to learn these things about your own "experiment of one". Training is never perfect, but with the power of data and retrospect, we can certainly learn to do it better, making less errors, or at least making training judgments with the odds in our favor.

If you're looking for some help with this, I am happy to review your files and tell you what I see, and what I think. But look for trends yourself, and see if you can learn anything from them as well.

Coach Vance

Friday, March 23, 2012

Technique and Performance

I held my first rack workout of the season last Wednesday night, and I had a few kids attend. I brought my new iPad to start to gather some video and breakdown technique on the spot, hoping to maximize each training session. In videoing 2 girls, I found an interesting contrast of run technique, side by side.

In the image below, I want to highlight the position of the foot of these two girls. (Click on image to enlarge).

The girl on the right is taller than the girl on the left, as she is in the background, and her stride length is thus longer, naturally. however notice the foot-strike difference. The foot on the right is headed for a clear heel strike first. Contrast that with the foot on the left, where the foot is cambered slightly and mostly flat. You can nearly see the bottom of the foot. 

The difference in these foot strikes is important. The flatter foot will be able to bounce back up off the ground sooner than the heel-first foot, which must wait until it has the forefoot on the ground to toe-off with. The foot on the left can also begin to move back under the hips more, providing stability in the right time-frame for the hips. The heel striker on the right will not have the opportunity to bring it back before striking the ground and creating a braking action, in front of the hips, as shown in the next image. (Click to enlarge)

In this image I have combined 2 moments into one image, as their stride lengths don't allow the moment of hip support to coincide perfectly like the foot strike did. What you can now see though is the difference in the position of the hips, relative to the foot upon the weight bearing. Because of this, the girl on the right must overcome her dip, oscillating upward and over the foot. The girl on on the left has less time between landing and coming over her foot, meaning less vertical oscillation, and quicker initiation of the next stride, (faster cadence). 

Though one might ask, if the girl on the left is faster and better, why is she losing? This was an informal stride interval, which they started on their own, not a race. 

Does this mean the girl on the right is slower? No, not at all. What it means is the girl on the left is more technically sound in her run technique, and more efficient. That could mean more potential for quick improvement, but the heel striker could quickly improve her technique and make bigger and better improvement gains. 

Performance and technique don't really have a perfectly direct relationship, until we get to the higher competitive levels of sport. And even then, few athletes have perfect technique, and it is not directly proportional, as differences in other other factors play a big role. But certainly, technique limits the potential of performance and needs to be addressed in all athletes at some point. A simple change in foot strike can dramatically change run performance and especially economy. The more you run, the more important this is, from both a training and a performance perspective.

Notice the girls are both wearing shoes, not barefoot. Barefoot running might help you be more like the girl on the left, but running barefoot is not a shortcut to good run technique, it still requires the knowledge and focus to perform the movements correctly. 

Start paying attention to your technique, like foot strike and see what happens with your performance.

Coach Vance

Sunday, March 18, 2012

2012 Oceanside 70.3 Race Course Preview

2012 Ironman 70.3 California, Oceanside Race Preview and Guide

Hard to believe, but the 2012 season is about to start! The California Ironman 70.3 race is about to kick off the North American events, on Saturday, March 31st  in Oceanside, California. If you have done this event before, I’m sure you’re excited to get back to it again! If this will be your first time, get ready for a fun event with plenty of challenges, but great support from the United States Marine Corps, local residents and triathlon fanatics. It would be rude not to mention the beautiful scenery of the Pacific Ocean and small, but equally beautiful mountains on the Camp Pendleton Marine Core Base.

In order to maximize the experience for you, and especially your performance, there is some critical information you should know before you toe the line. This article is meant to be a tool to prevent any surprises for you on race day, which can easily be avoided. I am confident if you follow these guidelines and keep the following information in mind, you will have a solid race performance.

Let’s start with the basics and go over the distances. Ironman 70.3 consists of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run, totaling 70.3 miles. Sounds fairly simple, but even if you’ve done a 70.3 race in the past, each race presents its own logistical challenges and physical demands, unlike other similar events. These differences and challenges are important to recognize and prepare for, perhaps just as much as training for months is important to prepare you.

Athlete guide is available for download at the following link:


When you arrive in Oceanside, make sure to get there early. It is always better to have more time than you need, than need more time than you have. Don’t create stress when you can easily avoid it by getting up early and getting to the event with plenty of time. You should be there at least 90 minutes before your wave starts! This may sound like a long time, but with so many people, smaller tasks will take longer. This includes longer lines at restrooms, traffic, body-marking and setting up your transition spot. Chances are you will also see some friends and get talking with them, only to realize time has flown by and your race is about to start. Also, the later you get there, the tougher it will probably be to find a transition spot you are comfortable with. A general rule to follow is to figure out what time you need to be there, and how long you think it will take to be there at that time, and add 45 minutes. This will ensure you have enough time, and not be stressed trying to get to the start.

The transition area opens at 4:45 AM, with the first wave of male pro’s typically going off at 6:40 AM.

From the I-5, you should take the Mission Ave exit, and head toward the ocean. You will see people directing traffic for parking. Since you don’t check your bike in the day before, you will have it that morning. Hop on your bike with all your things in your back-pack and get riding to the transition area. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE YOUR HELMET ON! If an official sees you riding to the start without a helmet THEY CAN DISQUALIFY YOU BEFORE THE START! That would suck, to say the least. So put that helmet on anytime you are on your bike.


A question many people have is how much of a warm-up should be completed before starting the race. A great guideline is to never start a race without a sweat going, (full-Ironman events possibly excluded.) Remember the swim is only 1.2 miles, which is not much longer than an Olympic distance swim. If you normally warm-up for the swim in an Olympic distance tri, you should warm-up for this event.

How should you warm-up? If you’re the type who always likes to get in the water and splash around, you’re in for a surprise at Oceanside, because you are not allowed to get into the water until just before the start of your race. You won’t even get to touch the water with your toes until about three to seven minutes before your wave starts! You can’t even get in the water the days before the swim, because of boat traffic in the Oceanside Harbor. So if you are a person who always relies on a nice swim to warm-up, you need to be flexible and come up with a “Plan B”.

A simple jog on the course is a lot easier, and recommended. The event can be crowded with people, making a bike warm-up not only difficult, but dangerous. Plus if you take your bike out you may come back to find there is less space in your transition spot than before.

You do not need to jog far, just enough to get a sweat going and feel warmed-up. Hold back and save the intensity for the long race ahead.

After your run, get your wetsuit on and continue your warm-up by simply staying in motion. Swinging your arms, practicing your stroke in the air, and simply running in place are great ways to make sure your body is ready for the swim ahead. They will have all the athletes corralled in an area near the start and you can expect to stand there for at least 20 to 30 minutes, maybe longer.

Here’s a video from YouTube which clearly shows the the athletes waiting to enter the water, the in-water start-line, swim exit, T1 exit, and more…(Don't pay much attention beyond that, as the course has a new T2 and run course).

By the time they tell you to step into the water, it will only be moments until your wave will start. You will need to get your face and body accustomed to the temperature of the water in order to avoid hyperventilation. Stick your head in the water, blowing air out, lifting up to get another breath, and repeat. Once you feel like you’ve acclimated to the water temp it will not be long and the horn will sound. Make sure you are in a starting position which is relative to your swim ability. This means faster swimmers to the front, and from the left, (inside of the turns), to the middle. Slower swimmers should be more to the right to start.

If you are a slower swimmer, you need to be aware that there may be fast swimmers in the age group wave behind you. Don’t necessarily swim to the left, alongside the buoys, just because most of the people from your wave are in front of you.

If you are worried about the cold water temperatures and don't have a neoprene head cap, you can always put on a silicone swim cap UNDER the cap you must wear for the race. Silicone is great for keeping the heat in from the head, much better than latex swim caps.


(Click on image to enlarge)

Swim waves can be found at the following link:

Once the horn sounds you will swim straight and the course will veer left. All turns will be left, with the exception of the finish of the swim, where you will turn right and go up the boat ramp you came down at the beginning of the swim. Be sure to consult the map to understand the course fully.

The course is marked about every 100 meters, with signs. If you breathe on your left side, you will see the markings on the buoys as you swim. If you are strictly a right-side breather, it would be a good idea to try a lot of bilateral breathing patterns in the next few weeks to prepare yourself to see these markings. Knowing where you are in the swim is a great tool! You can pace yourself better, swim straighter, as well as use it to help recognize a turn coming soon.

If you are a right-side breather, then on the return trip of the loop, you will see all the fans standing alongside the shoreline cheering the swimmers. You may think the course is about to end, but it’s always further than you think it is! Check on your left side every now and then to see how much farther you have to go.

How fast should you go in a half-iron swim? Really, there is not much difference between an Olympic distance swim and a 70.3, only about 400 meters. Therefore, you probably should not feel any difference than the pace you swim in an Olympic distance swim. Don’t worry about burning out before the bike, the swim is really too short, and with a wetsuit in salt-water, it could very well be one of the best swims of your life. Also, the pace on the bike is slower than an Olympic distance ride, so you will be fine.


The first transition is a long run! There will be approximately 300 meters of total running, from the time you exit the water until you exit T1 with your bike. Be careful! It is not uncommon to slip while running on some of the pavement sections, especially the turns. If there is a carpet or turf to run on, that will be much more comfortable for your feet and safer than the pavement.

After exiting the water at the south end of the transition area, run all the way to the north entrance of the transition area. From there you will run to your transition spot, and then exit at the south end.

Before the race, make sure you use some sort of landmark to gauge where your transition rack and spot is. Don’t think when you come out of the water you’ll be able to count racks or read signs for the racks. Choose a landmark which is obvious and preferably not repeated. For example, there are two spots of port-o-johns in the transition area which are only in those two places, and different ends of the transition. In contrast, if you tried to use the white tents on the side, you might be thoroughly confused on where you’re going since the tents go on and on. The less thinking you have to do in the race, the better.

You will have to put your items into a bag, due to a new second transition area for T2, so be sure all your items get into the bag, or you likely will not see them again. More on the new T2 later on in this article.

In the T1 image, only pay attention to the T1 flow arrows, as T2 is no longer here.

MAKE SURE YOU HAVE YOUR NUMBER ON! Once you exit T1, hop on your bike and get rolling!


(Click on image to enlarge)

Be very wary of the people around you as you start the bike. It can be very crowded and a wreck here can put an early and frustrating end to your day. If you are trying to start with your shoes already in the pedals, use the flat portion of the starting road to get some momentum and get out of traffic before trying to put your feet in the shoes. About 600 meters into the bike you will hit a short, but steep hill. Then it is fairly flat for the next 30 miles.

The biggest test of the bike is not the distance or nutrition, but rather your pacing skills. Because the first 30 miles are almost pancake-flat, you will be tempted to rip up the roads! Be careful, you must save something for the back 26 miles, which will be rolling hills, with three challenging climbs. You may feel fine at 30 miles, but when you see the first large, corkscrew looking climb, you will be questioning how you’re going to feel when you’re cresting its peak.

In order to prepare for this, it is a good idea to conduct a longer or more intense ride with flatter portions at the beginning, and hilly, challenging portions at the end. This will give you an idea of how sharp your pacing skills are. If you like to race with a heart rate monitor or power meter, it’s a good idea to use it to know how hard you can go and still have something left for the backside mountains.

On the bike, you will have your first aid station at about 13 to 14 miles. The second aid station is at about 26 to 27 miles, and the final aid station will be at about 45 miles. The aid stations will be serving water, a still to be determined sports drink, fruit, Powerbars and Powergels. The first two aid stations will happen on an incline, so speed will be controlled by gravity. The aid station workers are not allowed to cross the white line, so you will need to be close to it in order to receive any items.

When approaching an aid station, listen to the instructions they give. There is a bottle toss area first and they will tell you when and where you can get water, gels, etc. If you need to cool off, this is a good time to grab an extra water bottle and poor it on yourself.

At the third aid station you will need to slow down in order to retrieve any items, because the course is flat there, and it’s easy to be going too fast. If any bottles drop and roll onto the street, they can cause a cyclist behind you to crash. Make sure to slow enough to get the fuel you need here. The last 11 miles is flat, but there is normally a strong headwind, making it very challenging.

Later we will discuss nutrition strategies related to the bike and run.

Here’s a website link with the bike course entirely mapped out, from satellite viewpoint:

There is a downhill on the course which you need to be careful on when descending. Back in 2000, a rider was actually killed by riding at too high of a speed and losing control. This descent will be marked with warning signs and is a “Do Not Pass” zone. The speed limit on this hill is 25 mph. They will have officials checking, so just make sure you control your speed. A crash can ruin your whole day and possibly more than that.

As you near the end of the bike, the biggest change for 2012 will become very clear, as you do NOT return to the boat ramp, but instead head into Oceanside for T2 near the pier. Before you moan and groan about having a second transition area, I think you'll like this change. In the past, it has been difficult for families to see their athlete finish, and reconnect with them after the finish, because the finishline and T1/T2 were all on the peninsula of the Oceanside Harbor and boat ramp. Now with the finish moved to the strand and pier, there is plenty of space for spectators, athletes, families and more, and it's a much more beautiful setting than the harbor. Also, athletes won't need to go back to T1, as they will bring everything for athletes to T2. 

This doesn't even account for the fact that all the parking over the past years has always been close to the pier, so now athletes will have an easier exit from the race venue after finishing. It really is a great change!

OK, onto T2...


(Click on image to enlarge)

When you roll into T2, your rack spot is numbered according to your race number. What is your race number? Check your body and bike if you forget, or check here and remember:

If you have committed some violations on the course, then you will need to serve your time in the penalty box. See the 70.3 Athlete’s Guide on the website for all the details on rules and how they are enforced. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW THE RULES!!!

Once you have put on your shoes and grabbed what you need, head out of T2 and get running. BUT, it is important to note that the run course is different this year and quickly out of T2 you will have to do a U-turn, to put you onto the run loop and going with the flow of run traffic. See the image posted in this section above, which highlights the U-turn and other important info about the run course. 

PLEASE NOTE: You will only do this specific U-turn ONCE! You will not need to do it again, since you will already be on the loop when you start the second lap.


(Click on image to enlarge)

In the past, you would have been hard pressed to find a run course as flat as Oceanside. Though the course has added a few hills by starting a bit more inland and up on a hill, there are still no dramatic changes in elevation, such as a mountain to climb. It will be more challenging than years past, but should still be relatively quick. 

Athletes will enter onto the pier for about 100 meters, and go down the ramp to get onto the strand. The strand is flat, the ramp is up or down.

You will have an aid station approximately every mile, with the first station coming right when the strand begins. This station is normally manned by the Triathlon Club of San Diego, a rather lively group. If you are wearing anything TCSD, you’ll be cheered on like a rock star! Also, if you have your number with your first name on it, you’ll get a lot of cheers from people calling your name. It may seem small and innate, but when you’re dead tired and motoring on, it’s a big help!

The aid stations will be serving fruit, water, sports drink, Powerbars, cola, and cold sponges for cooling off. Double check the athlete guide for any changes in nutrition offered.

The key to this run is very simple, RHYTHM! If you can maintain rhythm by being relaxed, but quick, you will do very well on this run course. If you run with poor mechanics, with your head down and pounding your feet loudly on the pavement, it will be a long day for you out there.

When you’ve completed the two loops you will head into the finish line area and be greeted to stands full of cheering people. Cross the finish line and smile, strike a pose, whatever you want to remember this moment, because they will be taking a photo of you as you cross.

Congrats on your finish! If you want to read more about race nutrition guidelines and post-race events, read on...


Before discussing the post-race information, it’s important to cover the topic of race nutrition. This is always a complex topic which must take into account our individual differences in both taste and ability of our stomachs to handle what we give it.

As you probably know, most of the nutrition during a triathlon of this length takes place on the bike. Figure out approximately how long you will be on the bike, and how long out on the run course. Next, figure out how you will meet your caloric needs based on those estimations of time.

One choice some people opt for is gels during the bike. But why fumble with wrappers and worry about trash and litter? Though you can place a flask in your pocket, or on the bike, they are still small to handle and easy to drop. On the run is a better time to utilize gels and gel packets.

On the bike, most have the ability to hold 3 water bottles, 2 in the frame, and one aero-bottle in the front aerobars. In the aero-bottle it’s probably best to go with strictly water. In the other bottles, store your calories. If the calories spill out of the aero bottle, you’re in trouble.

You can pack one 24 ounce water bottle with the calories you need from your drink mix of choice, and then topped off with water and dissolved. It makes a giant gel-like substance, but easy with your one bottle, and requiring less water than a gel.

Obviously each sip taken from the calorie-packed bottle will need to be followed with a drink of plain water. This you get from the aero-bottle, or other bottle. When approaching an aid station, simply replace or refill the empty bottle.

If you use a clear 24 ounce bottle for calories, you can get visual feedback of how your nutrition intake is going. Since the course is marked in 5 mile increments, you can estimate, or use your odometer on a bike computer. When you hit 14 miles, or the marker for 15 miles, you should look down at the bottle and see that ¼ of it is empty. At 28 miles, or marker 30, half of the bottle is gone, and so on. This is excellent visual feedback, which is obvious and does not require any complex calculations to know if you’re doing things correctly. Positive feedback also boosts your confidence, since you know you are following the plan perfectly. If you are a little off, you can adjust to get back on track. Either way, you’re doing the things you need to do to have a great race.

If you can not store enough calories in one bottle, then you need to come up with some other sources at the aid stations, in order to get what you need. However, this should be minimal and fairly easy. It is good to know what the aid stations have as a contingency plan, should something go awry with your original plan, such as a dropped bottle, spilt contents, upset stomach, etc.

On the run, figure out your plan as well. Taking in a gel at every aid station would NOT be a wise decision. To take a gel at every aid station would give you 1200 calories! OUCH! That’s way too many. Don’t forget that Gatorade has calories in it too, about 50 per 8 ounce cup you consume. (NOTE: The sports drink for the race is still to be determined, so please check and do research prior to the race for caloric count).

Too many calories has negative effects, as your body must send water to the stomach and intestines to break down and attempt to absorb the calories you have consumed. This means pulling water away from the muscles, which need it badly. This is also why liquid calories are great, as they are already partially broken down and easier for the body to absorb. This is why you need to be sure and follow any caloric intake with water, in order to aid the breakdown and absorption process without disturbing the water needed in the muscles.

Whatever you do, DO NOT make race day your first time testing your nutrition plan! PLEASE! Save yourself some hard lessons, (and expensive lessons given the cost of race entry), and learn this stuff in your training. There is still plenty of time to do workouts to see what you can do to tweak the plan. This includes cola on the run. If you’ve never run with flat cola in your stomach, I would not advise doing it on race day for the first time, even though it will be offered.

The nutrition aspect of the race can seem mysterious and a lot to think about, but if you follow this advice, you’ll be able to solve the mystery and make it much easier, not even having to think about it. Less thinking about the peripheral means more focus on going hard and fast!


When you cross the finish line you will receive your well-deserved finisher’s medal and t-shirt. After receiving these, head over to the white tent. There will be the medical facilities to get treatment for anything you may need, (blisters, etc.) Just past the medical area is the massage therapy area. Get your name on the list for massage, but get in a short cool-down of some sort, such as walking or jogging easy for 10 to 15 minutes, before getting on the massage table.

Once you are feeling better, from the medical help or massage, head down further in the white tents and get yourself some food. They will be serving food from 11 AM to 4 PM. They normally serve pizza, salad, drinks and other goodies.

Later in the day, around 4 PM, the same area for eating in the white tents becomes the awards area. If you finish in the top 10 in your age group, stick around for awards because you get one. 

If you want to check for results, they tend to be posted in two areas. One is just behind the finish line, on the side of the white tent. The other place is where the awards will be, further down the white tents.

If you want to qualify for the 70.3 World Championships in September, you should attend the awards. Have your checkbook ready because you must prepay for these events at the awards ceremony. There are no IOU’s with Ironman.

After noon, you will be able to go into the transition area and gather your things. Make sure you still have your wristband and number, because security will not allow you to remove your bike without it.

Finally, if you get a chance, take the time to thank the volunteers. They give up almost an entire day to come out and support you in your endeavors, with the fulfillment of the experience as their only compensation. Quite a gesture on their part.

Best of luck, and remember to be safe and enjoy the day.

Jim Vance is a USAT Level 2 and Elite Coach for TrainingBible Coaching, and a former professional triathlete. Questions or comments can be sent to You can also follow his writings and training advice at his coaching blog,

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Another Draft-Legal Tri Power File

Yesterday, I posted some of the different power data seen from different styles of triathlon, draft-legal and non-drafting. Today I came across this power file from Sarah Haskins, which is from the same draft-legal race, but the pro-women's race.

You can see there is more time spent in the Anaerobic Capacity Zone 6, and VO2 Max Zone 5, than yesterday's non-drafting. Part of the reason this one differs from the other draft-legal data in the previous post, is because Sarah was in a break-away group off the front, doing much of the work to pull the group, with less rest than the people in bigger packs.

Sarah's Intensity Factor, (IF), for this output was over 100% of her threshold watts, so it was a high effort. She managed to hold on for 3rd, but was out-run by 2 other girls. 

Again, you can see how having power data helps us recognize the specific demands of the athletes in their races, based upon distance, style of race, and even strategy. The key to performance is recognizing this, and training for it specifically.

Look at your goal races and investigate whether the preparation you're doing matches the demands and goals you have those races.

Coach Vance

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Power Outputs of Different Triathlon Races - Draft-legal vs. Non-drafting

See the difference of these two power files? They come from 2 different triathlons, and both were excellent performances, despite how different they look. This is because the demands of a draft-legal triathlon and a typical Olympic or non-drafting race are VERY DIFFERENT. So, if you're training for one of these like it is the other's demands, chances are you're not going to do very well. (Click on images to enlarge)

This image above shows the power demands by training zones, of a draft-legal triathlon. This is also what you might see in a group ride, where riders attack and bridge gaps.

This second image shows an Olympic non-drafting power file by an age-group triathlete. You can see the difference in the demands of the energy systems placed on the rider, depending on the race. 

So if you're training for a non-drafting race, by mostly doing group rides, with attacks and bridging, then you can see you are not training specifically. And specificity is the key to high performance.

If you want to train more specifically, get a power meter and start to track the specific demands and metrics, making sure you are training those.

Coach Vance

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Swimming Breakthroughs

Can you really see a big swimming breakthrough simply from sitting thru a lecture on swim technique? The answer is yes. Here's a perfect example, and I receive at least one of these after each time I do these lectures. 


I have meant to respond to you since attending your clinic.  I sat near the front, we talked for a few minutes after your presentation, I was a swimmer and water polo player in high school and college many years ago.

I wanted you to know what a huge difference your technique made for me. I was doing a 400 in about 6:07 before your lecture, and after on my first swim I did a 400 in 5:34.  I was so amazed, I had to do another just to make sure I hadn't misread the clock or something. What an astounding difference! Mostly just from aggressively reaching and throwing my arms forward. My 100 speed went from 1:30 to under 1:25.

Your presentation was well organized and very informative. Obviously also very helpful for me.  Thanks so much!

Andy Sweet"

Most athletes hop into the water and just start swimming. They see other swimmers, and think, "Ok, throw one arm in front of the other, and that's swimming." That's like saying golf is as easy as swinging a stick at a ball, and watching it just go into the hole. 

Ever gone to the store and bought a product that has "some assembly required"? You pull out the pieces, and set the directions to the side, not even giving them a glance. You just start putting the product together like you think it should be, based on how it appears on the cover of the box. Then you get about half-way to three-quarters done and realize the item you've got and the one on the box don't look alike. You realize, "Oh yeah, probably time to go back and read the directions." Sound familiar? 

Many us approach swimming this way. We just hop into the water, without reading the directions and understanding what it is we want to accomplish in the water, to make swimming truly happen. There comes a point when going back and reading the directions are needed. That's what the lecture I gave was about. If you missed it, you can still get the information two ways:

1. View the webinar at, called Learning and Understanding the 3 Most Important Technical Aspects of Swimming. (CEU's available for USAT Coaches).

2. Download the talk with the videos and the slides, from my store.

If you're struggling with swimming, stop. Go back and read the directions, and get a fresh new perspective, so you know what it is you want/need to accomplish.

Coach Vance

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Precise Monitoring of Athlete Training

I recently have begun training a cyclist who lives in Australia, and he just got a power meter. We spent the first few weeks with me prescribing some training, with no real idea how well the execution of the workouts was going. I had to just take his word for it.

Once we got the power meter, we did a field test to find an FTP of 280 watts, and then established his power zones. I prescribed some Zone 2 riding to help build his aerobic endurance, (goal was at least 50% of ride time in Z2 on a flat to rolling course, 151-212 watts), since he has a VERY long road race in a just a few weeks.

When I went to the review the file, it was clear the goal of the workout was not accomplished. You can see what I noticed here: (click on images to enlarge)

You can see how I was able to see what actual energy systems the athlete was training, and how the choice of course affected the stress. If all I had was him telling me how it went, or heart-rate data alone, I would not really have been able to see how effectively he was training according to the plan.

This post is not meant to throw the athlete, "under the bus", but help to show the power of data as a communication tool between athletes and coaches. This athlete is learning how to train, and power data is helping to facilitate the learning.

The data is helping me to assess his strengths and weaknesses, and make sure the training addresses those, allowing for precise monitoring and prescribing of training for the athlete.

If you're not using data, this is just some of what you're missing, and how you might not be training as precisely as you think.

Coach Vance

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Underwater Swim Video Clinics and Downloads

If you missed my talk at B+L on The 3 Technical Aspects of Swimming, you missed a great event, with over 80 people in attendance! You can download the talk here, complete with the underwater videos we reviewed.

I'm doing 2 underwater swim video clinics in San Diego, the next 2 Sundays, which provide:

- Video of left and right sides, front angle as well.
- Videos belong to the athlete, will be emailed.
- Breakdown and review of the video with the coach.
- Pool time with Coach on deck after video session to practice and reinforce technical changes.

Here's the venue:

Sessions are Sunday, Feb 19th, 10 AM - 12 PM, and Sunday, Feb 26th, 12-2 PM, both at Cathedral Catholic High School. Both sessions are limited to 10 people only! (The 19th has only 3 spots remaining).

Cost of session: $110
If you'd like to schedule your own session with me: $125, or $200 for 2 people.

If you're looking for to make the next jump in your swim, this is the opportunity.

Email me to register at

Friday, February 10, 2012

Swim Lecture with Video Analysis

As I mentioned in the previous post, I will be doing a public speaking event, helping to explain the technical aspects of swimming, keeping them simplified, filtering thru the depth of information to what is most important. Below is the info if you're interested, and if you can't attend you can click the link on the right to find my webinars with the topics, or look for the recording and presentation in my Coach Vance store...

If you're struggling with getting faster in the water, TrainingBible Elite Coach Jim Vance will explain and simplify what is most important to go faster in the water. He will also share some underwater video footage from swimmers to better understand the application of the technical discussion.

What: Learning and Understanding the 3 Technical Aspects of Swmming
Cost: FREE! Food and drinks will be served
When: Wednesday, Feb 15th, 2012
6:15-7:45 PM
Where: B+L South Store
3603 Camino Del Rio West
San Diego, CA 92110

You can RSVP for the event here:

Hope you can make it...

Coach Vance

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Coaching Endorsement

Saw this great interview with Gerry Rodrigues, one of the foremost authorities on the sport of swimming, especially within triathlon. He discusses many of the issues facing triathletes when trying to learn to swim faster. You can read this interview here, but I felt honored to be mentioned in this excerpt:

"The horizon: Fortunately, with triathlon becoming an Olympic sport in 2000, more substantive coaches are entering the space, raising the present mark of swim coaching and triathlon coaching in general. There are many good swim coaches for triathletes; unfortunately, many do not publish. Here are some examples worth following when they do publish: Swim Smooth (Paul Newsome); Jim Vance; Mike Collins; Joel Filliol; Brett Sutton; Matt Dixon. These coaches together, along with a few others, are the future for triathlon swimming."

That is a who's who of triathlon coaching, and I feel honored to be a part of it. I will be announcing a speaking event and some swim clinics in San Diego shortly. Stay tuned.

Coach Vance