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

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