Friday, January 31, 2014

How High of CTL for Ironman Bike?

If you're using TrainingPeaks software to train for your Ironman event, you likely are using their Performance Management Chart, (PMC). Chronic Training Load, or CTL, is one of the key metrics in the chart. It's the long term Training Stress Score, (TSS), average. How long is long term? The default setting is 6 weeks, as a 42 day rolling average.

So when you upload your data from your ride, the software reads the samples from the data and compares those with your FTP to calculate how stressful the ride was, and then takes that score and averages it with the previous 41 days. I actually use the software to keep a separate PMC just for cycling.

The question many have when they train for an Ironman event is, "How high should my bike CTL get?" The answer to this question is, (like almost all training questions), related to your goals for the event. For example, if your goal is to simply finish the race, then a lower CTL is fine, but if you're trying to qualify for Kona, or win your age group, then you likely need a much higher CTL. If you're a pro, trying to earn a paycheck, or win the race, you should probably be even higher than what the top age grouper is achieving. If you're trying to win Kona as a pro, then you likely need an even higher CTL.

If you're looking for a bike-only CTL value to achieve in your training, the number is likely going to be related to your FTP value. Why? Because usually, the higher the FTP of the athlete, the higher the performance goal. Here's a chart for you to use based on your goals, and what I have found to be the tendency among the different types of athletes.

With sharing this chart, there are 4 important things to keep in mind...

1. This is just a guideline for PEAK CTL VALUES, mostly for seasonal planning purposes. Because of that, there will be people who don't fall into these guidelines, but I do find a majority of athletes do. I don't find there is much need to list a mid-pack athlete, since they vary the most in terms of background and training styles.

2. Your swim, bike and run skill will also play a role in whether or not you would achieve these goals. Again, this is a guideline for your bike training, knowing how much is enough, or a range of what might be enough.

3. The course an athlete races for their goal event is a big determinant of the value one should achieve as well. For the Kona Qualifier Pro and Pro Podium at Kona, that is course specific to Kona. The Age Group Kona Qualifer is general for all courses, since age groupers qualify at many different individual races. There is a big difference between qualifying at Ironman Lanzarote and Ironman Florida.

4. Your FTP will likely, (and should), improve throughout the season. For some it will improve more than others. This means your initial CTL value goal will likely change a little, so give yourself a range, or be prepared to adjust it as the season goes.

How can you use this information? Look at the end of your season, what your FTP was, the peak CTL value you achieved, and what your goal was for the event, and see how well you lined up with this chart. (Please share in the comments your results as well). You can then use this information to better assess your training, set new or different bike CTL goals for your upcoming events, and use those goals to help motivate you in your training.

Lastly, CTL doesn't win races, performance does. No awards or Kona slots for who had the highest CTL. Don't get hung up on CTL. Make sure you are seeing the performance gains you want in your training first and foremost. It's all about balancing training stress, this is just a guide to use and better understand your training, so you can improve it.

Good luck!

Coach Vance

Thursday, January 23, 2014

3 days off from running?

I coach a runner who really enjoys snowboarding. This athlete will travel to Mammoth Mountain on a monthly basis, trying to catch great powder. This athlete has modest goals for running, and certainly is only motivated by the desire to improve, not a specific race.

One of the issues which we discussed is that during these typical 3-day trips, it is important that they run at least one time during the 3 days. The athlete claims the weekend spent snowboarding is taxing on the legs and not really a rest day, which I understand and agree with. But in the sense of training and specificity, you need to keep running consistently to improve.

To better define consistency, I would say you should not have a 3-day break from running. You can get away with 2 days once a month, maybe twice, but once you go beyond that, you are beginning to lose opportunities to improve, and affect your consistency. If you have very high, competitive goals, I would reduce that number to not missing 2 days in a row of running.

If you're injured, that's a different story. But even then, if you can keep your injury healing time down to 2 days, maybe 3, you're not losing much fitness if you've been consistent. Once you go beyond that, bad news. So when you see an injury coming, give it the attention and therapy it needs right away, and you can better keep your consistency, and not lose fitness.

Remember, you lose fitness about 3 times faster than you gain it. 2 days off can help you recover and stay healthy, but once you get to 3 days off, you're losing fitness.

Coach Vance

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ironman World Champs Pacing and Downhill Segments Study

If you read this blog regularly, you know I do a lot of study on triathlon race dynamics, especially the Ironman World Championships. There is a fantastic study I was a part of over the course of almost 2 years, with students and staff from the University of Connecticut, and was recently published in The Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. We found some very interesting correlations between performance and downhill pacing, at the Ironman World Championships.

Specifically, we saw that athletes who maintained faster relative speeds on downhill segments, and who had smaller changes in HR between consecutive up and downhill segments were more successful relative to their goal times. The study shows where these segments were in the race, according to the bike and run course profiles. You can read the study here.

Many thanks to Evan C. Johnson, J. Luke Pryor, Douglas J. Casa, Luke N. Belval, Julie K. DeMartini, Carl M. Maresh, and Lawrence E. Armstrong on their hard work to make this great study happen.


Coach Vance