Thursday, February 18, 2016

Observations and Experiences at 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials

I attended the US Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles, this past Saturday. It was an incredible event, and as much as I have been critical of USATF in the past, this is one event they do very well, and do it right. They are to be commended on their venue, sponsors, course, and coverage via TV, internet and media.

As I watched the event, and especially post-race, there were some things which really stood out to me that every athlete should take away, whether racing at the Olympic Trials, or simply going after a PR or some other major goal for themselves personally.

Watching the race on TV, or just reviewing it through the media, you'd think it was all celebrations and happiness. You saw the heartache of the 4th place finishers, and felt bad for them, I'm sure. But you walk away seeing 3 happy people and only 1 sad or disappointed athlete per gender. But that's not really what happens when you're there.

I was watching the race and seeing athletes who were DNF's, limping, crying, sitting alone with their heads down, before the races were even finished. I saw athletes cross the finish line in tears, realizing they hadn't run very fast in terms of time, which had a lot to do with the course and conditions. But they also hadn't been where they thought they might be.

I saw family members of athletes needed to be consoled. I stood with Luke Puskedra's mom at the finish line, who was holding his daughter, while she stressed about the fact her son was in 4th and trying to grab that last Olympic spot toward the finish from Jared Ward. It didn't happen for him.

There were 211 men qualified, and 246 women. You saw 3 finish and make the team. Think about that for a second. Over 450 athletes who qualified for the event, trying to live their dream and accomplish their likely life-long goal, didn't achieve it. Only 6 did. But if you watched TV, it was all about the fulfillment of an Olympic dream, as though each athlete was going to have that happen. But it doesn't.

Sometimes you don't get what you want. There are plenty of tears, plenty of upset athletes, but we highlight the few happy ones on TV. The truth is we call it competition for a reason. Someone loses, and usually more people lose than win.

You can do all the work and not reach your goal. You can do everything perfectly, and it can still not be good enough. This is hard for athletes to comprehend and understand some times but it is a reality of competing. And of course, it is very rare we do everything right in preparation and training, as well as execute a perfect race.

One can and should be happy to make the Olympic Trials, but telling these athletes that is like telling you good job after you fell short of a dream result at your key race. I'm sure it is little consolation if you really committed and cared about the result.

So what is my point? My point is that when you decide to take this performance journey, you aren't promised anything. You likely should be promised that you won't be successful, especially as the goals begin to reach elite levels. You might come close, but you aren't deserving of the result you want just because you work hard and are dedicated. Winning and high performance is about a combination of ability, fitness, coaching, strategy, health, commitment, race execution, and even luck. Many athletes think because they have some ability and commitment, they should see the results. But that's only a part of the high performance puzzle.

I'm not trying to push you away from trying, but I am trying to get you to not focus on the result. The process of going after your goal is the real rewarding aspect of sport.

Be patient, and don't expect anything. Have confidence in your preparation that you have the opportunity to perform at the level you want, or the goals you want, but to expect these to happen just because you worked hard isn't realistic. Yes, you likely aren't going for an Olympic team spot, so you're not competing against the elites, but you likely are competing against a much larger population base than the Olympic Trials athletes were. There's probably more than 200+ athletes in your category, or chasing the championship level you are.

You will have set-backs. You will fail and get beat at certain races. You might even hate the people who beat you, but it will happen. Does this mean you wasted your time? ABSOLUTELY NOT. You will learn more about yourself in the losses than the accomplishments.

Just keep in mind, it isn't all Olympic berths for everyone, or happy endings. You're taking on this challenge of sport because it isn't easy. So don't expect easy, promised results. But this also makes the great results you do have, that much more rewarding.

Coach Vance

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Babbittville Radio Interview - Triathlon 2.0

Bob Babbitt this past weekend invited me to go on his radio show live and discuss a number of topics, from my new books, Triathlon 2.0 and Run With Power, to Triathlon at the Olympic Games, high school development of runners and triathletes, as well as USAT's approach to athlete development. Take a listen, as I think if any of these topics interest you, you'll enjoy the show.

Coach Vance

Monday, February 15, 2016

W/kg at FTP of Elite Ironman Triathletes

A few years ago, I asked myself, "Just what type of rider has it historically taken to be a top level long course triathlete?" When I sat down to find the answer, it lead me on a journey that ultimately lead to writing the book, Triathlon 2.0: Data Driven Performance Training. The goal was to see what the data says the performance requirements are to be at the highest level. This eventually led me to wondering what the different levels of performance requirements were for different genders, ages and goals, thus the book.

The elites I gathered information on, I wanted to know what their FTP was on the bike, (bFTP), and what their w/kg @ FTP was. I even took some non-long course triathletes to see how they compared. I always wondered if there was a power profile for triathletes, that could be created, like Coggan had created for cyclists. It became clear it wasn't that simple, as the population of triathletes is much more diverse than cyclists in terms of strengths/weaknesses, but that w/kg @ FTP still matters. So I am going to share some of the items from my book in the coming posts, which help show what the level of the sport is for Ironman triathletes, from age group males and females to elites.

But before I share the age-group power profiles, I will share the elite profiles. Some of these are from publicly available information, such as power files, blogs, websites, and more. Some of these are estimates, but based on many known variables, so I am confident they are very close. (Even those that are estimated are only a few.) This table is a few years old, but I haven't shared it until now, so it could have some changes, especially in the accomplishments category. It's also possible athletes could have lost or gained more mass, and even raised or lowered their FTP. For example, it is quite possible and believable based on Tim O'Donnell's 2015 performances that his numbers on this chart have improved. This was really just a snapshot in time, but a good picture of what it takes to perform at the highest levels.

The Power Profile Ranking would be where the athlete would rank on Coggan's power profile as a cyclist. I didn't list each athlete's ranking, just highlighted a few thresholds where the categories changed or were most important. You'll notice I also included women, highlighted in blue, and some of them have better w/kg values than the men. This shows how some of the top women are very competitive, sometimes even against the men.

(Click on image to enlarge)

What does this chart mean for you? If you're looking to compare yourself against the best, you now have a barometer to measure against. 

Is it all about w/kg @ FTP? Not necessarily, as it depends on the course. If the course is flat to rolling, maximal FTP relative to aerodynamic drag matters most, but this drag value won't vary significantly would be my guess, making max FTP the most important. If the course is extremely hilly, w/kg matters much more. 

But notice the amount of wins, podiums, etc, and the prestige of the accomplishments are concentrated near the top. Want to get better? Raise your w/kg @ FTP. 

Anyway, the point was to share this type of information and data with the triathlon community. If this is the type of stuff you love, to measure yourself and use data, I am pretty sure you'll love my book

Enjoy, and good luck in your training and racing!

Coach Vance

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Opinion: I Can't Celebrate Galen Rupp's Win at US Olympic Marathon Trials

In a continued theme of sharing my opinion on controversial topics of endurance sports, I will share my thoughts after attending The US Olympic Marathon Trials at Los Angeles this past weekend.

If you have read my blog recently, you know my feelings on *Ryan Hall. I understand and appreciate the commitment to performance at the highest level of sport. But once you cross into an area where you are trying to find loopholes in the doping regulations, you are becoming a doper yourself. If you can't sustain a level of training without medication designed solely and specifically to help you sustain it, you're cheating. It's doping. 

In the 2012 London Olympics, the men's 10,000 meter run was probably one of the most exciting races for an American I have watched in distance running in my entire lifetime. Galen Rupp, like *Ryan's great performances, had me in awe, excited about the future of the sport of distance running in this country.

But then the truth began to come out. And it is no surprise that Galen Rupp, like *Ryan Hall, is in the same category, training under Alberto Salazar and his Nike Oregon Project, (NOP), and has been a part of not just thyroid medication, but is accused and being investigated for a series of anti-doping violations, including testosterone treatments.

So I will now refer to *Galen Rupp with an asterisk as well, (as well as *Alberto Salazar), from this point forward. But even worse, as I watched a great race unfold in LA, I saw a winner of a race celebrated, as though there is no fire where there is smoke.

(Full disclosure: Meb is my friend, and I have known him for 21 years, since we were both 18, training some together in college, and racing each other a lot. I was obviously cheering for him, but he is on the Olympic Team, and that was the main goal, whether winning the race or getting 3rd).

Even worse, in what I can only describe as disgusting and disillusioned, is the response of much of the running community, toward those who are speaking out. One quick look to the YouTube video comments on Kara Goucher's post-race comments, and LetsRun threads on her comments, and you would think she was a doper, based on how they treat her. (It's one of the reasons I don't contribute to message boards like that.) To sum it up, they are burning her on the cross for even making the allegations, despite the fact she is supported in her statements by her own experience, other individuals and a lot of evidence. It's like Lance Armstrong, Part 2. To shoot them down is to treat them like Greg Lemond was treated, or Paul Kimmage, or others who tried to speak out but their careers were ruined because people didn't want to believe something so good could be so wrong. *Galen and *Salazar may be winning races, but they are not above the rules. And they are not above answering to the evidence. They are innocent until proven guilty, but let's not act like strong suspicions shouldn't be considered, when the evidence is mounting.

One can argue the timing looks bad, because she got 4th and it is at a major event. I think the timing is exactly the right time, when the sport is in the public's eye, and she can show she did things the right way and was still successful, while the ones we believe are cheating won.

I respect Kara Goucher. I respect her husband Adam. They were a part of Salazar's NOP crew, and left because they knew what was happening was wrong. Adam decided to walk away from the sport and keep his conscience. I wish I could say the same about others. I have heard some say they both did the things within the NOP, so they are guilty too. The difference is they left because of it. They spoke out against it. They didn't wait until it became news and then suddenly were against it. They've never once tried to defend it, or hide any of it. They didn't get caught and then have to apologize. They've spoken out from the beginning.

I hope this is completed and settled before the Olympics for *Galen and *Alberto, so if they are innocent, some can celebrate them. I won't be able to do so, nor remove the asterisks though, because they are just like *Ryan, trying to loophole the anti-doping regulations. To me that is doping. But if they are guilty of even more, I would rather have the clean athletes representing my country.

Coach Vance

Friday, February 12, 2016

TBC Podcast on Running Power Meters

If you're looking to learn more about running power meters, the boys from TrainingBible Coaching, Scott and Adam, had me on their show to discuss the new book coming out in May on this new technology. You can listen to it here:

Title: Part 3 Running Power Meters

It was a great interview, where I begin to explain some of the cool features, as well as complexities of this new technology. The book will help answer more questions in depth, in terms of the application of how to use your running power meter to train more effectively. I even discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the different products out there currently.

You can pre-order the book, Run With Power, here:

I will be sharing more info on the technology and how to use it, at the TrainingPeaks blog, the blog, and here at this one as well. If you have specific questions you would like me to address or discuss, please comment here, or email me at j vance at training bible dot com.

Coach Vance

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Triathlon 2.0 - Data Driven Performance Training Now Available

I am happy to announce that a book I have been working on for almost 4 years has finally come to fruition. Triathlon 2.0 - Data Driven Performance Training is a book for those athletes who want to use numbers, data and technology to maximize performance. If you use a power meter for cycling, and a GPS for running, this will help you maximize it.

The idea of this book is not to be a numbers drone, training without creativity. In fact, it's the exact opposite. This book is about identifying what metrics are most important to you, as an individual athlete, based on your strengths and weaknesses, and then following those metrics to see how you are responding to the training plan you create. This book will also help you set up some goal thresholds to meet, and ways to assess how you're racing, what your training might need to address.

There's never been a book like this. It doesn't have training plans, it lets you be the coach and learn to be better at coaching, whether coaching other athletes or yourself. I am sure you will enjoy this book, and learn at least a few things you can use and learn to better examine your power and run data. The better you train, the more confident and fitter you are at the start line. 

You can order the book by clicking on the image, or going to this link:

Good luck! 

Coach Vance