Get Stronger

Strength training is a secondary thought for many endurance triathletes. A common push back is: why spend an hour on strength when you swim, bike, or run? This is odd though because most endurance sports are strength based at their core.

Taking the basic argument to task, there are a number of reasons why, and for most of us, as we get get older, the strength training becomes more important. Being able to compete in your 50’s and 60’s will be based on what you do before that. And without a significant strength base, injury is very likely. Repeatedly being injured will ultimately result in the inability to train, and no training equals no racing.

During this Covid caused downtime, strength has been a nice new focus to my routine. Over the last four months I have increased to 3 days a week which has brought with it some great strength gains. These translate into better performance on the bike and swim but also for holding the form on long runs. I have been measuring progress but should have very specific results in a few weeks (Lake Placid training camp).

My primary strength training has been with a coach over live remote sessions. This allows him to still push me to the edge and lets him work on my weak areas. Most of the sessions are high intensity and have my heart rate fluctuating between 115 and 150 for an hour.

Getting solid results don’t require much in terms of equipment or space. A pullup bar, yoga mat, and some basic weights are all you need to focus on the muscles groups most used in training and racing.

As for the workouts, we include things like planks, squats, lunges, push ups and pull ups. There is nothing crazy needed just stick to the basics. Create circuits that cover each muscle group and try to get through each circuit without breaks. Slowly add in the weights as you get stronger and remember to stretch after each session.

To give an idea of what a simple circuit might look like:

  1. 15-25 pushups
  2. 10 lunges each leg
  3. 10 squat shoulder press
  4. 5 pullups
  5. 45 second plank

Repeat this circuit 4-5 times with minimal breaks between the exercises and sets. This hits most of the major muscle groups used during a triathlon, doesn’t require much space, and will keep you stronger and injury free for longer. An added benefit is that if you are pushing yourself, the heart rate will be up there as well. As this becomes easier, begin to add light weights to the lunges and shoulder presses, and up the reps. The above will take about 30 minutes, but that is all you need to see improvements. When done, if there is still time, use another 5-10 minutes to stretch afterwards.

A last note, and this is important: DON’T SKIP THE HARD THINGS! They are hard because we are not proficient. If push-ups are difficult but squats are easy, focus on the push-ups. Use this off season time to work on the weaknesses but maintain the strengths, and don’t cheat on the form. Nobody is watching. Make sure you execute the best form possible even if it means less reps. This also prevents injury, but more importantly helps to develop the full muscle range of motion.

Does it all work? Time will tell but, last year, I put in pretty good racing volume including a full Iron, four half Irons, and a couple of half marathons (5k’s not included, but some of those too). It was my biggest race volume year ever, and being able to get through it I credit a lot to a solid strength program.

Is Virtual Racing Worth It?

Keeping the rope tight during a year without racing is very hard for athletes to do. We sacrifice all for the glory of a finisher medal and sweet tech-tee. Time with the family, outings with friends, late nights etc all take a backseat when you are embarking on 5+ hour brick workouts every weekend. But the motivation of performing well in a big race is the reward for the hard work.

These days many local and some of the bigger outfits are trying to keep the momentum going through the introduction of virtual racing. WTC has run a number of VR races with a few even offering 70.3 WC slots. But the question remains, are they worth it?

Let’s consider some of the pros:

  • A virtual race can help as a significant training boost
  • Engages some of the competitive spirit many athletes have
  • Creates a way to focus and put in the work
  • Keeps races and charities going until next year

And some of the negatives:

  • Hard to actually race someone when you can’t see them
  • Courses are not apples to apples
  • There is still the cloud of uncertainty around results

Having participated in an early VR challenge, I went in thinking the competition was mostly against myself. With my setup I am able to quickly go from the Wahoo trainer to the treadmill and complete a duathlon very easily. I self timed, measured my treadmill, and tracked my overall time including transition. This total time was what I took as the performance result. This is not how the VR challenges or any number of virtual races are held though. The guidance is simply a time frame (often days) for completion of the legs. This allows racers to break the legs up and complete them after recovery. Transition is not part of the racing and not included in the time. There is also no mention of altitude adjustments or compensation for hilly vs. flat courses, and let’s not talk about wind. So when I looked at my time, it was very different from others. This was expected.

Besides just uploading duathlon segments, there are other options are available for running and cycling. Some of these are live, and, having completed a number of Zwift cycling races, they are very competitive and actually give you a start, finish, and live view of other racers. This is very engaging and there are pro leagues and streamed racing available. This space will grow in the future.

Sadly, on Zwift and other platforms the ability for lower tier B,C, and D racers to “fudge the numbers” remains high and may dramatically affect the outcome of a race. Even using Zwift’s own w/kg recommendations for choosing your most competitive tier, keeping up with others who should be of similar ability is very difficult. It is like lining up in the 1:30 half marathon time corral and everyone running a 1:15. Why is that a problem? After the initial 400+ watt push from the starting line if you don’t make that front pack, your race is almost over just a few minutes in. The main reason for this is that there is a common pattern to most Zwift races, and if you don’t ride in a pack, it is very hard to keep up. So when people are pushing unrealistic numbers, it takes the joy out of the race and turns it into a FTP exercise.

Does this reflect IRL (in-real-life)? Having ridden with many others during races and on training rides, the online seems to be full of sandbaggers. People who are purposely distorting their capabilities to achieve a better finish result. But there are a few other things to consider in the equation as well.

In online racing outcomes can be affected in a number of ways. A popular method is weight doping. People who adjust their weight down to appear as though they are pushing a higher w/kg thus going much faster online. Another issue is inaccurate gear or simply different equipment for tracking performance. Someone racing on a smart trainer vs. a fluid trainer will not have the same precision of measurement. Even trainer to trainer can vary by as much as 20-30 watts on the same effort. Lastly, Internet connections can interrupt your ability to make moves with a group or worse yet, if your connection drops, your avatar stops moving. This has happened to me in the finishing sprint on a race, and is the worst!

Are they worth it? For free, if they scratch the competitive itch, then for sure. If the race supports a charity (many do) and you are behind that charity, then absolutely. If you just need SOMETHING to work towards go for it. However, if you are looking for the feeling of running someone down in the finishing stretch, blowing by dozens of people on the bike, or the adrenaline boost of fans cheering you on maybe not so much. If you are expecting your local route to be as hard or easy as someone else’s, be careful. Seeing your results against others may leave you feeling discouraged and questioning your fitness. Just be sure of what you are looking for before you enter, take it with a grain of salt that you can only judge yourself and not others, and don’t take the overall results too seriously for now. Virtual racing is still new, it will get better, but until then it is hard to treat the results as realistic and reflective of what might happen at an actual race.

Finding the Extra Gear on Run Training

We all work on our speed as best we can. For the endurance athelete this may not amount to much but throwing in solid tempo and interval training can be extremely beneficial come race day.

One of the secrets I use to hold a faster than normal pace at the end of a long workout, is to finish on a long gradual downhill. Is that cheating? Not at all. Unless someone is bringing you to the top of the incline you earned the descent. But by lining up the decline during a time in your run that you might be struggling to keep pace, it allows you to push a bit harder on the turnover thus holding your pace more effectively.

I live in a very hilly area and there are a number of different ‘courses’ that I will explore. Some are a long 2 or 3 mile uphill, others are a more steep but shorter route. Depending on the goals of the workout depends which direction I take. One thing I do try to avoid though is ‘wasted descent’. This is running down hills so steep you have to put the brakes on a bit and can not go full throttle. These types of hills are better to run up, to gain the strength than they are to run down.

So on your next long run, when you need an extra boost, try to time it so you hit the hardest sections alongside a nice mild downhill.

Ironman Lake Placid 70.3 2021

Aw come on, we are losing 2021 races now too! Now that the IMLP 70.3 is off the books for 2021 what does that mean?

For starters it seems like the IMLP 140.6 is going to be THE race of the year in the Northeast. With many of the other Northeast WTC races discontinued, and all of the deferred entries carried over, this will be a very desired race with few remaining spots.

Will the 70.3 take place in 2022? Unkonown, but the original contract with the village was for 3 years which would expire in 2021. Considering some of the financial hits WTC will take this year, it is anyones guess if the 70.3 continues. From personal experience though, that time of year is tough in that area. The weather is unpredictable and can cause many second thoughts for followup racers and a sellout is not a guarantee, especially with Mont Tremblant competing for the Canadian crowd as well.

Will the 140.6 happen? It would be very disappointing if it did not. These races are not just something athletes look forward to. The village of Lake Placid, businesses, coaches, gyms…all depend on events like this taking place. Time will tell, fingers crossed.

Are there any alternatives in the area? Well Tupper Lake has Tinman which is a 70.3 held towards the end of June. It wasn’t held this year because of the ‘rona, but if things are safe there is a good chance it will be up for 2021. I have a feeling this will also be very popular as athletes look to get back into the mix of things.

In the meantime we can push with personal challenges on the Placid course, explore new routes, and train like we were racing. Even if the carrot is not there and we don’t have the typical ways to test ourselves, we can sleep later, enjoy the extra beer, and see the family before noon on the weekend. Not the worst scenario.

Simple Zwift Hack

Everyone wants the flashy Tron bike in Zwift. It is one of the fastest bikes available, let’s people know you can spin the wheels. To earn this bike though, you must climb a significant amount. You must complete an Everest summit challenge and continue climbing for over 40,000 meters more, until you’ve reached 50,000 meters total.

The trick I have employed revolves mostly around workouts and fixed wattage rides vs. free rides. When I have a specific workout to do, I will always choose Alpe Du’ Zwift to ride. Because the wattages will be pre-selected by the workout, it will be the same effort on a flat course as it will up the Alpe. This gives you essentially free climbing numbers that you may not have gotten on a flat course for the exact same amount of work.

Faster Triathlon Run Legs

Triathletes will spend thousands on a set of bike wheels to gain a few watts advantage. Most of the time, this equals only seconds over the shorter distance races. Even on long courses the time savings is often minimal with a high financial outlay.

Here we will talk about a technique that runners have used forever, but is rarely discussed with new triathletes. Running the tangents.

What does running the tangents mean? Essentially it means running the shortest distance possible on a course. In order to do this, you must run in the straightest line possible, and on the inside edges of all turns, or from inside edge to inside edge. On a particularly curvey course there is a significant amount of distance to make up by taking the inside edges, and the straightest course possible. To give an idea, on an 8 lane track, the outside lane can be over 50 meters longer than the inside lane per lap. In Ironman Lake Placid, because of the winding River Road out and back, I have measured almost a quarter mile of difference on the marathon by running the tangents. If you run at 8:00/mi pace, that is 2 minutes in the bank and it didn’t even cost you anything.

The difficulty here is staying focused on the path and not the pain. It is doubly difficult because we tend to run in the shoulder while training, and this has become a habit for many people. So when they travel to bigger races and the shoulder is not the only place to run (often times the full road or lane is closed) there is no thought to adjust course. However, the wider the path the bigger the possible gains. As easy as it sounds though, even for those that are focused, when we tire out towards the end of the race we tend to follow an edge of the road instead of keeping our lines straight. We also drift considerably due to aid stations and passing other runners. This zigzagging costs time and energy.

So practice running more efficiently by taking the shortest and straightest route between points and turns, and when that isn’t possible for safety reasons, visualize it during practice. In your mind review the course map and know where the turns are and be ready when they come. Doing this will help running the tangents become second nature and the results will yield better results for your run legs.

Staying Cool In a Triathlon

It always amazed me that even though most longer foot races such as marathons and half marathons are only really done in the Spring and Fall, plenty of triathletes are running the distance during the Summer. On top of that, usually at the peak of the sun and heat for the day.

Heat management and fluid management is a crucial component in successful racing. While so far in my races I have never DNF’ed, there have been a few times that facing the heat on a second lap run leg was making me waver. Here are a few things I have learned to do in order to stay cool and keep the finish streak alive.

First, although this article won’t be about fluid management or intake, it is worth mentioning that cold liquids can help to keep you cool. For any race over an Olympic distance, I have found that grabbing a water AND a sports drink at each aid area is key. Why both? The water is for pouring over your head, the sports drink is for the electrolytes, and carbs. Even if you only sip, take them both because you don’t get that station back.

If the race has ice, I will skip the water and take a cup of ice. I may put a piece in my mouth, but normally I will dump the cup into my hat, and run with it melting and dripping down my body cooling me off. Usually this will last until the next aid station with ice (many times every other), and I can reload. I have done some exceptionally hot (Miami, New Hampshire, Syracuse) half-Iron races that would have been nearly impossible without this approach. The same holds true for full distance racing.

What type of hat? Mountain Hardware makes a fantastic long brimmed, comfortable and easy to wash hat that I will use for races. Some of the race swag hats are also pretty good for keeping cool as they are normally white and thin, but won’t hold as much ice.

At some races sponges are a good alternative to ice, and putting them in a hat or in your jersey will help keep you cool as well. These tend to run out though and may not be there for the second lap or later racers.

Another method I am a growing fond of is the cooling neck gaiter. These also serve to keep the sun off of the neck, which can be a saving grace when you try to sleep that night. In my last Ironman, someone on the run informed me of my ‘beet red’ neck. I thanked him for his concern, let him know it was generations of fair skin in the making, and left him staring at the red blur pulling away in a painfully fatigued gait. So my recommendation on this is a Mission Cooling Gaiter.

A few other things that can help marginally are to unzip your jersey to within the rule limit. Normally this is about to the diaphragm. It doesn’t help much but it is something. Also when it is very hot I will try to pull back slightly on the sections of the course with no shade cover and push the areas that are protected. This may not seem meaningful, but it can help avoid the red line. Sometimes, once you overheat, there is no coming back.

Some things to avoid in the heat. Don’t pour the Gatorade over your head. Sticky. Also consider avoiding the sprinklers and hoses that some people put out. I have made the mistake of running through these to cool off, only to find my shoes soaked, heavy, and blister machines from then on. This is a judgement call though. If the heat is too much, it is better to take the wet shoes on but still finish the race.

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Lake Placid Ironman 2020

We are all very disappointed with the cancellation not only of IMLP and the IMLP 70.3, but the season as a whole. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anyway to still get out and enjoy the Lake Placid area. In fact, taking some time to explore the area without the race pressures may be even better for some people. Here are a few reasons to visit the area, and a few potentially new things to try out.

Trail running on Cobble Hill, Heaven Hill and the Peninsula Trails. All three areas are runable from town although Heaven Hill is pushing 4 miles each way, plus the loops. All three also offer some great views for the work done, and may also be a good option for family hikes. One person runs ahead while the rest enjoy the walk and scenery. Be sure to find the Lake Placid dam on the Peninsula trails and take the Big Field loop for a great vista in Heaven Hill. For a more challenging out and back check out Haystack Mountain just out of town on 86. A large trailhead for parking, hard to get lost, with a tough last mile to the summit. (About 6.6 miles round trip run. Feels like 7)

Stand Up paddleboarding on Mirror Lake. Put in behind the clamshell at Mid’s Park or down at the beach and take your time going up and down the lake with plenty of chances to jump off in the middle. One training cheat we like to do is the family paddles while I swim behind them. This way we all get to spend time together, it is a bit safer if I get into trouble, and everyone gets something out of it. There are rentals at EMS and toward the beach but they fill up fast. Instead of renting we bring our own; here is a link to the SUP we use on the lake. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CX991PJ/ref=as_li_qf_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=floatspingwal-20&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07CX991PJ&linkId=6c7ada6a41439507aa39d262775826dd

Pavement porn on 86 from the top of Papa Bear down to the Whiteface Veterans’ Memorial Highway. You might only have to pedal once after you reach Papa Bear now that the road has been repaved. A nice and easy downhill ride. Meet the family at the base of the mountain before you head up for some great views on the top of Whiteface. Either ride back into town or put the bike in the car and take the easy way back.

Check out the waterfalls that the bike course passes. High Falls Gorge is out of town on 86, and is a nice river walk along graded trails with a stairway that takes you down and into the gorge that the falls are in. The kids love this, especially the clear platform that juts out from the cliff. If you follow 86 a bit further than the gorge, over the bridge, where there is a pull over on the right and left sides of the road. The right side has a short hike down to the river with nice views and rock hopping for the kids. Take the other side to hike up the river and towards Whiteface. This is a fun area for mountain biking as well. Don’t forget the water and bug spray.

This page contains affiliate links, and each linked purchase equals #CommissionsEarned (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

5 Non-Bike Triathlon Upgrades

The unspoken secret of the successful triathlete is the quality of their equipment, but most athletes focus too much attention on bike upgrades, and forget about some of the other areas that might be in need of attention. Here we talk about some items that will help with both performance improvements and making triathlons more enjoyable. These are as good for the new triathlete as they are for the seasoned ‘Professional Amateur’. Enjoy.

Watches

Let’s face it, the watch is one of the most important pieces of kit we are going to have during a race or training. Heart rate, speed, distance are all captured for instant feedback, and transferred to online applications for tracking and record keeping. Some important features to consider are battery life (especially for Iron distance races), adjustable pool sizes for swimming at home, comfort, and ease of use. This Garmin is a workhorse and will last for years. It has great native integrations with Garmin Connect, and supports safety features such as Live track and incident detection.

Recommendation Garmin Forerunner 945 – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07QTVMWVL/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=floatspingwal-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07QTVMWVL&linkId=1d7e4955d9fe89fd09b099a2a67a672f

Goggles

There are few things worse than enduring a poor swim leg of a race. With all of the things that can go wrong and are out of your hands, why chance the few things you can control. Goggles are one of the elements you can control, and there are a few decisions to make with these. After trying out many types, a few features have stood out. The first is an easy adjusting ratchet system to tighten or loosen the straps to keep the water out. This makes last minute tweaks easy and effortless. A soft eye cup that won’t leave you in pain during a long swim, and doesn’t make you look like a racoon at the office after early morning swims. And maybe most important, a light sensitive lens that will darken or lighten based on sun conditions. Because swims often have direction changes there will be different sun exposures throughout. With an adjusting photo chromatic lens, the swimmer won’t have to choose for only one section of the leg.

Recommendation HUUB Aphotic –https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07QGC8G78/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B07QGC8G78&linkCode=as2&tag=floatspingwal-20&linkId=1be81960141313587143257861a09d9a

Sun Protection

Training and racing have tremendous health benefits, but there are some risks that come with being under the sun in a tank top for hours. Triathletes need to protect themselves from the sun, but this is not an easy task. For starters, many sunscreens are applied before the swim and are largely gone by the time T1 rolls around. Re-applying takes precious time from the finish, and might be the difference between a podium and a participation award. The goal is to use something that works for the whole race with minimal re-application needs. Another consideration is keeping cool on the hottest days. One way to achieve both sun protection and keeping cool is to use a wet neck gaiter. This has the benefit of being reusable, is quick to put on, and the sun protection won’t wear out from sweat.

Recommendation Mission Cooling Gaiter – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00UR4HHC8/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=floatspingwal-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B00UR4HHC8&linkId=3633ca3ee407a2936b880663ae570326

Zealios Sun Barrier – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00F48C08S/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=floatspingwal-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B00F48C08S&linkId=b143de0b012e603652f31ae3bad450a7

Recovery

The often over looked post race and workout recovery is the difference between facing a staircase with confidence the day after a long course, or searching for the wheelchair ramp. There are numerous devices and techniques to consider, some being better depending on the situation and fatigue involved. Compression is a great method, from socks to full leg enclosures. The automated systems don’t require much thought and can be done while relaxing or sitting on the couch. Rollers are also very good, and can be easily packed for a destination or travel race. These do require a bit more diligence but are the best for targeting specific areas.

Recommendation Normatec Boots – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07RD6QWZC/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=floatspingwal-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07RD6QWZC&linkId=392557aff92c23855929edd2989b2d60

TriggerPoint Foam roller – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0040EGNIU/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=floatspingwal-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B0040EGNIU&linkId=078636b9c257bda830e4d521bfc99237

Gear Bag

Triathlon involves a lot of gear. Multiple changes of clothes, shoes, hats, helmets, sunglasses, water bottles, towels, nutrition, lubes, ointments, you get the idea. Carrying all of this in addition to a bike is not always an easy task. Ideally, a bag is easy to carry WHILE riding a bike to accommodate long parking to transition races. It should also have good storage space with plenty of pockets for specific items, as well as wet and dry pockets to keep your swim gear separate from the rest of your equipment after the race.

Recommendation Ogio Endurance 9.0 – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B078JDPX1S/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=floatspingwal-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B078JDPX1S&linkId=c23c6d3fcd580298cc423f4040849e40

This curated list contains affiliate links, and each linked purchase equals #CommissionsEarned (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.) Thank you for the support.