Kona ’16 Analysis Part 2

As was the case last year, Kona has once again been a great learning experience. First, I must say, as someone who views themselves as a strong runner, starting to walk at around 19 kilometers into the marathon is rather embarrassing. I had the fastest run split at 70.3 Worlds, and pretty close to the slowest run split among the pros, one month later at Ironman Worlds. I thought the days of walking in races were over long ago. I think it’s a real testament to how grueling an Ironman triathlon can be. But, it’s not healthy to dwell on the negative for too long; all you can do is try and learn the lessons that need to be learned, then persevere onwards. Originally I thought I would be able to expound the lessons learned this year in a single blog post, but there is just too much to discuss to fit into a single post, so I will have to do several posts on the topic. Here is the first lesson I learned this year in Kona:


Respect the distance!


The astute observer may recall that in my analysis of Kona last year, I argued that you should not do long sessions at race pace. I think some people perhaps misunderstood what I meant by that, and thought I meant that you should not do long sessions. This is definitely not what I meant to say. What I intended to communicate is that spending a lot of time at race pace does not make race pace easier. I still believe this to be the case. I think you should spend a great deal of time above race pace, and the rest of the time well below race pace, and this is what will make race pace easier.

This past year I did a lot of high end intervals. I was focusing exclusively on the 70.3 distance, so I rarely ran longer than 20 kilometers or biked longer than 2 hours; in other words, I never spent much more time in practice doing any of the disciplines, than I would spend doing the discipline in the race. That’s all fine and dandy if all you are going to do is the 70.3 distance. The problem is that I had an Ironman on the schedule. I thought perhaps I would be able to get away with a lack of mileage because I had pushed my upper limits so high, but then reality hit me. I did not respect the distance.

If all you want to do is FINISH an Ironman, then this is a viable training approach. I was able to FINISH an Ironman in 8 hours and 44 minutes; albeit it was quite painful, and I walked / shuffled for about 23 kilometers. If you want to RACE an Ironman from start to finish, you need to respect the distance and put in the time. The fact of the matter is that if your muscles are not used to firing for 6, 7, 8 or even more hours, then it will become progressively more laborious to make those muscles fire as you go beyond the limits of your endurance. I can’t remember the last time I ran at 5 minutes per kilometer. I do my leisure / active recovery jogging at around 4:30 per kilometer. At these paces my heart rate is under 100BPM. In the race in Kona, by about 19 kilometers, I was running at around 5 minutes per kilometer, and the perceived exertion was through the roof. It just so happens that that was a little over 6 hours into the race.

I have lots of experience exercising for 4 hours. Most of my training days this year were between 3 and 4 hours. I think this is why I was able to execute a decent bike without having put in adequate mileage on the bike (the bike took me 4 hours and 26 minutes). I have only done a handful of training days this year over 5 hours. My body was able to function decently well for about 6 hours. I think this shows that there is some wiggle room. I was able to RACE for about 6 hours off of training intended on getting me in the best shape possible to RACE for 4 hours. If the race had been a 4k swim to a 120k bike to a 30k run, I think I could have done a lot better, as this would have taken a little under 6 hours. Unfortunately, this was not the race distance.

I think this is why you hear of a lot of guys incorporating “over-biking” into their training routine. I think a lot of the “pain” that you experience as you reach the limits of your endurance is a byproduct of the muscles not being used to functioning continuously for that long. I am no scientist, but I would imagine the phenomenon is rooted in the strength of the firing neurons beginning to diminish. It would be very dangerous to try and run for the duration that it takes to race an Ironman. It is significantly less dangerous to ride your bike for the durations it takes to do an Ironman. I have heard of many of the top athletes doing 6 or 7 hour bike rides, where they may cover 200 kilometers or more. Many of them will precede it with a swim, let’s say of about an hour; and a few may even do a short run after, or later in the evening. The total of this type of workout would be around 7 hours on the short end, or over 8 hours on the long end. I think a large part of the motivation to do this type of workout is to give the muscles experience at firing for durations similar to what it takes to RACE an Ironman.

It should be noted, I don’t think it takes many of these workouts, and I don’t think it takes very long for the body to adapt to these workouts because as I said above, I believe the phenomenon is rooted predominantly on the neuronal level. If you have ever lifted weights then you will understand this phenomenon. It is very common for someone to nearly double in strength when they first start doing an exercise (the bench press for instance), in just a few weeks. Close to no muscle mass will have been put on in this time. What happens, is that the neurons begin to fire stronger and more efficiently under the load, allowing the individual to put up more weight quite rapidly. Of course, the gains from this process diminish quite rapidly, and as time progresses, the ability to put up more weight generally comes with an increase in muscle mass. I believe something very similar is what happens in long distance endurance training.

Another element to stress is that the pace or wattage of these sessions isn’t that important. The important thing is that you go beyond durations that you are adapted to exercising for, until you get close to exercising for the duration you plan to RACE for (keeping in mind you do have some wiggle room, as was noted above). Scratch that, the pace and wattage is of massive importance. It is important that you do not do these sessions very hard. If you do these sessions hard, then you will amass a ton of fatigue (and increase your risk of injury). If you are massively fatigued, then you will not be able to push your upper limits very high, and you will “gravitate towards the middle,” as I have discussed in previous posts.

In summary, you need to RESPECT THE DISTANCE if you plan to RACE THE DISTANCE. This does not mean you should spend a ton of time at race pace. You should almost always be either well above or well below race pace. But this does mean you need to put in some big mileage. The safest way to put in this mileage is through a combination of swimming and a lot of biking, with perhaps a little bit of running. This is not to say that you shouldn’t do a long run, as I do believe in order to execute a decent marathon, you need to do a decent length long run, following a similar logic as the weight lifting example above. But you definitely need to put in some long days if you want to reach your full potential in an event that can take 8 or more continuous hours. My logic going into Kona, that I could “wing it” because I had pushed my upper limits very high, was completely disrespectful to the sport. The reality is that I did not put in the time, and I paid the price because of it: a 23 kilometer shuffle of shame.

Kona ’16 Analysis Part 1

After St. George 70.3 I made the decision to do the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Australia. It was going to be a very long trip, and to do well was going to require me to get in the best shape I have ever been in. For that reason, I decided to focus 100% of my energy on that race. By 100% I mean forget that Kona even exists until after the race. Doing this allowed me to cut out all of the long workouts that might add unnecessary fatigue, and take away from my ability to push the upper limits. Looking back in the training diary over the last 10 months, it appears that I rarely biked longer than 2 hours, or ran further than 20 kilometers. The more I think about it, the more I am amazed I was even able to do what I did this year in Kona.

Here are my 10 longest bike rides in the last 6 months:

September 25th: 4 hours at 255w

September 14th: 2 hours 35 minutes at 261w

July 27th: 4 hours 2 minutes at 274w

July 5th: 3 hours 2 minutes at 286w

June 18th: 2 hours 31 minutes at 265w

June 8th: 3 hours at 263w

May 29th: 3 hours at 256w

April 27th: 2 hours 30 minutes at 246w

April 20th: 2 hours 20 minutes at 238w

March 19th: 3 hours at 244w

In Kona I pushed 299w (306w NP) for 4 hours and 26 minutes. It is actually the longest bike ride I have done since Ironman Arizona in November 2015. The more I think about it, the more I am amazed that I was able to hold that power for that long! I will say to those who might think I over biked this year, and who think that is why I ran so poorly: I didn’t really bike very much harder this year than last year. Last year in Kona I averaged 293w NP, whereas this year I averaged 306w NP. Last year I ran 2:54 on a much tougher day (the fastest run split last year was 2:49, whereas this year it was 2:39) and this year I ran 3:17. In all honesty, I would say even if I pushed 100w for the bike ride, I still would have run very poorly.

Now let’s have a look at the run training. My 10 longest runs in the last six months were:

August 19th: 24km at 3:45/km

August 3rd: 22.5km at 3:45/km

July 24th: 24km at 3:43/km

July 3rd: 24km at 4:00/km

June 15th: 22.1km at 3:46/km

June 6th: 24.1km at 3:57/km

June 5th: 22.1km at 3:50/km

May 27th: 24.1km at 3:58/km

April 24th: 24.1km at 3:43/km

March 17th: 30.2km at 3:57/km

Looking back on this training, I’m not quite sure how I expected to run a flat out marathon with any degree of competence, let alone a marathon after a 180km bike ride! My 3 hour 17 minute marathon makes total sense now: I had asked my legs to do something far greater on the bike than I had done in many months past, which it did…and then I asked it to do the same thing again on the marathon…which it did not. And I don’t blame it!

Following suit from last year, I will do one more post in the coming days with more lessons and my recommendations for future improvement.

Kona 2016

What a humbling day. I knew Kona was going to be a gamble. Admittedly, I put all of my eggs in the 70.3 Worlds basket. In the last three months I have done one 4 hour ride, one 25km run, and one 5 hour training day. All acceptable if training for a 70.3, but a bit short if preparing for the full Ironman distance. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I would be able to gut it out and go the distance. Though I did gut it out, and was able to complete the distance, it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

The week leading into the race was a lot of fun. I had quite a few commitments. I tried to embrace the experience and got to meet a lot of cool people along the way. I was definitely in a good head space leading into the race. I truly did not have any expectations for myself. I just wanted to have fun and enjoy the day. If possible, I was hoping to improve upon last year’s performance.

I had a decent swim. I was 8 minutes and 39 seconds down to the leaders out of the water. Last year I was 10 minutes and 20 seconds down out of the water. Not great, but an improvement nonetheless. This time round I was in the second chase pack for about 400 meters, but then got popped out of the back. I will say, it’s nice to have a shot at making the pack, rather than getting dropped immediately and having no shot whatsoever.

Out onto the bike, I knew I needed to be patient. I started off very controlled. It wasn’t until about 40k, when the crosswinds started to pick up, that I really started to push some power. By the turnaround at Hawi I was averaging about 318w. I knew this was ambitious, but I was making up good time on the lead group, so decided to go for it. By the bottom of the decent from Hawi I was starting to reach the ends of my endurance (about 120k in). I had to dig really deep the next 60k to not have a massive blow up. In the end, I averaged 299w (306w NP) for a 4:26 bike. This time round I was a little over 3 minutes off the fastest bike split, whereas last year I was over 10 minutes slower. Another good improvement.

Out onto the run course, I knew immediately it was going to be a long day. I was running just under 4 minutes per kilometer, but it was quite laborious from the beginning. There were a few glimmers of hope early on. I passed a couple guys and got as far as 8th place. But, around 15km the wheels started to fall off. By about 19 kilometers I was already having to walk. My legs were shutting down, and shutting down quite rapidly. It was very difficult to fathom running another 23 kilometers. In all honesty, I was unable to run the remaining 23 kilometers. The best I could do was a combination of walking and shuffling. Every aid station that passed (and there were a lot of them; 15 to be precise), I went through a very long debate with myself about whether or not to drop out. In the end, I decided to finish. I believe you should either come home in the ambulance or you should finish the race. You need to live by your principals.

I will say, my belief has been renewed in the positive spirit of this sport. I got passed by about 21 guys along the way, and many times they slowed down to ask if I was okay and offer a gel or some salt. Sadly, I don’t think the issue was nutritional at all. I was in complete sound mind, and well hydrated. I didn’t even find it very hot. The reality is, I just didn’t have the endurance to go the distance. I thought perhaps I could fake it, but Kona is just far too challenging of a course for that.

This race gives me a better appreciation for just how far an Ironman is. It is absolutely incredible that the human body is able to achieve such a feat. I have massive respect for everyone who was able to finish the race. That is an insane amount of distance to cover, on an insane course, in some insane conditions!

I will do another blog post soon detailing the lessons I have acquired from this race, but I will say, moving forward, I think I will likely put the full Ironman distance on the back burner for a little while. I need to focus on my swim, and get it quite a bit closer to the front. In order to do well in these championship races the swim is a necessity, and mine is just not there yet. I am confident that with a good team, and the use of some good technology, I will be able to get my swim there, but only if I put the majority of my focus on it. So that is what I intend to do.

I greatly appreciate all of the cheers and support leading into this race. I also greatly appreciate all of my sponsors, who without them, I would be unable to pursue this endeavour. Now, as I regain function of my legs, I will enjoy some of the cool things The Big Island has to offer.

Backwards Logic

This article is inspired by a recent The Real Starky interview with Craig Alexander. I highly recommend you listen to the interview because Craig is a truly class act (I don’t believe the interview is public yet, unless you become a Patreon of the show, but it should be soon). He has probably been my biggest inspiration within the sport. Since December 2009 I have been staring at a picture of him winning Kona that year; banner over the shoulders, teeth gritted, Australian flag in hand. You can tell that every one of his comments come from a place of great wisdom.

Around 5 minutes into the interview my first blog post on the 70.3 World Championship comes up, particularly my comment that there is a significant draft effect occurring at the current 10m draft zone, in a race that we call “non-drafting”. Craig Alexander agrees with me that there is a draft effect occurring. He goes on to say that during his time as pro athlete ambassador to Ironman, the general sentiment coming from the pros was that a 20m draft zone is needed to make the race truly non-drafting.

The general discussion for the next couple of minutes afterwards is that being a good swimmer “earns” you the right to take part in the draft effect that occurs at the current 10m spacing; that the swim is very important because being in that pack saves you a lot of energy. This same comment and logic has been the general sentiment coming from the more critical readers of that blog post. In fact, after writing that post, I was a bit surprised at how many times that comment came up. The logic goes something like this:

“Don’t try and change the system. Become a better swimmer so that you get to participate in the drafting dynamics. The guys who were ahead of you are better swimmers than you, and thus earned the right to receive that drafting effect, and take part in those dynamics”.

Quite frankly, I think this is completely backwards logic. What these upholders of the status quo are failing to realize is that the 10m draft zone not only disadvantages myself, Andreas Drietz, Sebastien Kienle, Andrew Starykowicz, and anyone else known as an “uber-biker”, but anyone who is even remotely confident in their biking ability. Said another way, the only group the current 10m draft zone BENEFITS is the “strong swimmer – weak bikers”.

Let’s use Josh Amberger as a case study. Amberger lead out of the water at 70.3 Worlds by nearly a minute. This is absolutely amazing swimming, to be able to gap and put nearly a minute into a swim pack of approximately 25 guys. Amberger is a very good cyclist, who can hold his own on the bike very well. After about 20 minutes on the bike, Amberger was swallowed up by the approximately 25 man pack coming up strong behind him. Amberger’s weapon is his swim-bike ability, and that was rendered useless in a race with such a large draft effect.

I will bet you that after the race Amberger was thinking something to the tune of: “what the hell was the point in me swimming hard, if I was just going to get swallowed up by a huge semi-draft legal bike pack?” This highlights another problem with the current 10m draft zone. It breeds mediocrity. Amberger will be much less likely in future races to take the swim out hard. Just like in ITU racing, it is pointless to swim off the front and not take a group of guys with you. You will expend unnecessary energy, only to be swallowed up by the huge pack behind you. Amberger would have been much better off to save energy, and sit in second or third place in the swim pack, letting someone else do the hard work.

Let’s use Andreas Drietz to do another case study. His swim is much closer to where my swim supposedly “should be”. He came out of the water about 20 seconds down to the main group of swimmers and bridged the gap very quickly. As usual, he immediately went to the front of the group and tried to create separation. Unfortunately for him, the course was dead flat, the winds were very light, and the draft tail was very large. There were also some very good cyclists near the front of the pack who were able to respond to his attacks. Despite being one of the best bikers in the sport, he was unable to create separation. Suddenly, guys who have no business biking within several minutes of him, were biking the same speeds…and judging by the race coverage, able to sit up and soft pedal while doing it!

Andreas’ situation is probably one of the biggest injustices that occurred in that race. He is a very good swimmer and an amazing biker, but his bike was rendered useless because of the current 10m draft zone. If it truly was a non-drafting race, there is not a doubt in my mind that he would have finished top 5. Unfortunately, he finished 11th, with no money, likely no bonuses from sponsors, and a lot of disappointment. But remember, he “earned” the right to experience that!

From Andreas’ perspective we also see where the mediocrity is bred on the bike. If you’re a strong swimmer and a strong runner, where is the incentive to expend energy unnecessarily on the bike? Over time, Ironman racing will look progressively more like ITU racing, where the strong runners all “sit-in” and let the better bikers do the work. Quite frankly, from my own perspective, if and when I do make the front bike pack, why in the world would I do any work whatsoever on the bike? I had the fastest run split after a completely solo bike ride, thus there is no incentive for me to exert any unnecessary energy on the bike. This is the logic that the current 10m draft zone breeds.

In summary, you don’t “earn” the right to get a draft effect on the bike. It’s a flaw in the current system, and that system needs to be updated.

The Treadmill Revisited

Hopefully you have had a chance to read The Preface. It is important because that is the last time I did the majority of my running outside. When I look at those workouts I am quite impressed. If I am being completely honest, I’m not sure if I could do a single one of those workouts right now. I think the amazing part about those workouts, is that I did most of them with ease. For instance, on March 10th I did 3x5k w/3mR and went 15:51, 15:34, 15:24. Erin paced me in that workout, and I remember being able to chat with her for the first two repeats. On June 12th I had a training partner, one of Canada’s top middle distance runners, Connor Darlington, and we were supposed to start the workout with a 5km tempo run in around 15:50. That was pretty easy on my own, let alone with a training partner, so once we got started we realized that was just far too relaxed. We ended up running the 5km in 14:52 instead.

Your first thought might be that I was probably focusing mainly on running at that time, which allowed me to run faster. In all honesty though, I was doing a lot of structured bike riding then; about 6-8 hours per week, not much less than I do now (I average 10-12 hours per week now). As well, I was probably swimming more often then than now (30km/wk+ week in and week out). I was also in school full-time as well. I would say, I actually have less “life stress” now than I did then. The only vast difference now is that I do most of my running on the treadmill.

Before I present my conclusions I’d like to delve a bit more into the timeline. Up until winter 2012 I had done 99% of my fifteen or so years of running, outside. In winter of 2012 I got a gym membership and started doing the odd run on the treadmill. It started to get really cold in December, and I started doing progressively more runs on the treadmill. For January, February and a bit of March 2013, I did most of my running on the treadmill. I was preparing for Around the Bay, a 30k road race in Hamilton at the end of March, and I was unsure what kind of performance to expect of myself, having done most of the preparation on the treadmill. There, I ran 1:36:52 (equivalent to three sub 32:20 10ks in a row), and it is then that I think the seeds of the treadmill were planted. But, as the weather got nicer, I went back to doing all of my running outside, which consisted of many of the workouts presented in The Preface.

Throughout 2013 I did a whole bunch of road races, some of the better ones being 30:48 for 10k, and 1:06: 30 for half marathon (and that includes a stop into the washroom). I then had my professional triathlon debut at Muskoka 70.3, where I ran 1:10:58 in my first half marathon off the bike, after a very hard ride. I then went back to school and ran cross-country, all outside. In November of 2013 I was running on a downhill trail that was covered in ice. I lost traction at one point and my knee bowed inwards quite painfully. I vowed that day that running outside was too dangerous, especially through the winter, and that I would run on the treadmill from now on.

That was short lived though. I ran on the treadmill exclusively for December and January and then went to Tucson for the next 2.5 months. I had intended on running on the treadmill there too, but it was just too nice outside, and so I scrapped that plan and ran the next 2.5 months on the pavement. When I finally got back to Canada in mid-May I got my own treadmill. Old habits die hard though, and I still spent the next month or so, doing most of my runs outside. Finally, by mid June, I had converted all of my running over to the treadmill, even though it was Canadian summer. That year I didn’t do nearly as many pure running races, but I did do a lot of 70.3s. Some of my better runs off the bike were: 1:09:56 in Raleigh, 1:09:54 in Syracuse, 1:10:54 in Muncie, and 1:09:36 in Racine.

For the rest of 2014, I continued to do close to all of my running on the treadmill. In early 2015 I still was putting together some half decent running. In the beginning of the year I ran 1:13:12 off the bike in Oceanside, and I also ran 31:09 for a local 10k. But, admittedly, at least over the longer distances, and especially running off the bike, there seemed to be something missing. For the rest of the season, things just went down hill. In Galveston I ran 1:12:20. In Mont Tremblant I ran my season best 1:11:14, when pushed to the absolute limit for 10 miles of the run with Taylor Reid and Jesse Thomas. Then I ran 1:15:39 in Muskoka, and 1:15:46 in Racine. At Ironman Texas I ran 3:11:22 and at Ironman Mont Tremblant I ran 3:00:27. By this point, something was unmistakenly missing from my running. In 2014, I was running 1:09 off the bike pretty consistently, and in a race like Muncie, where I entered the lead 10k into the run, I was still able to run 1:10, having not pushed the second half insanely hard. Whereas in 2015, it took everything I had to run a 1:11.

The astute observer will recognize that I spent much of 2015 over-training, and probably over-racing as well. I do believe this played a role in the decrease in performance. But, regardless of the fatigue, there still was something missing in my running. Something that I had developed over the years, but that I was now forgetting. The only running I did outside in 2015, was in the 20 or so days that I spent in Kona, before the world championship race. One thing that I recognized on the run during the race in Kona, was that my accessory muscles seemed to be breaking down and fatiguing, and my running muscles were also starting to lock up, I believe due to the pounding of the pavement. In the final 10k of that race it was quite difficult to even move my legs.

That’s when I started to wonder whether exclusive treadmill training really was as great as I had originally thought. I decided in early 2016 that I would start doing a couple of runs every now and again, outside. Having done so much running on the treadmill for so long, I was probably hypersensitive to the differences between the two. There definitely was a quality in running outside, that was missing from the treadmill. It’s difficult to describe, but my best stab at it is this:

Outside, the propulsion must be created by one’s own effort. Once the propulsion is created, you can then sit at a particular pace and learn to relax, recruit muscles better, breathe better etc. which in turn reduces the perceived exertion at constant pace. You then can decide what to do with that decrease in perceived exertion, which if you’re interested in high performance running, the choice is often to increase the pace, and repeat the process all over again. It was through this process that I was able to get myself to a point in early 2013, where I could run 15:50 for 5 kilometers, and hold a half-decent conversation while doing it.

I’m not exactly sure why this process is much more difficult on the treadmill, but it is. In the last 1.5 years that I have spent running on the treadmill, I don’t really remember having the sensation described above. Whereas after a few runs outside, I get the sensation very quickly, and get better at the process quite rapidly. I think once you have learned to do something, it becomes easier to re-learn if you have forgotten it, so I would imagine this is at work here.

In 2016, especially towards the second half, I feel like I am finally starting to get back to the running I was doing in 2013/2014. The only change I have made is that I am doing 2-3 easy runs outside per week. I have not done a single interval workout outside this year, aside from a couple I did during a week spent in Florida in March. My last two runs off the bike were: 1:09:20 in Wiesbaden, and 1:10:34 in Mooloolaba (where admittedly this was a run for pride, and I feel could have been faster if it was for something more significant). In 2017, I will continue to test these ideas. I would like to start incorporating an interval workout a week outside, into the program as well. I don’t see any reason why the workouts listed in The Preface, cannot be attained again. If anything, I should be able to exceed those workouts, as I no longer have the stress of school in my life.

So, in summary, I am not saying that the treadmill is bad, or will inhibit performance. I think you can get in great shape off of exclusive treadmill running. Can you get into the best shape possible off of exclusive treadmill training? I don’t think so. But, keep in mind, there is always a trade-off. I think the more running you do outside, the higher your risk of injury. The pavement is hard, the treadmill is soft. I think the more miles logged on hard surfaces, the shorter your longevity in running, and the higher the risk of complications as time goes on. There is also lots of debris outside that presents the risk of sprained ankles etc. It doesn’t matter how great of shape you are in, if you are injured. I’m not sure of the exact ratio yet, but so far, I have a feeling a sort of 60-40 or 70-30 principle might be at work here.

In order to achieve your best run performance, with the least amount of risk I think you should do something like 60 or 70% of your running on the treadmill or another very soft surface, and 30 to 40% of your running on more solid surfaces, like the ones you race on, creating the forward propulsion yourself. Of course, there is a lot more depth here than meets the eye. If you don’t have a training partner, and you’re not great at pushing yourself, then I would take the treadmill any day over outdoors. The treadmill is great when motivation is low. Set the ‘mill to a challenging pace, and your incentive to keep going is that you don’t fly off the back. The treadmill is a great tool, and must be used appropriately.

Since my thoughts on the topic have changed, I thought it was appropriate to provide an update. It is often quoted that I do all of my running indoors, and this simply is no longer the case anymore. Thanks for reading.

The Preface

This post is a preface to my next post, which is a long overdue update on my thoughts on treadmill running. Here I present to you 10 of the better run workouts I did back in 2013. All of these workouts were done either on pavement or on the track. I will just present the data here, and then make some comparisons and draw conclusions in my next post. I wrote the workouts out using my shorthard workout terminology. Just in case it’s not clear, the first one is to be read like this:

“February 13th: 6 kilometer warmup, to three by 3 kilometers with three minutes recovery in between each, where I went 9:26, 9:29, 9:34, to 5 kilometers cool down. “

Here is the data:

February 13th: 6k w/u to 3x3k w/3mR (9:26, 9:29, 9:34) to 5k c/d.

Mar 10th: 5k w/u to 3x5k w/5mR (15:51, 15:34, 15:24) to 6k c/d.

April 9th: 5k w/u to 4x2k w/3mR (6:10, 6:16, 6:05, 6:13) to 4x1k w/3mR (2:56, 2:55, 2:54, 2:55) to 7k c/d.

April 25th: 5k w/u to 2x5k w/5mR (15:53, 15:54) to 2x3k w/3mR (9:27, 9:32) to 5k c/d.

May 16th: 5k w/u to 3k w/3mR (9:21) to 10x800meters w/2mR (2:20, 2:19, 2:18, 2:19, 2:21, 2:19, 2:21, 2:18, 2:20, 2:22) to 2k (6:34) to 6k c/d.

May 19th: 5k w/u to 2k w/3mR (6:24) to 2x1mile w/3mR (4:51, 4:46) to 5k w/5mR (15:35) to 2x1mile w/3mR (4:51, 4:49) to 7k c/d.

May 23rd: 5k w/u to 5k w/5mR (15:45) to 1mile w/3mR (4:41) to 6x400meters on 200meters jog (66, 66, 65, 65, 65, 65) to 3k (9:26) to 4k c/d.

June 4th: 4k w/u to 3k w/3mR (9:11) to 4x1k w/3mR (2:53, 2:54, 2:54, 2:53) to 4x400meters w/2mR (63, 63, 62, 61) to 3k c/d.

June 12th: 6k w/u to 5k w/5mR (14:52) to 5x800meters w/2mR (2:18, 2:16, 2:18, 2:16, 2:13) to 3k c/d.

June 29th: 5k w/u to 8x1k w/3mR (2:55, 2:54, 2:54, 2:54, 2:54, 2:54, 2:53, 2:55) to 4k (12:39) to 4k c/d.

In a few days I will post my updated thoughts on treadmill running. Thanks for reading!




My Invention

I present to you “The Subjectivity String©”:


After my last post, some of the scientifically minded have argued that after running the 10 meter draft zone (I call it 10 meters because that is the space between bikes) through some computer models, they have determined that at that distance there should be no draft effect occurring. My response to this is that this simply does not agree with real world experience. I think most professional triathletes who have been part of one of these “legal draft packs” will agree. But, let’s assume that the computer models are correct. The result of this assumption is that athletes are not riding with the 10 meter space between bikes.

In reality, this is very likely contributing to the problem. Though I do believe there are some athletes who are blatantly breaking the rules, I do believe most athletes are not doing it intentionally. I believe the problem is rooted in the subjective component of the 10 meter draft zone. I will bet you $100 that if you had 10 people mark off what 10 meters looks like on the ground, without being able to pace it out, the majority of those people would be off by several meters. Now imagine trying to make that judgement while pushing pedals as hard as you can, traveling at well over 40kph. In all honesty, I have no idea what 10 meters looks like, so in the event that I was riding in one of these packs, I would be completely guessing if I am actually riding “legally.” In packs in championship races you have ten or twenty athletes guessing what 10 meters looks like, some of whom are really trying to push the limit, and ride right on that guesstimated line.

The other side of this coin- and I believe this is also a major contributor to the current problem- is that the officials also don’t know what 10 meters looks like, they are just guessing. Officials are human beings and have a conscience. The penalty for drafting is 5 minutes. If you give someone a 5 minute penalty you have completely ended their race. Officials are reluctant to give penalties because they know they are just guessing as to what 10 meters actually looks like. No one wants to go to bed at night wondering if they wrongly awarded a penalty, and ended someone’s race. It’s easier for officials to just not award penalties, that way they can sleep at night. On a similar note to this, there have been many athletes who have been awarded penalties, who believe they were wrongly penalized. Of course these situations are going to arise when both parties are just guessing as to what the 10 meter distance actually looks like!

That’s where the “Subjectivity String©” comes in. It’s a 10 meter long string with a washer on the end of it. You attach it to your rear chainstay and then the washer ensures that it stays strung out 10 meters behind you. All the guesswork of the 10 meter draft zone has now been removed. Athletes can see exactly how far to ride behind another athlete, and they can push it as close to the limit as they want. But, the moment they cross that line, they are now breaking the rules. From the official’s perspective, the zone is now clear as day and can be policed very sternly. Officials can even ride with a camera if they want, and if they catch an athlete in the zone, they can snap a quick picture. They can then show the athlete the blue card. If the athlete feels the referee is wrong, the referee can show the athlete the photograph. This way the referee can sleep at night, and the athlete cannot dispute the penalty.

I hope you can see that I am trying to be a little humorous in this post. But the idea presented is what I think could really help solve a lot of issues on the bike in Ironman triathlon. I challenge the engineers among us to develop this piece of technology. The big thing is that it needs to project 10 meters from the back of the bike, and it needs to be visible to both the athlete riding behind the bike, and an official riding on the motorcycle beside. I would gladly put up money to have this technology developed, and I believe many of my professional counterparts would contribute as well. Once the technology exists, we can then have WTC make this mandatory for all professional athletes to have equipped on their bikes (much like helmets and brakes), and be working properly before every race. Referees can also have a few on hand in the event that an athlete’s device malfunctions. The referee can ask the athlete to stop and put a new one on.

Sometimes an analogy helps to understand an issue, so here is my stab at describing the issue at hand: We live in a day and age where many sports are doing 360 degree photographic replays to determine whether a ball was over the line or not, yet in triathlon we haven’t even figured out how to paint the lines! Imagine tennis or football being played with imaginary lines! In long distance triathlon, both athlete and referee are relying on imaginary lines, and those imaginary lines can make or break an athlete’s race.

By virtue of the fact that earlier this week I flew over the Pacific Ocean at close to 1000kph for 14 straight hours, I am confident that someone can develop this technology. You might be able to make some money (there are over 1000 professional triathletes; and of course, there is potential to market this to the AG field as well), and you will help for the betterment of our sport.

If the computer models are correct, and there truly is no draft at 10 meters, then with this technological advancement we will have solved the drafting issue, and made the Ironman bike truly non-drafting. Who will answer the challenge?