Lessons From Coaching Your Competition

Lessons From Coaching Your Competition

slateOne of the most interesting things about being inside Endurance Corner is access to the case studies from our highest performing amateurs.

I’ve been paying attention to our best athletes and a few counterintuitive things have stood out. I thought that I’d share them with you.

Race Strategy
The main difference between AG and elite racing is the mass of bodies that are around us at all times. Some folks talk about the hassle of having to move around other athletes. Clearly these people have not been looking at their power meters!

Smart athletes are thankful for late starts and can use tactical savvy to bridge to earlier waves (Spirig made a great move in Austin when she bridged to the “slower” elite men and rode 2:15 with them).

In a race, like IM Lou, I suspect that starting dead last might prove optimal for a strong cyclist. We’ve seen some very fast rides (relative to power and weight) from athletes that leave T1 “late.” These athletes are not drafting. What they are doing is blasting through the field, often at 24-28 miles per hour.

I think that we are going to see large-field AG times get faster and faster as the high performers learn to optimize their race approach to their wave position.

Fit Athletes Ride To Power
I’m on the record (50,000 copies sold) as saying that it is suicide for an athlete to ignore heart rate in an ironman.

Screen shot 2010-10-22 at 8.02.23 PMHave a look at this chart from Ironman World Champs. In the final third you’ll see the athlete’s HR drop materially while he holds power. The athlete re-coupled during an ironman bike leg. I’d seen this with shorter course racing but never at IM.

Typically, an athlete with elevated early race HR will shut down their digestion and run out of gas on the marathon. Below is the marathon chart, HR is locked in relative to training pace and doesn’t deviate across the marathon.

Screen shot 2010-10-22 at 8.03.15 PMAlso note that he did not materially elevate HR on the marathon -– we (mainly AC) had optimized his race strategy based on energy-pacing, not HR. AC is doing breakthrough work here, similar to what I’ve heard Robbie Ventura talk about with pro tour cycling TTs.

As a practical example, I made a tactical decision to race the swim/bike of the Austin half like it was an olympic distance and ignored my usual HR caps. Because I started the race with 2,000 athletes in front of me, I used the field while my speed was highest –- this differs from using my energy when speed is lowest.

You Don’t Need to Live Like a Monk to Race Fast
JD pointed out that if you want to be fast-at-forty then it sure helps to have spent your thirties training all day…

Others have noted that even when I’m “being normal,” I remain an outlier…

Fair enough but…

I’m within 3% of my all-time performances over the 70.3 distance and I’m married, have a daughter and run a business. The cost of squeezing the final few percent out of myself would be huge.

I thought I’d share the key things that work for me:

  • A big week once a month. I get this with our training camps.
  • Try to run most days. Pace doesn’t worry me, I just run.
  • Try to ride (at least) every third day. Again, I don’t worry about the specifics, I get out there for 90-120 minutes of steady to mod-hard.
  • Two solid swims per week. Dave Scott and Coach Monsy keep me in shape so I can bluff it for 1.2 miles.
  • I spend most the year about 4 pounds (2 kilo) above what most folks would consider “race weight” for me (as you know, I take a lot of pictures when lean to make my competition think otherwise). This speeds my recovery, let’s me enjoy my wife’s baking and gives me a far more relaxed mindset at the family table.

While I might be mellowing with age, I think the single largest change is stress reduction from not shooting for that final 3%.

Remember to optimize sport within the larger picture of a life with meaning.

Categories: Lifestyle, Training

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