Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter . . . bah!

Clearly I've been putting off this writing this article.  A generally warm fall helped me in this regard and them bam! Winter is here (and has been for a few weeks).

Couple cold weather, slippery paths, darkness and no race looming and you may just decide to skip that run.  I'm here to say don't do it!

Dressing for cold weather is a matter of layers and personal taste.  This article will help you prepare for those snowy/icy slippery paths or roads.

I offer suggestions for 3 different levels of slipperyness and snow cover.  If the paths are generally clear  or have a thin layer of snow but you may encounter an occasional visible slick spot I suggest running in a pair of shoes designed for trail running.  These shoes often have a deeper tread and some measure of water resistance which helps keep toes dry and warm.  The deeper tread provides better grip in loose snow than your typical road shoes.

The solution for the next level is a little screwy (sorry but sometimes I can't resist a pun, good or otherwise)
A few 1/4" or 3/8" provide great traction on hardpack or the spots that have melted and frozen again.  I find those refrozen areas to be the most treacherous.  I thought this solution was a bit out there but have used it with success.  It seems to have gone mainstream as there's an article in the January 2011 issue of Triathlete magazine - "Snow Chains for Your Running Shoes" by Aaron Hersh which suggests it.

The 3rd level is for complete ice with or without some snow cover.  It's a commercial solution and will cost you about $30.
I use the Yaktrax Pro and have been pretty happy with them.  I've found that they grip ice really well (even if it's hidden by a thin layer of snow).  They don't help much if there's 4 or more inches of snow on the ground (although they're still better in that situation than the screws or nothing).  When there's that much snow skis or snowshoes may be your best bet.  They won't hold up to a lot of running on bare pavement so some people complain about their durability.  I'm on my 2nd or 3rd winter with mine.  No, I'm not a paid shill for Yaktrax either, just a customer.

Get the right gear and you've lost half of your excuses.  Now to work on the other half . . . Get out there!

Friday, October 1, 2010

TFI Athlete 5k PR

Anne P., known as the Doc here at TFI, ran a PR at Women Run the Cities last weekend.  Her time of 27:47 smashed her previous best by nearly 2 minutes.  She was most proud of the fact that her min/mi pace started with an 8 for the first time ever (8:57).

The Doc is quickly becoming a triple threat as her swim and run continue to improve to match her formidable bike.  Not only that, but she encourages friends, patients and coworkers to "tri" a healthier active lifestyle.

She's looking to run her first 10k in November.  After that who knows.

Congrats Anne, your hard work is paying off for you and those around you.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Off Season - On Form

Off Season is the time to work on improving your form and efficiency. This simple drill from Mark Allen and LAVA magazine is perfect for improving your bike efficiency - making you faster on the bike AND faster on the run.

It's often called single leg pedaling or isolated leg training.

58-Second Series: The Best Bike Drill - LAVA Magazine

As Mark says in the video, be sure to be in the aero position while doing the drill.  It is not easy at first, but with some practice you'll get the hang of it.  Try to pedal smoothly - without the clanking caused by an uneven stroke.  You'll know it when you get it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Post Ironman Reflections

If you spend enough time on the local triathlon circuit, you start meeting people who have done 2, 5, 7 or more Ironman races.  I used to think these people were a special kind of crazy.  I now think these are my people.

Earlier this month I completed my second Ironman in as many years.  It was sooner than I expected, but when one of my best friends signed up I agreed to join him.

Ten days post race, I am already planning my next one.  Granted it won't be until 2013, but I will go back to Ironman.

As you can see from the time on the clock, I'm not particularly fast.  My body wasn't really designed for long races like this.  For that, I love the challenge even more.

For now, it's time for me to focus on family and coaching.  I'll have to get my Ironman fix through the athletes I coach.  Will you be next?  Don't answer too quickly.  This sport has a way of getting into your blood.  One day you may find yourself in cool water with 2500 of your fellow crazies.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tri For It! Development Team @ Chisago

The Tri For It! Development Team had a great morning on Saturday at the Chisago Lakes Kids Tri.  Zach took first in the 11 year old boys division and Jenna overcame a lengthy T1 to place in the top 1/2 of the 9 year old girls.  The day wasn't really about placing though (same as adult races really).  More importantly it was an opportunity to reinforce how fun a healthy active lifestyle can be.

Tri For It! Coaching Youth Development Team - Zach and Jenna pre race.

Body Marking

Chugging towards finish.
Chicking on the left!
Up the hill to the finish.
The finish hurts so good!
Zach with Karl Oskar Days Princess and his 1st place schwag.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Don't Ignore Your Body's Check Engine Light

Sometimes enough is too much.  Among the many ways to group triathletes, I see 2 distinct training theories.  There is one group that has a plan and by god they are going to follow it.  Another group trains based upon . . . well, I'm not sure what their training is based upon - the weather? what their buddy is doing?  I'm speaking to the first group - those with the plan.

Having a training plan and following it is a great idea. Except when it isn't.  Some triathletes will ignore all kinds of warning signs just to follow the plan.  I give you an example near and dear to my heart - ME.  Last year I was training for my first Ironman at Coeur D'Alene.  I had my plan and I was going to follow it.  An improper bike fit manifested itself in knee pain on the bike after a preparatory half iron race.  The knee had bothered me a bit leading up to the race but I ignored it to follow the plan.  I ended up in physical therapy and taking 3 weeks off the bike right at the peak of my training.  Oops.

This year I'm training for Ironman Wisconsin.  I'm taking a radically different approach.  A lot of people training for Ironman races wander around like zombies most of the time.  They still have work and family obligations and training eats into their sleep schedule.

A couple of weeks ago I hit a wall.  I had 3 lousy nights of interrupted sleep (one downside of being married to a physician who delivers babies).  I was up early training each morning.  Saturday I had a long run.  Sunday my son had an early morning hockey game and the schedule called for a 3 hour brick (2 hour bike followed by an immediate 1 hour run).  When I got back from the hockey game all I wanted to do was go back to sleep.  My body was fighting the plan.  Last year I would have dragged myself out to the garage and started on the bike.  This year I listened to my body and slept for 2 hours.  I woke up refreshed and spent the rest of the day with the family.

I don't doubt that if I had followed the plan and done that brick I would have gotten very little out of the workout and most likely would have ended up getting sick.

Overwhelming fatigue is not the only warning sign that the plan needs modification.   Other signs include:
irritability (more than usual), depression, heavy limbs, changes in sleep patterns and appetite.  When I find myself having less patience with the kids I know I need a break (maybe from them, but more likely from training).

It's still important to train and to train hard.  Knowing when to take a break requires paying attention to the body's check engine lights.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pair of Bronzes and A Near Miss

Both Anne P. and Mike V. completed their first full triathlon at Minneman this past weekend.  Anne P. took 3rd in the Novice Women 40-44.  Coach Rich barely held off a charging football carrying Clydesdale named Dooby for 3rd place.  Mike V. just missed 3rd in the Novice Men 30-34 by 14 seconds. (We're pretty sure the shorts alone cost him that much time.)

Mike V. is already looking for a fall 10k for his next challenge.  Anne P. is gearing up for the Minneapolis Women's Triathlon in August.

Coach Rich will be in Madison this weekend for WIBA (a low key training camp for Ironman Wisconsin).  After that is the Chisago 1/2.  What's your next race?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Minneman Bottles Arrive

If you're going to be at Minneman this Saturday you're sure to see TFI!  We're supplying a water bottle for each registered athlete.  We'll have 3 athletes competing and a good sized support crew.

See you at packet pickup!

Here is the bottle stuffing crew hard at work!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Remember How Far You've Come!

It's easy to forget where we started from. We often get caught up in the barriers to improving from our current levels. I think it's important to think back to when we first got into this sport (for some of you that may not be that long ago).

A couple of newbies at Land Between the Lakes really made me appreciate all I have learned over the past 5 years. A couple of weeks ago in Albert Lea, I saw not one but TWO people with their wetsuits on inside out. Yes, to newcomers there is an awful lot to figure out.

Here's a general rule of thumb - think be like a fish - you want the slippery side out.

Never forget what it was like to try and figure out how to lay out your stuff (and what stuff did you need) that first time you raced.

We've all come a long way - even if we still have a long way to go.

It was a great day down in Albert Lea. The wind howled which made the bike interesting. TFI athlete, Brian K. (pictured on the left) saw one athlete get blown across the road into another in a crosswind section.

I finished in second place in the Clydesdale division.
Here I am collecting my bling.

I'll be at the New Bri Tri this Saturday - either volunteering or racing.  If you're our there be sure to say hi.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vary Your Pace to Improve Swim and Bike Performance

When you head to the pool do you swim countless laps at the same pace?  Does the length of your ride dictate how fast you go?  One speed for your midweek one hour ride and a slightly reduced speed for your long weekend ride?  Mix it up for improved performance. 
Many triathletes come from a running background.  They are comfortable with speed work such as tempo runs, fartleks and strides.
 If you are unfamiliar with those terms,  a tempo run includes a warmup, a sub-threshold portion and a cool down.  Sub-threshold pace is usually around 30 seconds per mile slower than your 5k pace.  Fartlek literally means "speed play" in Swedish.  A fartlek consists of alternating intervals of fast running (10k pace or faster) and easy running or walking.  Strides involve relaxed sprints for short periods of time sprinkled throughout a training run.
This speed work provides higher aerobic fitness and improved running efficiency.   Most of us know this.
Yet, we swim lap after lap at the same pace.  Pedaling mile after mile in the upper- middle area of our aerobic zone.  We're all comfortable there in the dreaded grey zone.  When we are done, we feel like we put in a good workout, but didn't really suffer.
Here are a couple of ways to include some speed in your swimming:  Following your basic endurance sets (100s, 200s, 500s,  include some 25s or 50s at maximum speed with 20 to 40 second recoveries.  It's like lifting weights in the pool.
You can also replace your basic endurance sets with fartlek sets.  Either alternate fast and slow laps, or slowly build your speed over some laps and then back down your pace.
Adding speed to cycling is even more fun -especially in a group setting.  Rather than spinning along in your group, institute some "telephone pole sprints."   As in, "race you to the third telephone pole."  Drop the hammer on your buddies.  Recover for a couple of minutes and do it all over again.   You can also do this on your own, but it's definitely more fun when you are pushed by others.
When you are on your own, you can add some speed with a tempo ride.  Warmup with around 15 minutes of easy spinning.  Be sure to include some short bursts of higher effort (around 30 seconds).  Increase your effort to near race pace (sprint or olympic distance).  Hold this effort for 20 minutes or break it into 2 x 10 minute blocks with 2-4 minutes of recovery in between.  Finish up with 15 minutes of spinning.
By including some speed work in your swimming and cycling, you will improve your race performance.  Variety also makes training more fun. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fun with Fauna (or beware of the angry goose)

When running and biking (and occasionally swimming) in the Twin Cities, we often encounter wildlife.  It's usually one of the benefits of being out early or late in the day.  Sometimes it's a nuisance (goose poop on the trail).  Other times, it's downright dangerous.

Last spring when I was training for IM CDA, I turned a corner (one that's on the Minneman Triathlon route) and found myself bearing down on a black bear.  Though I wasn't in any real danger, if I had been going faster I might have had to hit the ditch or the bear.  Neither option is very appealing.

I've also been sprayed indirectly by a skunk while doing a 20 mile run before my first marathon. That was about 3 miles in.  The next 17 miles were not all that fun.

This past Sunday was a gorgeous day for a run.  I did a 90 minute run on a paved trail that ran next to a fairly busy road.  Less than ideal but it was where I needed to be to fit the run into my day.  Normally the only danger I would feel would be from inattentive motorists (or more likely cyclists on the trail).

As the trail approached a retention pond I noticed two geese close to the edge of the trail.  One goose was eyeing me warily.  As I got closer I moved to the far edge of the trail.  The goose lowered it's head and started hissing.  That's a lot like a bull in a movie stamping its foot before it charges.  I had visions of getting arrested for drop kicking a 30 pound goose.  I yelled "HEY" which gave it pause as I moved away without getting pecked.  I've seen marks on other runners from geese.

The worst part wast that I was on an out and back so I knew I'd have to cross that grouchy goose on the way back.  Those things smell fear, I swear it.  Fortunately they had moved on.

Surely some of you have had encounters with wildlife.  Share your story as comments below.  Be sure to provide an email address.  I'll contact you about sending you a free TFI running cap.

Be careful out there!

Monday, May 3, 2010

TFI Athletes Rock Ironman 70.3 Texas (and Sprint)

Mike O. and Ang O. competed in Galveston last month.

Mike was attempting his first 70.3.  We had spent a great deal of time putting a race plan into place.  Both the bike and the run at Galveston are  pancake flat.  The wind can be an issue on the out and back bike. It's important to focus on your effort level not your speed - especially when heading into the wind.

 Sunday the wind was in Mike's face on the way out.  he watched his heart rate and kept his effort within the planned range.  He got off the bike feeling strong.  His first 8.5 miles on the run were all consistent.  It was a bit of a struggle over the last miles in no small part due to a hiccup with his nutrition on the bike.

This race served two purposes for Mike.  1) get a 70.3 race under his belt to build confidence for IMWI. 2) test his nutrition and pacing for a longer race.  Check and check.

Angie had a perfect race (perfect because her first open water swim was canceled due to high winds).  She tore up the bike with a new PR and felt strong on the run.

The highlight of the weekend though for Angie was talking with pro Andy Potts.

All in all a great start to racing for TFI athletes!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tri Season Kicks Off in Big Way

Ironman 70.3 Texas kicks off the 2010 tri season for Tri For It! Coaching, as TFI athlete Mike O. does his first 70.3 on Sunday.  We're looking forward to lots of pics and a full race report.  Mike's training has gone very well.  We've been able to ramp up his mileage without causing his plantar fasciitis to flair up.  Getting this 70.3 under his belt is going to go a long way in building his confidence as he prepares for Ironman Wisconsin 2010.

Ordinarily I wouldn't recommend tackling a 70.3 this far from/close to IMWI as it means Mike is going to be facing almost a full year of intense training (not counting the prep work) with little recovery time after the 70.3.  Given his injury history though, it made a lot of sense in that it: 1) allowed for a slower buildup than we might have used for IMWI standing alone and 2) it really allowed us to test whether his feet would hold up to 9 workouts/week.

Mike has done the hard work, the plan is in place, now all he has to do is go out and enjoy race day.  Ang O. is also competing in the sprint distance race on Saturday.  Good luck Mike and Ang!

Friday, April 9, 2010

New Tri It Package

At Tri For It! Coaching we realize a lot of athletes would like some assistance achieving their goals but don't want the full panacea of coaching services.  For those athletes we've developed the Tri It Package.  For $275 you get:
  • Initial 1 hour Consultation;
  • 10-14 week custom training plan and nutritional guidelines;
  • Basic Training Peaks online training log account (upgrade to Premium account available for $10/month);
  • Follow up 1/2 hour meeting to review plan;
  • Up to 2 hours of additional calls, emails or meetings with training/racing related questions;
If you would like to get started or more information fill out the contact form.  While you're there take a moment to check out the rest of the Tri For It! Coaching website.

    Wednesday, March 31, 2010

    Training v. Working Out

    There are many differences between working out and training.  One of those differences was made very clear to me this past week.  Working has to fit into your schedule.  Training requires adjusting your schedule, within reason, to work towards your goals.

    This past week I have been on Maui with my family.  It also coincides with the beginning of my 24 week build for Ironman Wisconsin.  I knew I was going to have trouble getting in the bikes but I wasn't too worried about that.

    Monday was to be my first day of training.  Sunday night the family decided they wanted to do the road to Hana on Monday.  I knew I could get in one workout before leaving.  I also knew that I wouldn't feel like working out after being in the car all day.   So after the kids were in bed Sunday I went down to the pool and cranked out my first training session a day early.  The next day I got up before everyone and got my run in.

    Tuesday I went back and biked a good portion of the road to Hana with a group ride put on by Go Cycling Maui.  Donnie has a great shop and he and the support crew were awesome.  The Litespeed bikes are nice.  If you're going to Maui, bring your shoes and pedals and Donnie will supply the rest - including Heed, Endurolytes, Gels, bars and peanut filled pretzels which may have never tasted so good.  We did 4500 feet of elevation in 40 beautiful miles.  You can also ride to the top of Haleakala - 10,000+ feet of vertical.  Despite how terrible this picture of me is, I had a blast.  You can make out part of the road on the cliff above my head.

    I'll have to work my training around the family surfing lesson on Thursday.  Sacrifices, sacrifices.  Aloha!

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    Realistic Assessment and Plan is Key

    "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy."  Colin Powell

    This is often true of race plans as well.  With races the enemy may be the weather or other external forces.  Usually the real enemy of executing a race plan is the athlete's failure to follow the plan.  I have been that athlete before.  I have discarded race plans in the first 100 meters of a race and paid dearly for it.

    I have also, on the  rare occasion, put together the right plan and followed it to great personal success. (Note the success was personal.  It didn't necessarily translate to the podium.)

    The first key is to have the right plan.  This past weekend I ran in the Get Lucky 7k here in Minneapolis.  It's an odd distance that I've never raced before.  My training of late has been improving, but when you are starting from less than zero there's no where to go but up.  The two runs leading up to the race were awful slogfests.  Not encouraging.

    I was concerned that I might crash and burn after the third mile.  I needed a plan.  I decided to go out VERY conservatively and try to build my effort throughout the race.  This would be the exact opposite of my Thanksgiving race in which I overestimated my fitness and went out too fast.

    The second key is to actually follow the plan.  I placed myself well behind my goal pace in the start.  I figured the crowd would help hold me back.  I knew I would pick my way through the other runners at the beginning, but I'm better off doing that among the 10:30 min/mile crowd than the 8:30 min/milers.   I resisted the temptation to follow some other runners through the crowd.

    With each kilometer I felt stronger and was able to pick up the pace.  By the midway point I was steadily passing runners who had gone out too fast.  I ended up averaging 10 seconds/mile better than I had anticipated.  Don't get me wrong, I was still slow, but I knew I was going to be.

    Having realistically assessed my current fitness level I was able to set an appropriate goal and develop a plan to get there.  A coach can really help the athlete by providing an objective analysis of fitness, setting realistic goals, and developing the right race day plan.  The coach also holds the athlete accountable if the athlete abandons the plan.  That being said, there are times when you've got to toss that plan right out the window.  We'll talk about a few of those in the next entry.

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    Some Lessons Need to Be Relearned

    Heading back onto the roads after a winter of riding (or not riding) on the trainer is always a bit eye opening.  This past week was gorgeous here in the Twin Cities.  I converted my Guru from trainer machine to road rocket (well something like that).  I went out for an hour and a half.  Here's what I discovered:

    I don't drink enough without my aerobar hydration system.  When you're out in the wind and it's 55 degrees you don't have the same physical cues to drink that you have on the trainer i.e. the pool of sweat on the floor.  You also having to navigate traffic, potholes, and sand dunes leftover from the winter road treatment.  Those factors reduce the likelihood that I'll reach down and grab my bottle.

    The end result was that for the rest of the day I was totally wiped out.  Spent a great deal of time trying to rehydrate.  I won't make that mistake again.  Well, at least not until next year.  The next time I head out on the road I'll have my Profile Design aero bottle in place and topped off.

    The weather has returned to normal so it may be a while before I get out on the roads again.  When you do ride safe and drink plenty of fluids. 

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010

    Group Training Does Have Benefits Though

    While it's true that there are some hazards to joining a group for training (as I pointed out yesterday), the benefits vastly outweigh the risks.  This is particularly true if you verify the training plan and have the strength of will to let the group go on without you when the training doesn't match with your goals.

    Here are just a few of the benefits:

    There have been periodic reports of lone cyclists being attacked on bike paths here in Minneapolis - particularly at night.  Being in a group, whether on foot or on bikes, makes you a much less opportune target wherever you are.

    You are much more likely to roll out of bed before the sun is up when you know your group (even if it's just one other person) is going to be there waiting for you.  The excuses for not working out we tell ourselves often don't hold up when they have to be given to a training partner.  The group can also help you get through any rough patches during your run.

    Improved Performance
    For those training sessions where you are trying to push the pace or distance, having a little competition can give you that little extra needed.  Just be sure you don't over reach and end up injuring yourself.

    It's been pointed out to me (thanks Shaun) that group runs at conferences are great opportunities to network.  This is true not just at conferences.  Find a group at work that runs during lunch or before/after work.  Connecting with your boss (or your boss's boss)  outside the workplace is a wise career move.   Group training is also a great way to connect with others socially.  Everyone in the group has at least one thing in common.

    The bottom line is find a group or training buddy and get out there.  Many local running shoe stores offer free training groups.  They usually have multiple groups at different paces/distances.  Do a little research and get in the right group.

    Monday, March 8, 2010

    Beware of the Group Run

    We are taught from an early age that there is safety in numbers.  Use the buddy system.  Don't go out alone.  Well I'm here to tell you that isn't always the case.

    This past weekend I was invited to join a group for a Sunday morning run.  I knew the groups pace would be fine (although this is one of the primary dangers in group training).  What I didn't know was that I would end up covering 50% more distance than I planned.  We were running along the river and had to make a choice to either turn around or continue until we got to the next bridge.  Most everyone prefers a loop to an out and back.  We thought it might add an extra mile or so.  Turns out it added over 2.5 miles.  Oops.

    Some people can't run on their own or at least don't like to.  I'll be the first to admit that having others around makes the miles fly by (even when you aren't really flying).  The problem is you have to relinquish a certain amount of control to join the group.  Verify the plans for the run: the planned pace, the planned route. Only join the group if the plans match with your training.

    I got lucky.  The added mileage didn't push me over the edge.  With a full day of rest I should be able to pick right back up with my training.  If the added mileage had been combined with a pace above my capabilities  I would not have been so lucky.

    Be careful out there!

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    A Real Pain in the . . . Foot

    Last week I swam before yoga.  We started class in extended child's pose.  If you're unfamiliar with yoga you basically kneel with you knees wide and then go forward with your forehead on the mat.  I had just settled in when it struck me - it was like my right foot was in a vice.  I kept having to straighten my foot out to keep the arch from cramping.  Arrgh!  It's hard to get your zen on when you have to keep readjusting and coming out of the pose.

    Later that week I was talking to a TFI athlete and he mentioned that he keeps getting foot cramps as well.  Most of us have heard the old standard - eat bananas and drink more.   I decided there must be more scientific advice.  So I started digging into the latest cramp research.  Turns out there really isn't any more scientific advice.  This is what I found.

    Causes of Cramps
    According to the American Academy of Osteopaedic Surgeons the exact cause of cramps is idiopathic.  That's fancy doctor talk for "we don't have a clue" why it occurs.  I recognize it because I'm married to a doctor.  They note that endurance athletes are susceptible to getting muscle cramps, particularly at the beginning of the season when the body isn't conditioned for the stresses of training.  Hey, that sounds like me - endurance athlete, deconditioned, starting back up.  Factors that contribute to the onset of cramps:

    • Muscle fatigue
    • Lack of stretching
    • Dehydration
    • Electrolyte Depletion
    Maybe there is something to that drink more and eat bananas advice.

    The good doctors at the Mayo Clinic recommend stretching and massage to alleviate cramps.  Apply heat to tense muscles and cold to sore/tender muscles.

    Cramps can be the result of serious medical conditions so if you experience severe or persistent cramps you should see your physician.

    In the interim, drink more and eat bananas.  Sometimes I guess "they" are right.

    Monday, February 22, 2010

    Stepping Back

    There may come a time in your training where you'll need to step back and reevaluate your goals.  Often it's just a rough patch in your training that a recovery week can get you through.  Other times it's a red flag that it's time to revise your plans completely.

    One of our TFI athletes, Jane, was hit with a red flag.  Jane was training for her first Olympic distance race, her first open water swim and looking for a good performance.  Jane's plate is pretty full.  She has two young kids, including a daughter with special needs.  Her husband recently purchased a business which requires a lot of work and crazy hours.  In addition to that, he consults out of town so he's traveling quite a bit.

    Jane kept getting sick.  We were constantly revising her training and taking time off.  As soon as we started up again she'd get run down and sick again.  She wasn't having fun.  We talked about everything that was going on with her schedule, stress and sleep and came to the conclusion that the Olympic was just out of reach.  She's switching to the Sprint distance.  Her training will be much less time intensive.  She's enjoying working out again and really looking forward to her race.  It will still be her first open water swim.  By next season, she may have the time and energy to put towards a longer race.  Right now she's having fun in triathlon and still moving forward.

    Having fun and moving forward.  Isn't that what it's really all about?

    Monday, February 1, 2010

    Ask the Coach - Running Off the Bike

    In the other triathlons I've done, my toughest (mental & physical) challenge is transitioning from the bike to the run.  The problem is not in the transition area but the actual run. My legs have such an awkward and jerk running feel to them that it takes me almost 2 miles to find my stride! - Phillip E. from Minneapolis.

    Anyone who has done a triathlon (or duathlon) knows the awkward feeling when trying to run after biking.  Your legs are still trying to go in circles.

    There are three main ways to improve your running out of T2:
    • Practice running after biking;
    • Developing and executing the right plan on the bike; and
    • Improving your running efficiency
     Practice Running Off the Bike
    Running off the bike is a skill, just like sighting in open water, or bike handling in the aero position.  In order to master the skill of running off the bike you must practice running off the bike.

    Many training plans call for bike to run workouts (bricks) every other week.  Typically these are a moderately long bike ride followed by a 20 to 40 minute run.  These bricks are a good start to getting your body used to running off the bike. 

    To truly develop this skill more sessions of running off the bike are required.  Additional shorter runs after many of your bike rides will help you develop the neuro-muscular pathways to make running off the bike second nature.  It only takes a 5 to 15 minute run after many of your rides to help your legs adjust.

    Develop and Execute the Right Plan on the Bike

    Now it's race day and you've practiced running off the bike and feel like you've got it down.  You mount your bike out of T1 and hammer your way through 15, 22, 56, or 112 miles, all the way to the dismount line.  Slip on your running shoes and wobble out of T2.  What the heck happened?

    You've trashed your legs to the point where no amount of prior practice is going to make running off the bike comfortable.  That's why you need a plan.

    A large part of the plan is knowing how hard to ride given your level of cycling fitness.  The longer the ride the more important proper pacing becomes.

    Most athletes can complete a sprint triathlon pacing at or above their lactate threshold (LT).  There are a variety of ways to measure LT, but to try and keep it simple, think of LT as the point at which your legs start to burn.  Elite age groupers and pros can perform at this level for the Olympic distance and even the Half Iron distance.  The rest of us will crash and burn if we try to maintain this level of effort for that long.

    For the Olympic and Half Iron distances, if you are a typical age group athlete with some experience you will want to keep your heart rate at least 10 beats per minute below your LT for the bulk of the bike ride.  That means your average heart rate will be more than 10 beats lower due to time spent coasting or braking.

    The second part of the plan covers the last 2-4 miles of the bike.  During this time you should BACK OFF.  Increase your cadence by spinning an easier gear.  The easy spinning will help loosen your legs for the run. Don't worry about the other riders hammering up to transition.  You'll most likely see them again a short distance outside of T2 as you pass them smiling.  Take this time to mentally run through your transition routine, rack location, etc. 

    Improve Your Running Efficiency
    I'm going to focus on only one aspect of running efficiency since I think it is the most important aspect coming out of transition.  Cadence.  Most of us overstride.  The long loping strides make running off the bike even harder. 

    While training and racing focus on taking short quick strides.  Aim for 85-90 cycles per minute.  That's 80-90 strides per leg per minute.  In order to maintain that cadence and not burn out, we are forced to shorten our stride.

    It can take quite a while to make stride changes (six to eighteen months).  Start now while you are building your foundation.

    Another thing to keep in mind when starting to run out of T2.  Ease into it!  Start off 30 seconds/mile slower than your goal pace.  Keep those short strides and after a half mile or so you'll be in your groove.

    Hope that helps, Phillip.  Best of luck with your season.

    Friday, January 29, 2010

    Ask the Coach Reminder

    Free technical shirt and running hat if you submit a triathlon or duathlon related question to and the question is answered here.

    Curious?  Check out our company website at

    Thursday, January 28, 2010

    Recovery from Swimmer's Shoulder

    So you ignored all the advice regarding over training and proper form in the first post regarding swimmer's shoulder and now your shoulder hurts.  Or maybe you followed all the advice and your shoulder still hurts (it happens).  What do you do now?

    My first recommendation is that you contact your physician.  If you are in the Twin Cities and don't have a sports med doc, I highly recommend Dr. Amy Stromwall with Summit Orthopedic.  She is a certified sports medicine family physician.  This means she doesn't do surgery but looks for non-surgical remedies.  If you need surgery one of her partners can perform it. She has worked with the U.S. Olympic swim team.  She understands the typical athletes' need to get back out there.  She's treated me for a variety of issues (including shoulder issues).

    Prior to getting in to see your doc, you should rest and ice your shoulder.  This means discontinue swimming until your shoulder pain has resolved.  I know, I know . . . you've got a race coming up in X weeks, you can't stop now.  Listen to your body.  The pain is telling you something is wrong.  Pushing ahead now will worsen the problem and could result in surgery.  Missing one race is better than losing a whole season.  Ibuprofen also will help with the pain and inflammation.

    So your shoulder has started feeling a bit better from the rest, ice and ibuprofen.  Now what?  Here are some shoulder exercises that can help strengthen your rotator cuff.  If you have a technique issue with your stroke you will need to address that as well.

    I am not a physician (although I am married to one - and no she's not Dr. Stromwall).  I am not a physical therapist either.  I am not giving medical advice. These exercises are just typical rotator cuff strengthening exercises, similar to the ones I was given when I had a shoulder issue. 

    Isometric Internal Rotation
    Stand near the end of outer corner of wall.
    Bend elbow to 90-degree angle and keep elbow close to body, lower arm level with floor.
    Press palm of hand into wall for 10 seconds. Repeat exercise on other side.

    Internal Rotation using Dumbbells
    Lie on side.
    Hold dumbbell on same side, Bend elbow to 90-degree angle. Keep elbow against body.
    Slowly lift dumbbell upward and toward body.
    Pause, and return to start.
    Repeat 10 times. Repeat exercise on other side.

    Internal Rotation using Resistance Band
    Attach resistance band to doorknob / wall.
    Stand with right side to wall.
    Hold resistance band with right hand.
    Bend elbow to 90-degree angle, hand facing frontward and elbow close to body.
    Slowly rotate hand toward the middle of the body.
    Return to starting position.
    Repeat 10 times. Repeat exercise on other side

    Isometric External Rotation
    Stand with side to wall.
    Bend elbow to 90-degree angle. Keep elbow close to body.
    Press back of hand into wall for 10 seconds. Repeat exercise on other side

    External Rotation using Dumbbells
    Lie on left side.
    With right arm, hold dumbbell next to body, elbow bent 90-degrees.
    Slowly lift upward until back of hand faces backward.
    Return to starting position.
    Repeat 10 times. Repeat exercise on other side

    External Rotation using Resistance Band
    Attach resistance band to doorknob / wall.
    Stand with left side to wall.
    Hold resistance band with right hand.
    Start with right hand in middle of body, elbow bent 90-degrees.
    Slowly stretch band by moving arm outward until back of hand facing backward.
    Do one set (10 repetitions) Repeat exercise on other side.

    Lateral Raise using Dumbbell
    Stand or sit in chair.
    With arms at side and thumbs pointed upward, slowly raise arm to the sides but slightly toward the front (at about a 30 degree angle to the front of the body) until almost shoulder level.
    Repeat 10 times.

    Lying Lateral Raise using Dumbbell
    Lie on left side. Hold dumbbell in right hand in, placed in front of thigh, palm facing leg. Keep elbow slightly bent. Raise dumbbell slowly until arm is at 45-degree angle.
    Return to starting position.
    Repeat 10 times. Repeat exercise on other side.

    Lateral Raise with Internal Rotation using Dumbbell
    Stand or sit.
    With arms at side and thumbs pointed toward ground (shoulders internally rotated), slowly raise arm to the sides but slightly toward the front (at about a 30 degree angle to the front of the body) until almost shoulder level.
    Repeat 10 times.

    Saturday, January 23, 2010

    How's that Resolution Working Out?

    Just thought I'd check in and see how your New Year's Resolutions were panning out now that we're hitting the end of January.  Been skipping those workouts already, hitting the M&Ms by the handful (guilty), not getting enough sleep?

    It's definitely not too late to start moving in the right direction in 2010.

    Challenge yourself!  Pick a race, sign up (lots of them have registration open already) and start training.

    If you don't know where to start, shoot an email to and I'll help you get on track.

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    Ask the Coach - Swimmer's Shoulder Prevention (Recovery to Follow)

    Shaun J. from the Twin Cities asks "What's the best plan for recovering from and preventing swimmer's shoulder?"

    That's a really timely question as a lot of triathletes are making their way back into the pool after taking some time off.  There's a real temptation to try and pick right up where you left off last season.  "I was swimming 2,500 - 3,000 in my workouts last year so I'll do that again."  Couple the inevitable loss of swim fitness and stroke degradation from the time off and it's a recipe for disaster.  That disaster has a name, and it is swimmer's shoulder.

    Before we get to prevention and recovery, we should probably talk about what swimmer's shoulder is. 

    Your shoulder joint is stabilized by a group of small muscles which together are called the rotator cuff.  The long head of the biceps tendon also helps stabilize the shoulder joint.  Swimmer's shoulder is the result of inflammation in these muscles and tendons from overuse. 

    The inflammation and resulting shoulder instability can cause impingement (pinching) of the biceps tendon.

    This pain is typically felt during the early to mid-pull part of the catch phase of the front crawl.  It can also occur during the adduction phase of the recovery (when the elbow moves away from the body).

    Initially it presents as a dull ache during training which goes away after awhile.  Eventually the pain may persist and increase in intensity - impacting the athlete's sleep and non-swimming activities.


    Like most overuse injuries the best treatment is to avoid getting the malady in the first place.   The two root causes of swimmer's shoulder are increases in training volume and poor technique.   Too rapidly increasing your training volume requires the stabilizing muscles to continue to work in a fatigued state.  As you tire, your stroke technique tends to degrade requiring more strokes/lap which causes additional inflammation.

    Avoiding excessive volume increases is the simpler of the root causes to eliminate.  The old standard of increasing no more than 10% per week applies to swim training as well as the bike and run.  This is particularly true when getting back in the water after a break.  Caution is advised.  There's plenty of time before the season starts.  That extra 5x100 with 5 seconds rest isn't going to make your season, but it could push you over the edge into over training and wreck your season.  Using hand paddles or gloves can quickly cause over training type fatigue in your shoulder and should be used judiciously.

    Muscle imbalances also increase shoulder instability.  Triathletes are particularly susceptible to developing muscle imbalances since we focus almost exclusively on freestyle.  Maybe we throw in some breast stroke to warm up and cool down.  Adding some backstroke and even "gasp" butterfly will make you a more rounded swimmer and help prevent swimmer's shoulder.  It also will help prevent the dreaded freestyler's hunched posture - which the aero  position on the bike also contributes to.  The backstroke is a particularly effective stroke for catching your breath during a race. 

    Poor technique is a harder cause to eliminate - but with proper guidance (dare I say coaching), patience and hard work, your stroke will improve.  Stroke issues that can cause impingement include hand crossing the mid-line of the body upon entry, having your thumb down upon entry, single sided breathing, and inadequate body rotation.

    Many swimmers crossover upon entry.  Not only is this an inefficient stroke (it's like putting the brakes on every time your arm enters the water), but it puts greater stress on the shoulder joint.  One trick to avoid the crossover is to think of your arms tracking on parallel lines on each side of the black line on the bottom of the pool.  If you've been crossing over in past and now it feels like you're making the "Y" in YMCA, you're probably doing it right.

    A thumb down hand entry causes great shoulder rotation and increases stress on the joint.  Focus on flattening your hand as it knifes into the water on entry.

    Most of us have a favored side for breathing.  Some breath exclusively on that side.  This puts your other shoulder at risk as it must work harder balancing and maintaining forward motion while your head is turned.  Bilateral breathing spreads this load between both shoulders.  The best way to become a bilateral breather is to force yourself to breathe on your offside.  One of the drills I do every time I go to the pool is swim some 25s breathing only on my offside.  At first it felt really awkward.  With practice it gradually became more natural.

    Body rotation is essential for efficient freestyle.  It utilizes core muscles rather than just pecs and lats to provide propulsion and puts less stress on the shoulder.   One drill to focus on this rotation and proper arm position is the fingertip drag drill.  Keeping your elbow high drag your fingertips along the water during your recovery.  This photo shows proper arm position with good body rotation.
    In my next entry I'll discuss some recovery/treatment methods for dealing with swimmers' shoulder.

    Thanks for the question Shaun!  Your hat is on its way.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    The Tri Tops are in!

    The new Tri For It! Coaching Garneau tri tops are in!  We're pretty excited with how they turned out.  Remember, you get one of these when you sign up for 6 months of coaching.  You also get one in your sixth month of month by month coaching or when you sign up for your second 3 months coaching.

    Watch for Team Tri For It! at local triathlons starting this spring.

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    Answering the "What Should I Eat Today?" Question

    In addition to asking "What should I do today?", athletes often wonder "What should I eat today?"  At TFI, we strive to answer both of those questions.

    What you eat should vary with the duration and intensity of your workout(s) for that day.  There's a reason why you find yourself in the kitchen after a long ride eating everything in sight.  Your body needs fuel to repair itself and replace the energy stores you've used.  As long as you are careful about your choices (no, that whole 4 meat pizza is not a good post ride choice) you no longer need feel guilty about your post ride feeding frenzy.

    We prepare macro-nutrient (carbohydrates, protein and fat) guidelines for our athletes taking into account their weight and training load.  Here's an example of one prepared for Coach Rich during the preparation (base) training cycle:

    Once you get over the seemingly ridiculously high calorie amounts (one of the few advantages to weighing 100 kg),  you'll notice that only the carbohydrate values change based upon the training volume.   If the intensity or strength workload increased the protein intake would also increase.  These guidelines assume that weight maintenance is one of the athlete's goals.

    With their macro-nutrient guidelines, the athlete can modify their food choices and volume to fit the guidelines.  Initially it does take some effort to track the carbs, protein and fat, but eventually it becomes easier.  The athlete begins to think about food as fuel for performance.