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Athlete Case Study - Simon Butterworth

I hope I will be forgiven for writing this athlete case study about myself. A feeble excuse perhaps is that I also coach myself.  I am going to write about all the athletes who have and are racing Iron Man who are around my age, a small cadre, as you will see.  I hope by the end you will understand why we should be considered both lucky and crazy. Lucky that we can still do this stuff and crazy for not finding something better to do in old age.

Back in 1998 at the ITU world championships a friend Dick Wilson and I stood up to cheer the top finishers in the older, 65+, than us, age groups.  We looked at each other at some point with the same thought, if we were ever going to get on that podium, we were just going to have to outlast our competition.  Dick did race a few more years doing well, but finally “retired” as did several other friends to spend more time with their growing family of grandchildren. Other friends have been forced into retirement and sadly, I have lost a few friends and competitors.

I expected in my early days of triathlon that we would see a huge increase in the numbers of older athletes competing when my generation made it into their 70s. We are part of the post war baby boom so there were simply more of us.  The increase has been significant at all distances from my observation and in the case of ironman the data is easily available.  Last year, 172 people over the age of 70 and 3 over 80 finished an Iron Man.  In 2012 and 13 the numbers were 81 and 75 with four over 80 finishers in those two years (one of those 80-year-olds was sister Madonna Bouder, and I believe she is the only woman over 80 to finish an Iron Man, she is still racing shorter races in her 90’s). Sister has a small group of fellow athletes that age, all setting new records each time they race.  

The two big things as you get into your 70’s is recovery and slowing down.  Both are hard to accept but there is no avoiding it. Up to age 50 recovery does not change much and neither does speed for those who stay healthy. In my own case I did not start serious competition until my late 40’s so up to 60 I was getting faster. One of my best improvements being transitions, never underestimate the importance of transitions. Here are some statistics showing my slow down since hitting 65. 

The drop in power in 2021 has an easy explanation, covid. The drop in run pace that year was also easy,  a sea level event. My Peak Run in 22 was also at sea level.

Trends in one race such as Kona is harder to analyze because of the variables. I have included the pacing for two winners, Hans in 16 and Bob in 18. Hans retired that year when we both aged up giving me a chance in 17 to win which I did.  Bob almost set a record when he won in 18, conditions were amazingly mild that year.  He is gunning for another win this year in Nice.  Clearly my swim pace has hardly changed at that distance.  Bike even trended down from 16-18, thanks in part to lower wind speeds.  2021, actually May 2022, was in St George, the hardest hilliest IM I have ever done.  

I have had the privilege of getting to know some amazing men and women.  Last October I was at the finish line when Cherie Gruenfield set the record for the oldest female finisher, if you want to learn more about her click here  or here to learn how she got into the sport here.  After struggling to finish last year in over 16 hrs she announced her retirement.  

Cherie Grunfield crossing the finish line

One of my early role models was a WWII much decorated Vet, Army Ranger, ambassador and Mad Dog #10 (Mad Dog was at one time the biggest Triathlon club in the US). He was one of the first to attempt Kona at 80 and set the record when he finished at 77 (my age this year).  I spent the best part of an hour with him after he had won the USAT Nationals in 1999 more than ten times.  I tucked away his best advice, be sure to adjust your rest time as you get older, you will need more and more, it's frustrating but necessary.  And you will need lots more sleep than non-athletes.   

My toughest rival in more than just racing was Stephen Smith.  He was the man to beat, and very few did for much of my 30 years racing.  His last words to me in 2014 was go win a big bowl, in reference to the first-place trophy handed out in Kona.  He died after fighting a brain tumor for three years just before I headed to Kona that October. I did as he suggested two years later, and he was with me through the run.  

I have shared the podium at the IronGents dinner, an annual event in Kona for anyone over 60, with Bill Bell who almost made it to become the first Kona finisher over 80.  I traveled down Ali’I drive with Lou Hollander, then 81, after an almost race ending bike mechanical in 2009.  It was as good as running with Elvis, I was with a rock star and the crowds on the course new it.  Lou, Cherie, Stephen, Jim, Bill, and others are my inspiration to keep going.

Compared to the total number of people who finish Iron Man the numbers over 70 are still incredibly small.  After my first time in Kona, I met an athlete on the beach the next day, who I had watched crossing the line close to midnight.  I told him I was blown away by his effort, I could not get my head around being out there for 17 hours. And could not imagine doing the same thing myself (I survived almost 16 hrs in St George). That I think in a nutshell explains why my cadre is now so small. But if you’re lucky, you can still do this stuff when you reach my age and are crazy enough to want to do it then you will.  I hope the information I have shared will be helpful and like to think that I am now inspiring some nutcases like me.

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The Smoothie: The Highlight of the Day

For many athletes, the highlight of their day is the smoothie. Many of us spend countless hours perfecting our smoothie recipes for pre-workout, post-workout, and nutritional supplementation with numerous combinations of ingredients. The blender is at heart of smoothie perfection, the kitchen device that sits proudly on many a kitchen countertop.

Two leading brands of blenders are Vitamix and Blendtec, with other brands available on the marketplace. High-end blenders often come with a hefty price tag exceeding four-hundred dollars. However, with that price tag, you’re getting a machine with a powerful motor that can generate very high RPMs to make short work of frozen fruit, ice cubes, and leafy vegetables. There is comfort in knowing that a blender jar stuffed with spinach, kale, ice cubes, and a frozen banana will quickly be deliquesced in short order with my Vitamix. A less powerful blender will have difficulty churning the ingredients and gaining smoothie perfection.

Customizing your smoothie recipes are part of the fun. I’ve experimented with various greens, including beet, dandelion, and rhubarb. You can add healthy fats from nuts, seeds, and avocado to your smoothie, with avocado adding a unique texture to the smoothie. The combinations of fruits are limitless, so experiment with what’s available at your local supermarket. I generally always keep frozen bananas, strawberries, and blueberries in the freezer as a baseline for my smoothies. Experiment with your ingredients and have fun achieving your smoothie perfection. Post your favorite smoothie recipe on the D3 Facebook page for the team to see your creations.


Links to a few smoothie recipes:

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Open Water Season Is…OPEN

For those not living in the summer hemisphere, or close to it, we are dusting off our wetsuits and getting ready to jump in the open water. After many months of following the black line, usually indoors, the freedom of getting outside is so exciting. And not only a break in the winter routine, but there are so many different workouts we can do that are more tri-related without the lane lines. Also, we now have the opportunity to refine our open water skills we will need for our races. Below are some ideas for open water skills to practice with a few ideas of workouts/sets you can do. And remember, if you are training for a triathlon, the more people the merrier for your open water workout so you can simulate the bumps and chop of a typical triathlon start.

Specific skills to practice in the open water are sighting, race starts, buoy turns and drafting. Drafting practice can also be practiced in the pool, so we’ll focus on the first 3. For sighting, 2 main areas to focus on are what to sight with and how to be most efficient when sighting. The best thing you can find to sight with would be large and non-moving, many times not in the water. As you are looking at your target (usually a buoy), look beyond that to something obvious on shore that is lined up with your target that you can find quickly when you are sighting. Buildings and taller trees usually will stand out and work well. This will minimize the time you need to spend with your head up looking and maximize the time you are looking down, a much more body position. When you are sighting, lift your head as little as possible to lock in on where you are headed. For very calm water, you’ll only need to lift your head to goggle level (crocodile eyes). For chopper water, you may need to take a few breaststrokes to get a good look. That’s ok, be sure to get your head back down as soon as you look and correct your course.

As any triathlete knows, race starts can be chaotic and stressful. The more we can practice this and be comfortable with so many people swimming over us, the better. Grab a group of swimmers and practice starts together, either starting on the beach, in shallow water or in deep water. Pick a target to aim for and then have everyone start with 30 strokes FAST, 30-50 strokes race pace then stop. It is sometimes interesting to see where some swimmers end up! Swim easy back to start and repeat. Once you have a feel for whether you veer off to right, left or stay straight it will give you a good idea as to which side you would like to start. Then take this knowledge with you to the races.

Buoy turns are also a good skill to practice, even better with larger groups of swimmers. Some swimmers get fancy with a corkscrew stroke, in larger numbers this may not be as helpful. The key is to keep moving and not get bogged down in a mob right at the buoy. Sometimes going wide is the best bet, even if you end up swimming a few extra yards.

These are some of the main open water skills that you can practice. If you have a few other swimmers with you of about the skill level, do some drafting practice where each swimmer takes so many strokes in the front of the line and sights, pulls over, then drops to the back of the line while the second swimmer takes the lead. Practice some swimming with your eyes closed (not if it is crowded) and see which direction you tend to drift. Or simulate your own race by marking out a course that you can swim throughout the season to gauge progress.

Open water swimming is a fun break from the pool, enjoy!

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The Importance of Tracking Recovery in Endurance Sports

An endurance athlete’s primary goal is to train in a fashion that allows optimal performance gains without harmful effects. The motivated athlete often balances a fine line between maximal training stimulus and overtraining. The importance of a defined recovery practice in the athlete’s overall training plan should be designed and implemented to aid in recovery to gain maximal benefit from their training load. Training volume should increase gradually, and rest periods should be planned. However, for many athletes a beneficial recovery practice is often an afterthought in their training until overuse injuries occur. Many athletes often suffer an injury associated with overuse and a lack of appropriate recovery. Common overuse injuries include patellofemoral pain syndrome, iliotibial band friction syndrome, tibial stress syndrome, stress fractures, Achilles tendinitis, and plantar fasciitis, to name a few. In addition, the lack of adequate recovery can also lead to psychological fatigue resulting in a lack of motivation and a loss of performance.

A properly designed training plan can balance training stimulus and recovery correctly, but an injury can still occur even with the best training strategy. Many athletes live by the more is better philosophy of training, never listening to their bodies. I try to enstill in my athletes the confidence to say they are tired and need time to recover from hard training. You would be amazed at how hard it is for some athletes to take an extra rest day when required. Every athlete’s ability to recover differs, and the recovery amount should be individualized for each athlete. Work and home stress can also take a toll on an athlete’s recovery. The amount of stress an athlete experiences from work travel, project deadlines, or family life is difficult to quantize, but it can take a toll on an athlete’s recovery.

Several tools can provide insight into an athlete’s recovery practice and aid in establishing an effective recovery protocol. A key data point that every athlete should track is their resting heart rate (RHR). A normal RHR is between 60 and 100 beats per minute, and the well-trained athlete may have a normal RHR in the 40 beats per minute range. As we age, our RHR will increase, but generally, a lower RHR indicates a more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness. For the most part, RHR will remain consistent when the athlete’s recovery rate equals their training stimulus. However, when the athlete is over-trained or ill, RHR often increases from its baseline. Many of my athletes upload their daily RHR into their Training Peaks account, and it’s incredible how often I see an increase in RHR. Then a day or two later, the individual has trouble completing the workout, or indicates they are not feeling well.

Another excellent tool for tracking recovery is heart rate variability (HRV). HRV is the amount of time or variation between your heartbeats, and this period fluctuates slightly. This variation is controlled by the autonomic nervous system that regulates heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and digestion. The autonomic nervous system can be subdivided into two subcategories the sympathetic nervous system or fight-or-flight mechanism and the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the relaxation response. The stimulus that can affect the autonomic nervous system is stress, poor sleep, lack of or too much exercise, and a poor diet, to name a few. When you have a high rate of HRV, it means your autonomic nervous system is balanced, and your body is ready to perform at its best. However, if you have low HRV it is, your body’s way of telling you it is working too hard, and generally, your sympathetic nervous system is overloaded.

There are several excellent options for tracking HRV. Examples are an App based product called “HRV for Training” and a wearable called “Whoop,” both products will give you valuable information on your rest and recovery protocols. Overall, tracking HRV can aid the athlete on in effective recovery strategy.

RHR and HRV are easy data points that every athlete should record daily. Equipped with this information, the athlete has a toolset to help them understand how they recover from their training volume. Perhaps the best recovery protocol an athlete has is the ability to listen to their body. RHR and HRV can provide additional insight to guide the athlete on when to add recovery to their training. The correct amount of hard training for the athlete will improve performance on race day. Still, performance gains will be impacted without proper recovery, and the risk of injury will increase. Remember, go hard on hard days; go easy on easy days. Train smart and use RHR and HRV to help you in your recovery protocol. Good luck with your next race.

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Triathletes swim vs run comparison test

Are you a balanced triathlete where your swim is as strong or as fast as your run?

I noticed several years ago that what I could swim per 100’s short course yards (SCY), is the same that I could run for 400m on the track. What I could swim for 200 was the same as running an 800m and a 400swim would equal my mile time.

This is typically both tied to an all out effort as well as what I could do on an interval basis although with different recovery due to the nature of each discipline. Swimming can have a much shorter swim recovery and send off due to waters cooling effect and buoyancy.

I can tell if one discipline is not as fit as the other when 100 swim repeats are not correlating to my 400 run repeats. I decided to take a deeper look. I asked some of the athletes I coach, they thought about it and most of them tended to agree with the correlation.

I looked at World Record times

Now I know this is not an exact science, and technically women probably can swim slightly faster than they can run. My recommendation if you want to get a bit more accurate would be for women to give a 7% difference between swim and run correlations.

However, It might be a good correlation as to your relative strength as a triathlete. This will also have a factor as to your ability to swim SCY vs a meter pool.

Overall, I think personally this is a fun game to play. You can often do track workouts as swim workouts and vise versa accommodating for different recovery and send offs. So, the question is, as a triathlete, are you a better runner or swimmer. Which one do you need to work on?

Just an idea, something fun. Always consult with your D3 coach and train safe!

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What is your athlete persona?

You have many walks of life. You are perhaps a parent, certainly child to your parents, a colleague, an athlete. Each of these walks of life offers you the opportunity to think about your persona—how you want to present yourself to the world.

Each athlete has a persona, presence, a manifestation of the athlete as a human being in the world. Which leads to you. You are an athlete, and also a human being. So, what kind of athlete persona do you want to have?

At the one and only Ironman New York City in 2018, the winner of the female 50-54 age group, Carmen Grosse, waited at the finish line to welcome in her competitors in the same age group, congratulate them, encourage them about their performance and check on their well-being. She had won her age group by nearly one hour, yet hung around to be a one-woman welcoming committee. That’s a very classy persona indeed.

When you think of yourself as an athlete, you can make a conscious decision what athlete persona you want. A triathlon coach and former professional triathlete in the Boulder area decided that he wanted to be very competitive and also be known as one of the nicest guys in the sport. This was his conscious decision.

So he decided which behaviors he would consistently engage in to demonstrate this persona. Competitive: he showed up early to workouts, executed his workouts as directed and consistently, did his bodywork and watched his nutrition. He raced with ferocity and determination and purpose. Nice: he always greeted his competitors, helped age group athletes getting set up in transition, smiled and thanked the volunteers, smiled back at the spectators, and always thanked the race director.

You decide for yourself. How do you want to come across in your training sessions, before, during and after races, at home and with your friends? It’s your choice.

The secret to all this is simple. You don’t actually have to be your desired persona. You just have to act that way. If you really mean it, your actions will come across authentic and genuine. And we all know that practice leads to perfect. Keep doing those things in line with your persona, in all your walks of life, and it will become yours.

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Bike Pacing in Triathlon

There are two events that I have observed that told me my long-held understanding of how to pace the bike in a triathlon, or’ Time Trial’, is correct.  The best way to describe this is you want to dish out the power in the most balanced way possible.  That power level is determined thru testing and is a topic I won’t cover here but here is another short description.  In a triathlon it is the power you should target that will also let you run to th3 finish at your potential.  

The first time I saw this rule being violated badly was watching the first IM in St George in 2010.  The bike course was like the WC last year but with even more climbing.  It had two identical loops up to Veyo with about 1,500ft of elevation gain over 45km each.  After about 38km you were entertained with just over a km of climbing at 8%.  I positioned myself on that hill to watch what happened when athletes went up the first and second time.  

On lap one the efforts were epic.  Quite a few were out of the saddle early on and for the rest of the climb.  I was at the top and could hear the respiration rate as the crested the hill, it was painful to listen to.  Lap two was just as painful looking for many and they were breathing hard but far fewer were out of the saddle for as long and going much slower.

I did that race the next year and again last year.   The last steep section did not require any out of the saddle work, with the right gears.

In 20017 an acquaintance was racing in Kona with me.  We had a similar swim split, he is 20 years younger, and we found ourselves riding together about halfway to Hawi on the rolling hills near Waikola.  He would power past me going uphill out of the saddle, I would shortly pass him going down the back side.  We kept that up until the long haul up to Hawi where we lost contact.  If I remember correctly, I had a modestly faster bike split at the end and a significantly faster run.  He had been trained by a coach I know well who would have never advised him to try and kill the hills.  He was working so hard going up that he had nothing left to power over the top, which is what I was doing, and catching him.

If you believe in the guidance given, I think by all coaches to keep the power in a very narrow zone its easy on a flat road.  It should also be easy on a steady uphill course, even if there are several downhills as well.  The hard course is one with lots of short rolling hills.  The kind that has just enough uphill to significantly slow you down without a lot of unadvisable high-power effort.

My strategy with the rolling hill courses is a modification of the rule being discussed.  This is very much dependent on the race distance.  In an IronMan I follow this idea very carefully; in a sprint I almost ignore it.  The trick is figuring out how many matches you can afford to burn over the distance.

Here is how I deal with the down and uphill at the north end of Boulder on Hwy 36, It is part of many triathlons in Boulder ranging from sprints to 70.3 so I know it well.  It comes after a steady 5.5 km climb with an average grade of 1.7%.  I try to keep the power just a bit over my goal power for those 5.5 km.  As I get close to the top, I start breaking the rule, in a sprint I would be in Zone 5 for about 30 sec to get going downhill fast.  In the middle of the down I would be back at my target power.  As the road flattens out, I put the power up again to maintain speed until I get to the meat of the next climb where I back off a bit to allow me to push hard over the top.  

The only way to figure out how many and how big a set of matches you can burn, without ruining the rest of your race, is IMO to find a route that approximates your upcoming race, or ride the course, as I can.  Indoor training Apps like FuilFGaz and Rouvy can help if you can’t get to the course pre-race.  The magic of us humans is we are all so different.  Simply doing a time trial to determine your Functional Threshold and then applying some rules is a good start but it is not enough.  

Training Peaks has a metric to help determine how good you are at keeping the pacing smooth, their Variability Index. (VI).  

VI is just what you might think it is, it’s the amount of variation in your power output over a period.  Training Peaks formula is.  the ratio of your Average Power to what they call Norm Power.  Norm power is another formula of theirs that is a bit more complex.  The easy description is its "an adjusted (normalized) average power for a ride or segment of a ride that accounts for the increased physiological cost of varying the power demands for hills and wind”. A VI of 1 means that the average and norm power are the same, easy on a flat road with no wind.  They suggest a target range for a Triathlon on a flat road is 1.00-1.04, and hilly course 1.00-1.06, not much more variation.  You might think you can’t do that on a hilly course but you would be mistaken.   Most of us can with the right gearing on a course that’s not extreme.  Even on the St George course last May my VI was only 1.18, that was an extreme course.  

For some more information take a look at this article from Training Peaks

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D3 Featured Athlete – Mark Lemmons

Over the past six months Mark Lemmons has embarked on a pretty amazing journey with his running. We all have a different “why” as it relates to endurance sports and our training. In this month’s issue of the Extra Mile Mark shares insights to his “why”, what this experience has meant to him and the positive impact it is having on his life. At 53 years young, Mark’s passion and commitment to better health are a great example for all of us. His “A” race for the year is the Kuai Half Marathon in September.

Q: Can you share a little about your background and history with running/endurance sports.
I have never thought of myself as an athlete. I have a vivid memory of the President’s Fitness test:  1 Mile Run, when I was in 3rd grade. My recollection is literally being last in my class, and from then on I told myself I couldn’t run, and I didn’t. I did lots of skiing and hiking, but never from an athlete’s mindset. Fast forward, my kids both excelled in various endurance sports. My son Phillip did triathlon at CU, and my daughter Hannah has run marathons and works as a personal trainer. They opened my eyes to the power of consistency, and exposed me to the positive benefits of it, and in short, it became a family thing. My son got me to do the 100 for a 100 challenge on Slowtwitch for the first time I think in 2018. This is where you try to run 30 minutes or 3 miles every day for 100 days, and I went from never having run to the first time I tried it running 55 days in a row I think, and of course getting myself injured. I kept trying that without much success, but through this process I fell in love with running and trail running, and that brings me to this year’s challenge. My goal was to get through a slightly modified version of the challenge without getting injured, and Phillip suggested I connect with Brad and I did it. I ran 40+ out of the hundred days, without injury, and I managed to run 187 miles and I was 226 out of 600 participants. 479 of them had at least 1 run. So, yeah, I am an endurance person it turns out. I may not be fast, but I can do hard things, and my kids taught me this.

Q: What was the main motivation to start running again and work with a coach?
In a nutshell, health. Run for health. I wanted to improve my long-term cardiovascular health. I didn’t want to get injured, and I wanted to be able to enjoy a hard trail run. Also, I wanted to be able to lose weight. Put this all in a box and It’s all about using something I can do anywhere, any time (running) to get healthier, and it’ already paid so many dividends. I’ve lost 23 pounds since October, my resting heart rate is 56. I can run a long run and not be wrecked for the rest of the day. I can just tell I’m stronger and healthier and I feel so much better. I wanted to do something sustainable and not get injured, and coaching is key in this regard. I don’ know why, in retrospect, I thought I could do something this hard without access to support, expertise, and structure, but wow, it’s the key to the process. I don’ have to think. I’m doing a 45-minute easy run today because it’s part of the plan that my coach set. I know it’ part of the long-term plan to achieve my goals. Would I be running today without the plan? How long? How far? How fast? How effective? These are all questions I answer with my coach, and this works for me.

Q. What has been the biggest surprise for you with the training process and what do you enjoy most about it?
I was just telling my wife this, that I don’t think of myself as a person that thrives on structure, but clearly, I do in some ways. So, the surprise is how important the structure is on which your goals and objectives and everything sits. It’s like the foundation. In more direct terms, I think the surprise is how much work you have to do, how consistent you have to be, how patient, and therefore how important that foundation is. As the saying goes, nothing worth doing is easy, so this must be extremely worthwhile. Yeah, this is hard, and I was bouncing off my goals in the past because I didn’t have the foundation in place either metabolically or from a plan standpoint, so the surprise is this becomes sort of a good thing if you give it time. Once you realize you are making progress, and because you have the foundation of the structure in place, you start to see your progress and it builds, you become more committed and more attached to the life of all this, and its deeply wonderful. It’s a deep joy that directly relates to how hard it is. How is it that I can realize how hard it is and how slow the progress can feel, and this can actually be more supportive of higher commitment over time? I don’t know, I am learning, but applying this to other areas of my life and deepening my commitment to other things that I might have bounced off before, because yeah, I can do hard things over the long haul, which is where the deepest value is. Also, I should have said this first - I love that my whole family is part of this journey, and a big part of why I’ve had some sticking power.

Q. What has been the greatest challenge for you with your return to running and how have you managed working through this?
Patience. It’s part of endurance. I want my body to go faster in all regards, and I have to be patient. My impatience is the biggest challenge. Sometimes I’ll be on a run and I’ll just be like a vandal. I can hear Brad in my ear telling me to keep it light, aerobic, conversational I couldn’t run at all and not redline in the beginning. This is the hardest thing for me is wishing I had built this foundation sooner, so there’s some regret there but only if I spend time looking backwards. Your eyes are on the front of your head for a reason. So I’m just going to keep going.

Q. You have made some impressive gains with your overall fitness and weight loss. What do you attribute your success to and has it been a combination of the training and adjustments with your daily nutrition?
I have to be honest with this. Have I adjusted my diet? Yes, but not as much as I should. I would say my nutrition is ok but I have a few vices, and I still do, but I’ve tried to keep it sustainable. You can’t change everything at once. I do know before my weekend long run I crave a certain breakfast with these greens that I love. I can definitely feel the impact of better nutrition vs lesser nutrition. I am motivated now, seeing the results, and I am taking more ground as I’m able in this regard.

Q: What role does strength training have in your program?
I train with my daughter Hannah at Core Progression in Arvada twice a week, and the training is oriented to support my running and trying not to get injured, and I think it has been another key aspect of why I could get through the 100 for a 100 this year without issue. I feel much stronger than past years where I didn’t have this component, and I haven’t had some problems that were just chronic before. I also had some hip issues that have resolved since I started the strength stuff. Bottom line, running is high impact and I think you need to round out the narrowness of running with core fitness and I think it’s a big part of both doing what I’m doing without injury, but also sustainability. If I miss it for some reason, I miss it - I know it’s supporting me on the journey and view it as integral. Hannah is really good at what she does, specifically listening to what’s going on, what are areas of concern, and fine tuning what I’m doing. This has shown me some gaps that I need to watch as I get a bit older, where strength is ebbing and I need to focus. Anyway, it’s a real joy to me that my adult kids and my wife have helped me on this journey, and it’s just been a family thing.

Q: Tell us about your successful completion of the 100/100 challenge.  What are you most proud of with it?
I am so excited about getting through it this year healthy. My approach was, almost pretend the challenge isn’t happening and use Brad’s plan to be my runs, and it really worked. The challenge was modified this year to be 20 mins or 2 miles per day. You run as much as you can. So this year I did more runs than any year except the first year I tried it, but I ran far more miles this time, I think about 32 more miles, with like 9 fewer runs, and I really learned the definition of fitness. To me it’s the quantity of work you can output over a given time. My fitness this year just went so far up, and I felt so much less tired. You could see this on my Training Peaks dashboard, I was able to sustain the same pace as I ran before (it’s slow!) but at a far healthier heart rate. I ran the first day of the challenge and the last. I’m just so proud that I completed it uninjured. It’s a huge mix of people in the challenge year to year, but I would have never considered myself an endurance athlete before, but in a way I am, and this proved it to me. I may not go fast, but I do go far! It’s just fun. I couldn’t have done it without you Brad, thanks.

Q. What advice do you have for anyone who is looking to make healthy lifestylechanges?
Get a coach. Don’t wait. Be honest with yourself. Time is ticking so do it! Beyond that, understand the deep value of expertise. Any journey worth taking deserves a guide. The power, support, and protection of the right guide just cannot be overstated. I can’t believe I ever tried going it alone. What could be more important than health and energy? Pair the right guide with lights out commitment. Let nothing stop you.

Final comments and thoughts
Thanks for this opportunity to share my story, and brag on my kids. In all seriousness, I Wouldn’t have done this without insights and introductions from them, and the support of my whole family. I’m still in the early stages of what feels like a long journey that I am excited to keep going on. Next stop - Behind the Rocks

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“Quick and Dirty” Threshold Power Estimate Without Testing

“Quick and Dirty” Threshold Power Estimate Without Testing

There are a number of reasons to do at least somewhat regular threshold testing throughout the year but in order to get reliable data over time, you need to create the same conditions each time you test and you may need to factor in recovery time after testing.  Accurate testing requires a cutback and specific preparation that can eat into a training cycle.

When you want to get a sense of your threshold without testing, there’s an easy way to get into the ballpark.  After a strong ride (can be of any distance but I’ve found that 60 to 90 minute rides tend to show the best data) you can review your Power Distribution Chart to get an idea of your threshold.  

In Training Peaks, expand your workout file to the “Analyze” screen.  Scroll down to the “Power Distribution Chart” and click the “Exclude Zero” checkbox.  I find it helpful to adjust the bins to 5 watts (from the default 15).  (To adjust bin size, click the “hamburger” in the top right corner of the chart, select the “5w” button, and click “Apply”, then close the menu.)

The resulting chart will look like the examples below.  You are looking for the “right shoulder” on the chart.  This is the bar after which the bars start dropping off significantly.  Some rides will produce a more noticeable shoulder–particularly rides during which you pushed a climb or included an extended section of hard, but not all-out riding.

Take a look at the following examples–the red arrow shows the estimated threshold.

Where the distribution is smoother/less skewed, it can be trickier to identify the shoulder (as below).  There is often a tick up before the fall off.

The following chart is from a Zwift group ride that included one significant climb.  Although there are two humps on this chart (as a result of part of the time sitting in a pack and part of the time pushing the climb), you can clearly see the threshold shoulder.

Even rides that produce positive/right-skewed distributions can show your threshold (as below), but negative/left-skewed distributions (like the first and third examples above) are easier to work with.

A few caveats to consider when selecting a ride to analyze:  This method works on indoor or outdoor rides, but note that if you’re riding indoors, a distribution from a ride in erg mode is not a reliable sample.  You also should not expect to get reliable data from structured workouts, unless they include threshold intervals (where you may or may not get the data you need, depending on the specific workout).  You will not get reliable data from easy/recovery rides or even Z2 aerobic rides.  You need to review a ride that includes some hard efforts.

Remember that this kind of analysis is not necessarily a substitute for a true threshold test, but it can definitely give you a sense of your threshold number.

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Fine Tine Your Motivation

When you begin thinking about your upcoming race season, how do you find your motivation? As you get into  your training regimen and do all the thing you will need to do to accomplish and enjoy a terrific race season, consider motivation.

Motivation is key; without it your training won’t get done, your fitness will not be there and your race season will elude your expectations

Here’s how to fine tune your motivation.

How do you know if you are doing a good job with your training and racing?  It could be: “My coach says good job, my training partners call out good job, my social media connections give me kudos.”  

It could also be: “I completed my workouts as prescribed.  I hit my targets on the intervals. I got it done.”

The former hints at a leaning toward an external reference—your evidence and feedback for a job well done comes from other folks—your coach, training partners, others.  

The other style is internally referenced—your evidence comes from your own self and you don’t rely so much on other folks tell you, although you might appreciate it.

Your motivation is tied to the feedback you get on your workouts, and your feedback is tied to how you are referenced—internal or external.

If you lean toward the externally referenced side, then arrange your feedback so that other folks can provide support. Ask your coach, training partners, family members and others to give you kudos.  Set up workout appointments with your training partners.  Go to masters swimming and group runs and rides.  Give folks a chance to know what your training program looks like and how to acknowledge your accomplishments and progress. Strava, Garmin Connect and others also help with badges and shout outs.

Ifyou tend toward the internally referenced side, line up ways to see your data.  Training Peaks records your accomplishments with different colors depending on compliance to your training plan—you do want to record all green on your calendar, do you not?

Using this little tweak customized to just how your feedback style sits will help youfine-tune your motivation to get out and get your workouts done. This leads to more positive feedback, which enhances motivation and increases your ability to succeed at your workouts.  Your race season awaits.

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D3 Winter Recipe

It’s getting lighter!  We are not into spring yet, but it’s coming and those of us who live in colder climates are having a few days in the mix with warmer weather.  That being said, salads are back.  I love my salads and in the cooler months I find it helpful to add some warm to the salad.  It could be squash, cooked grain, baked fruit, or even warm turkey bacon.  

Winter Warmer Salad

• 1 medium delicata squash, seeded and sliced into 1/2″ half-moons
• 2 tbsp. avocado oil
• 1 tsp. sea salt
• 10 oz. baby arugula or hearty mixed greens
• 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
• 4 oz. goat cheese or vegan cheese
• 1/2 cup roasted and salted pumpkin seeds
• *option to top with chicken or fish easily.  

• 5 sprigs rosemary
• 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 tbsp. honey mustard
• 2 tsp. maple syrup

Toss squash in avocado oil and bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes or until tender.  
For the dressing, cook the olive oil on low heat with the rosemary, after 5-8 minutes, strain out the rosemary and mix the mustard and maple into the oil.  
Place the greens, squash, cheese and shallot on a large plate and top with the dressing.  Like noted above, you can top this salad with anything…tofu, Pumfu, chicken, fish, or nothing.

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After a two-year hiatus from structured training and racing due to COVID race cancellations in 2020 and having a baby in 2021, Kalee Tyson had a remarkable 2022 race season highlighted by several breakthroughs while earning a slot to both the 70.3 World Championship in Finland and IM World Championship in Kona for 2023. Kalee shared with me her experiences being a new mom and her journey back to racing.

First and most importantly, you had a baby girl in August of 2021!  How has motherhood been and what advice do you have for someone who is trying to balance being a parent, working and training?

KT: Motherhood has been amazing, challenging, exhausting, and exhilarating! It’s been the biggest learning curve of my life! When it comes to balance, I wish I had some perfect advice but I honestly spent most of this year feeling like I was failing at all three – motherhood, training, and my job. The best advice I have is to be patient and flexible. Lean on others for help. I feel so fortunate to have my husband and parents to lean on so I could train. I felt a lot of guilt for having an Ironman on my schedule when my daughter was still a baby and needed me. It felt very selfish. Instead of wasting my energy feeling bad about it, I tried to focus on being as
present as I could in each space of my life. I couldn’t give all of myself to any one part of my life – but I could certainly give it my ALL when I was doing each part. That completely shifted how I showed up as a mom, triathlete, and employee. I don’t know if the mom-guilt ever actually goes away, but it definitely helped.

With your return to structured training and racing, what were your main goals and do you feel you accomplished them?  

KT: When I started structured training again, my main goal was to be able to complete the 4 races on my schedule and feel proud of the outcome. For the first time ever, it felt like I was starting the season from scratch – almost no fitness or endurance. I didn’t expect the year of racing after a baby to be full of PBs but I wanted to feel like I did the best I could for where I was at! My return to running was full of hurdles, so every running milestone I hit throughout training felt like a major accomplishment. I did my first speedwork right before CDA 70.3 and it felt like a HUGE accomplishment to be able to do intervals during a run! Then I ran two back-to-back days! That was something I wasn’t able to do early on in the season because of pelvic floor issues. Then, each long run I did felt like a huge accomplishment. At the beginning of 2022, it felt like it’d be impossible to ever get up to 15+ miles. I vividly remember sobbing at the end of a 6 mile run at the beginning of training (the longest I had run after having my baby) and thinking there was NO WAY I was going to be able to do an Ironman later this year. This body was a different one and it would NEVER hold up for a full Ironman. It’s wild how all the small, incremental increases in training really build up into something big without you really noticing!

After a two-year hiatus from racing, were you surprised by anything within the training process or on race day?

KT: I was surprised that I had to completely relearn how to fuel during training and races! I completely forgot what I used to eat and drink during training and races. I also forgot how exhilarating race morning is. It really makes you feel alive. Every part of racing and training makes me feel alive.

You had a very successful season in posting PBs across various distances from Olympic to 70.3 to IM.  What stands out to you as the impetus for these improvements? (training protocol, better race day fueling/hydration, increased focus on recovery/sleep/nutrition, etc.)

KT: A lot of my improvements came because of consistency. I show up, get my workouts done, and trust the process. While my training might not be perfect, or on the day it was originally scheduled, I stay consistent and get those green boxes in TrainingPeaks (I am overly motivated by a green box). A change I did make throughout this season was to increase my fueling while training and racing. I almost doubled the calories I was taking in on the bike and it made a HUGE difference in my best two races of the season (WA 70.3 and IM Arizona). I also took in more calories on the run during those races which helped a ton. It felt like I was funneling Maurten gels way too often, but I never over-fueled or had GI issues so it worked! The last thing that stood out for me this year was the growth in my mental strength. It took a while to rebuild the muscle in my brain that would push when it hurt. I had spent my whole pregnancy and a lot of early motherhood “giving myself grace” and not putting extra pressure on myself – and that mentality naturally transferred over to training and racing. “I’m amazing for just doing this training” was how my mind was thinking. Halfway through this season, I realized it was time to make it hard again – stop giving myself grace in training and start applying myself more. My baby was 1 year old and was sleeping through the night. I was well rested and it was time to push in this part of my life. During WA 70.3 I pushed the bike and had my best 70.3 ride ever on a tough course – and with all the extra fuel I took in my run felt amazing… until it didn’t, and then I reminded myself that “it hurts and that’s ok” and pushed through to a 13.1-mile run that I could be proud of! That 70.3 PB SHOCKED me, but it helped me
grow a ton of confidence in my Ironman AZ build. Mental strength is like a muscle – you have to keep pushing it and growing it every day, and the build into Ironman AZ only made it stronger. My mind was READY for IM AZ. That race is the race I’m most proud of so far in my life. So many times doing an Ironman this year felt impossible – physically, mentally, emotionally – and it’s the best race I’ve ever had. It was absolutely a test of mental strength and that muscle showed off that day!

Please share one or two key training sessions you did this year that really boosted your confidence.

KT: I love all types of training – but I HATE testing. You could probably give me a “test” type workout without the word “test” and I’d do great and hit my targets, but the moment I see “run test” or “FTP test” it’s a PANIC. I used to emotionally break down during every test – I just put a weird pressure on myself! I had my first run test on the schedule mid-season. Brad very clearly stated to not worry about this run test, and that we just needed some data now that we were doing actual run workouts. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my run and wasn’t even sure my body would hold up pushing for three straight miles of effort! For the first time EVER I didn’t totally melt down and stop mid-test (I considered it, but reminded myself that no one cared about the results of this run, only me) and my speed wasn’t even that far off from my last run test in early 2020 when I was a faster, fitter runner in my opinion! I had not imagined that great of an outcome! I was super thrilled all around – but mostly with my mental performance and ability to talk myself out of quitting when the test got hard. At that time, “control” was a mantra-type word I was leaning on because the rest of my life felt like I had no control, and training was where I DID have control, so that word helped during the test. I had CONTROL of my speed, of my body, of the outcome. Before Boulder 70.3 Brad had a 1 hour run with some effort coming off a long bike on the schedule. I hadn’t run long off the bike outside of CDA 70.3 and it looked way too hard to me (also, it was HOT that day)! Because of my lack of faith in my run all season I was already talking myself out of this run while I was riding. “You don’t have to do the effort part of the run” I told myself. But when I actually went out on the run I thought, “might as well give it a go! What can it hurt to TRY”. It was a 30 min race pace and 30 min easy. I was SHOCKED at how well it went! I ran well, in the heat, coming off a long bike! It gave me a lot of confidence going into the second half of my race season that maybe my run could come back around this year!

What are you most excited about in racing both the 70.3 World Championship and IM World Championship in 2023?

KT: I have never done a World Championship race before and it’s such an honor to get to do BOTH World Championship races! It still feels like a fever dream that I’m getting to race Kona. I’m incredibly excited about both races! I’m hopeful that I can show up fit and able to try to race my best at both!! I’m also excited about the travel – Finland will be my and my husband’s first trip without my daughter so I’m looking forward to that, AND I can’t wait for my daughter to get to go to Kona and maybe, kind of understand what’s going on. She definitely doesn’t understand any of this stuff yet so I’m excited for her to be there with me in Kona. This last year I kept reminding myself that I’m laying a healthy foundation for her and the kind of person she’ll grow into – she’s going to know that she can do extraordinary things and that hard work pays off because she sees her mom and dad do hard things – but for now all she knows is that mom leaves the room and then she bursts into tears. So, I’m looking forward to sharing these moments with her when she can understand them and be a part of them.

Anything else you want to share with our D3 community?

KT: The best thing I learned this year was to let go of expectations of training and racing going perfectly. When I showed up to training knowing that it was something I do for fun, something I do for ME because I love it, it completely transformed that time for me. It wasn’t an obligation, it was a joy. Certainly, each day wasn’t pretty, but it was a gift to get to DO it. After so many years of not getting to actually do this stuff (covid, pregnancy) I was just happy to be back in it. The attitude you approach things with can change the entire experience and outcome (this also really applied to parenthood, too).

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As a multisport coach, one question I often get is, “Why so much Z2, Coach?”

First, let me define how I use Z2. Since we don’t often have access to a lab, I often use heart rate threshold data. I do NOT use power or pace for Z2, because if you have excess fatigue, you might be riding or running in Z2 pace or power but your heart rate is working too hard and in Zone 3.

First, let me define how I use Z2. Since we don’t often have access to a lab, I often use heart rate threshold data. I do NOT use power or pace for Z2, because if you have excess fatigue, you might be riding or running in Z2 pace or power but your heart rate is working too hard and in Z3.

I compared many of the different methods you could use for calculating heart rate. From Dr’s Seiler to Cougan, Milan, Coach Joe Friel, and coaching methods from USAT, Cyclesmart, and others, it is a pretty crazy spread. Using my bike heart rate data of 155 threshold heart rate, the low end of these zones would put my heart rate in the mid-’90s to low 100s heart rate, while some of these Z2 calculations would put me all the way up to 143 for Z2. Wow, I would be crushed if I went for a 3hr Z2 ride at a 143 heart rate, that’s closer to a Half-Ironman effort- that’s 92% of my threshold!

Physiologists use 65-75% of max heart rate to get Z2, assuming that threshold is roughly 90% of max. Therefore we can assume 75-85% threshold is our Z2. Since the threshold is the most applicable and probably the most frequent data we can get from races, this makes sense. If you have very valid max heart rate data it’s worth running both numbers at a percent of threshold and percent max heart rates to see where your Z2 lines up.

I’m a firm believer in Dr’s Inigo San-Millan and Seiler. World-class athletes are not born in a lab. Yet when we reverse engineer their success across decades and across multiple disciplines from running, rowing, cycling, cross-country skiing, and triathlon, we find some common themes. They create a huge aerobic base with lots of aerobic work at 65-75% of heart rate max. Ideally 70% of max, or 80% threshold. There is so much work you can do at this level, without excessive fatigue or risk of injury.

We know too, that lots of aerobic Z2 work increase the number and size of mitochondria in the muscle cells. In fact, according to Dr. Millan, Z2 is the greatest stress for the mitochondria because it uses the most fat oxidation and the body is able to transport lactic acid into the cell and use it as energy. As you may remember, mitochondria produce ATP. Now the more mitochondria you have the more lactic acid you can utilize for fuel and clear from the bloodstream and the more apt you can produce. However, the excess lactic acid does not allow for mitochondrial growth; in fact, it’s an inhibitor of growth. Therefore, from a physiological view, you don’t really want to be doing a ton of high-intensity work. Too much lactic acid is unable to be brought into the mitochondria, which creates hydrogen ions that are acidic and toxic. Since focused Z2 work improved our metabolic efficiency through fat oxidation, lactate clearing, and lactate production, this allows us to be able to do more work. All this Z2 benefit is really rewarded in Z4, thus further improving Z4 power and speed.

If you run or ride, simply limit yourself to a Z2 heart rate- ignore the pace, ignore the power. I’m willing to bet with patience and consistency, you will grow your endurance, increase the pace and power at that Z2 without any excess effort and improve your PA:HR or PW:HR ratio (aka your cardiac drift will become smaller ratio.) A ratio of less than 5% of PA:HR is pretty good for an endurance run or ride without intervals. Once you have mastered heart rate and your aerobic engine is strong, your threshold and VO2 intensity as well as duration or repeatability of intervals- will likely be better than before! Good Z2 work is not necessarily easy. Using a talk test, you can hold a conversation, but the other person definitely knows you’re exercising. Z2 is very sustainable for 60-90 minutes; however, after 2-3-4 hrs you might be feeling a pretty good amount of fatigue.

If you have the data and the metrics to show your recovery, such as an Oura ring that tracks HRV and resting HR, you might want to play around with how much and how often you do intensity. That’s the micro level of heart rate variability. However, on a macro level, you might notice fatigue exists if you’re struggling to get your heart rate into normal zones. Should you do a hard session anyway even if it’s on the schedule? I recommend getting some sleep, increasing your glycogen through a higher-carb meal and getting hydrated, and doing that higher-intensity session the next day. But talk with your coach about this.

In reviewing all this fascinating research and information from the best physiologists, we can determine the following:

– Z2 is at 80% threshold or 70% max heart rate.

– Z2 frequency and duration would dictate 80% of your workouts should be at this intensity

-Z2 grows mitochondria

-Z2-improves fat oxidation

-Z2-improves lactate clearing.

-Z2 is repeatable with low risk, however, the reward is like any investment it takes time.

I hope you have your best year ever in 2023, and I hope you spend plenty of time in Z2 and that brings you nothing but personaly bests! Good luck!

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With the racing season wrapping up for many of us in the Northern hemisphere, it is an excellent time to increase our knowledge and catch up on our reading. I’ve compiled a short list of my favorite prehab and strength and conditioning book recommendations. Many of us will aim to get stronger and work on movement patterns during the winter months. This list will give you an excellent starting point or add to your current knowledge. I want to hear back from you and your favorite books on racing and training. Train hard and train smart and have a great winter.

Becoming a Supple Leopard, by Dr. Kelly Starrett with Glen Cordozza

Ready to Run, by Dr. Kelly Starrett with T.J. Murphy

New Functional Training for Sports, by Michael Boyle

Functional Training, by Juan Carlos Santana

Born to Walk Myofascial Efficiency and the Body in Movement, by James Earls

Movement, Functional Movement Systems, by Gray Cook

Athletic Body in Balance, by Gray Cook

Olympic Weightlifting, By Greg Everett

Starting Strength, By Mark Rippetoe

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I checked off the bucket-list NYC Marathon. My results were underwhelming. I thought I’d share a few notes for others to learn from.

My training was solid and fitness strong coming into race weekend. I’m a decent runner, but not the fastest coach in the D3 stable. My last long run (10 days out) was 16 pretty comfortable miles, negative split in 2:15, at 272 watts (thanks Stryd) at the end of a training block (and at altitude). The Stryd race predictor suggested that I could race in the 3:20’s at 295 watts but that felt too fast for me so I set my goal for 3:35 at 280 watts. I got a solid taper and headed to New York with high hopes and a plan.

Key factors why it didn’t happen:

1. Travel

My wife and I had a mid-morning non-stop flight booked for Friday. The flight was delayed several hours and eventually canceled. It became a mad scramble to get to New York—our airline rebooked us on a Sunday flight, arriving the afternoon of race day. We managed to find a flight on another airline leaving late Friday, connecting through Chicago with under 30 minutes to make the connection on a different concourse thanks to a delayed first flight. There was running in the airport, but we made it. We arrived in Manhattan at 1:00am and didn’t get a full night’s sleep.

Takeaway: Travel can be stressful and disruptive. While a lot of travel day is outside of your control, remember that time is a buffer. If it’s possible to arrive an extra day or two early, when travel delays happen, the stress and logistics won’t have as great of an impact.

2. Fueling (know the rules…)

My fueling plan was to carry my own Infinit mix in my race vest that I have been using successfully in training and racing for years. Before bed on Saturday night, I learned that race vests are not allowed at NYC. There was no realistic way to carry my own nutrition and I really didn’t have a plan B that could get me through the whole race. I brought a handheld with me on the trip but I was pretty much at the mercy of aid stations on course. Gatorade endurance plus gels that I haven’t used in training (only available at miles 12 and 18). I took in as much as I could during the run but got fewer calories than I would have with plan A. Luckily, I didn’t have stomach issues with the unfamiliar products, but I just couldn’t get everything that I felt I needed out there.

Takeaway: I’m a triathlete, not a runner. I was unfamiliar with the rules of this race and didn’t review the details until it was too late. We’ve all ignored athlete guides—it can be worth giving them a thorough read even if you’re an experienced athlete.

3. Race plan

My training partner is better than me (in almost every way). Most importantly, she’s more marathon experienced and is a little faster than I am. Her plan was to go out aggressively and shoot for a time in the low 3:30 range. It was a bit of a stretch for me, but this wasn’t an important race for me in terms of results—this was a bucket-list race for the experience of it all. So my plan was to run together until the course brought us back to Manhattan (just past mile 16) then if she was on a good day, I’d dial back and run easier to the finish. If she was not on a good day, we’d just stay together. We ran to plan and I was stretching a little but nothing crazy. My heart rate was too high (note also there was unseasonable heat/humidity/dew point) but my watts were on target and my legs felt good. She was on a good day and once we split, I dialed it back for a few miles per plan, but the damage had been done and the wheels came off by mile 19. I was in a walk/shuffle pattern to the finish from there.

Takeaway: Your race plan can be aspirational and aggressive if you’re willing to suffer bad results. I would have preferred to finish strong, of course, but I also loved the experience of running with a partner and launching her to a strong day. Don’t pick a dumb plan if you’re not willing to live with the consequences. I’m fine with what went down because this was not a key performance race for me, but if I’d put my hopes on a PR, mine was a terrible plan.

A final thought. The NYC Marathon is much more than 26.2 miles of running. It’s a spectacle with a rich history. Aside from the few miles when you’re going over bridges, the entire course is lined with enthusiastic spectators (some in the neighborhoods already drunk and extra entertaining by late morning). I haven’t done a lot of stand-alone running races, but this one has to be among the most amazing experiences in the world—highly recommended!

Coach Dave Sheanin believes that becoming “triathlon literate” is key to meeting your goals. Triathlon is indeed a lifestyle and like the other important areas of your life, knowledge is power. I encourage you to explore the nuances of the sport, be open to new ideas and ask questions – of yourself, of fellow swimmers, cyclists and runners, and of your coach.

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For most triathletes, the winter is a time to back off on structured training and let the body and mind recover from the rigors of racing and training throughout the Tri season.  But why not take the opportunity to make some gains in other aspects of training while still recovering?   Swimming is a great activity to focus on in the off-season reaping many benefits.  These benefits may vary from athlete to athlete based on an individual’s swim background and race goals, but listed here are 5 advantages of focusing on swimming throughout the winter.

First, what a great opportunity to focus on technique.  In the part of the season where high yardage and high intensity are not necessary, slow things down and get back to the basics.  Pick one to three aspects of your stroke that may need some fine-tuning or perhaps even an overhaul: catch, body position, underwater pull, bilateral breathing, etc.  It could also be beneficial to take a swim lesson or 2 to hone in on where your inefficiencies may be within your stroke.

Some may also find value in swimming through winter to build up a base in a manner that is fairly easy on the body.  Keeping intensity low, but building up yardage could benefit those that do not have a strong swim background and want to improve swim fitness and efficiency.  Be mindful, though, if you tend to have shoulder issues and build up the volume slowly.

For those of us that live in colder climates, it can be challenging to get out the door to train outside when it is in the single digits. Maintaining swimming during the winter is a way to stay consistent with activity even when the weather does not cooperate.  That 80-85 degree pool is there waiting for you!  Also, consider joining a master’s group to swim with for these months, if you don’t already.  What a great way to build community and take a break from triathlon-specific freestyle sets and branch out with the other strokes.

Finally, swimming is a great way to stay fit during the holidays.  With family and food abounding in November and December, take a break from both and head to the pool.  At easy to moderate paces, swimming burns roughly the same amount of calories as jogging, yet you are working a wider variety of muscles in your body.  Plus, as mentioned above, swimming tends to take much less toll on your body allowing for more frequency, therefore burning even more calories, if that is your goal.

There are so many great benefits to focusing on the swim during the winter months.  Hopefully, this can encourage those that don’t love swimming, and for those that enjoy swimming perhaps, this can give a different perspective on some of the benefits it offers.

If you are on board to focus on swimming over the winter, here is an idea of how you can plan the training to maximize your time in the pool.  Remember to start from where you are with fitness and skill level, then progress from there.

Monday-technique work:  keep swimming easy, and focus on skills;  this may be a good day to fit in a lesson

Tuesday-aerobic base building:  this is the day to reinforce the skills you worked on yesterday.  Sets will be a little longer with shorter rest, effort of about 50-70%

Wednesday-speed day: long warm-up then sets with shorter duration and more rest between.  You can put fins on for some of this to work on the kick and add more speed.

*if you are just starting your swim training, wait a few weeks before you add in the speed.  This can be an active recovery day, working further on skills

Thursday-OFF from swimming

Fri-technique/kicking work:  back to the basics with skills, keeping it easy, and add a kick set to work on the kick-vertical kicking is a fun way to do this

Saturday-aerobic base building;  as your fitness increases, you can push into anaerobic endurance with repeats between 50 and 150 yds with higher intensity and medium rest

Sunday-OFF Day

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Coach Simon Butterworth was invited to give a talk at the Iron Gents and Iron Ladies annual dinner held during Ironman week in Kona.  The invitations are given to all athletes over 60.  The MC for the evening was Cherie Gruenfeld a 16th-time winner in Kona who this year set the record for the oldest female finisher. Before Simon talked Missy LeStrange shared her wisdom from almost 30 years of experience racing in Kona and a similar number of wins. She won again this year. He felt humbled beside these two legends who had won more often than he had raced.

Here is his talk which he has edited for a wider audience.

“Thank you Cherie for inviting me to talk.   I have to pinch myself at times to recognize how lucky I have been to be able to race here so many times. Lots of great support from many friends and family ( Simon lost his biggest fan, supporter and partner/wife of 52 years this summer postponing his 16th race in Kona).

You don’t have to be first second or even in the top ten to win in an IronMan, especially the World Championship. I got a reminder of how true that is in 2009.

Coming to Kona that year I was feeling strong. I had won Buffalo Springs 70.3 by 46 hard-fought seconds beating a friend who in 10 years of competition had left me in the dust every time. I had placed 7th then 6th the last two times I was out here. I was beginning to think I could get on the podium.

The swim and T1 went well. The bike felt good as I powered up the first short hill. I started to accelerate on Kuakini when with a clunk, the pedals froze. The bonded to the frame derailleur hanger had broken.  I knew that it could not be fixed. Ideas came quickly as I walked back to T1.  Single speed, find a mechanic borrow a bike.  I got some puzzled looks on the hot corner.

I found a mechanic but had to walk back to where I had stopped, as those were rules.  I had, and still do, Rotor oval chainrings and we could not get the chain tensioned to stop the chain from moving up and down 2-3 cogs. We gave up on the single speed after an hour of trying.  The mechanic said he would look for a loaner at T1. After about 20 min of increasing frustration and waiting I was leaning against a telephone pole and crying. It seemed my race was over.

I composed myself and again walked back to T1 to make one last appeal for a loaner.  I thought for sure one of the bike companies that had many demo bikes at the expo would not have packed up everything in 24 hrs but I was wrong. I was about to give up and collect my bags when a voice behind me said “I can lend you I bike”. I turned around and found myself looking into the eyes of Rocky Campbell, they were the same height as mine. Rocky at that time was the manager of construction for the race. (We had another great lunch together this year with his wife and other friends.) He set off to his warehouse to get the bike retuning about 40 min later. His day job as the owner of a lumber yard, and the bike was covered in a fine layer of sawdust. He apologized for that, I assured him that was just fine as the mechanic helped me adjust the seat height and transfer bottles and other stuff.  Two and a half hrs after I got out of the water I was moving forward again and so happy.

At the first traffic light I discovered what was going to be the norm for much of the ride. The lights were now working and not  just flashing, the timing mats were gone at the turnaround at the top of Kuakini.  All the way back through town I was carefully following the rules of the road.

All the way up the Queen K the aid stations were now on the other side of the road for the retuning athletes. Starting up the climb to Hawi I passed my first competitor. In Hawi the mats were gone but there was staff to observe my passage. It’s nice flying down the hill with the wind at your back with no traffic or bicycles, I did not even have to worry about race Marshalls.  Halfway back to Kona the van pulls up beside me and starts asking me questions and they  left me worrying that they were not sure if I had completed the course properly. That sure had me worried but it wasn’t the  time to fuss over that and I must have answered the questions satisfactorily.  

Somewhere around Waikoloa I passed sister Madonna Buder and Rudy Garcia Toloson. Sister was attempting to become the oldest female Kona finisher at 80. Double above the knee amputee Rudy was attempting to set a new mark for Challenged Athletes, it was his first IM. Struggling into a stiff headwind sadly they did not make the cut off. He did go on to finish Ironman Florida.  Above the knee amputee‘s lose the use of their quads and hamstrings and the only muscle to drive the leg of the Gluts. Think about that the next time you try and climb a hill.

I pulled into T2 at about 5 o’clock to find that my predicament was viral. Two ART friends were waiting to work on me.  (I reconnected with one of them this year, Dr Charles Renick from Columbia SC).  At 5:30, the cutoff time for the bike,  I was threatened with disqualification and hustled out of T2. I was the last person to get on the run course.

I was on fire heading up the first short hill, a marathon PR seemed possible. I got down to the waterfront on Alli and found Lou Hollander. I hatched a new idea.  Lou by this time was one of the 80+ superstars of the sport. Running with him to the turnaround was like being with a rockstar; everybody knew him and they were shouting out his name and giving him encouragement. Progress was slow but it was a hoot.

Finally, Lou had convinced me to press on by myself. But the stage was set. I was going to try and talk to anybody who was willing to engage with me. Time passed quickly chatting in the dark all the way to the energy lab and it was easier than I had ever experienced in six races.  When I wasn’t talking to someone I was running fast so I made overall progress reasonably well. As I approached the energy lab I got into a conversation with a woman my age who was making good progress but having a hard time. We set off down the hill when suddenly she wasn’t there. She had gone off the curb and fallen. I helped her up. She was OK and we continued to the turnaround where she also chased me off and said go finish.

Somewhere back on the Queen K, I see a woman ahead of me in the traffic glare, cars were back on the road on the other side, weaving all over the road and almost into that traffic. As I came up on her I asked her what was wrong, “Back spasms” –  she was doubled over at the waist. I told her she should get help. She thought that would disqualify her, but I explained it would not. Then I discovered that she was being followed by medics in the van. I wished her well and pressed on to the finish.

That finish was the one I will never forget, I was on a cloud, I had won placing 38th out of 42. And there were some bonuses.

NBC had been hiding behind me filming my encounter with the lady with back spasms. That was on their special in November as was my finish. Bob Babbit gave me a shout-out at the awards dinner telling my story and getting a big cheer.

Then two years later when I won my AG at Eagleman a lady walks up to me and says, “Simon you don’t remember me we ran down the Energy Lab road together in 2009. She said it saved her day.”

I already knew that the best part of the triathlon and any sports are our fellow competitors and the common bond we have and the friendships we make. This race was the coda to long-held idea and will be with me forever.

Remember even at the darkest moments on the darkest nights you always have friends out there.  Put your mouth to work to help you move forward.”

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Jennie Zinchuk had a great first-time Ironman at Ironman Canada last month in Penticton, British Columbia. I haven’t seen many, if any, first-time Ironman performances, as Jennie had. It was a lot of fun to watch in person!

and it made me realize how much I’ve missed going to live Ironman events and seeing athletes put it all on the line.

I have been coaching Jennie for almost 3 years and she worked incredibly hard for this result. She did an amazing job balancing her demanding job, her super energetic young boys, her husband Dan’s ultra-running and her own training. Every week had a plan wrapped around work, kids’ activities and working around her husband’s races and or long training days. I’m not sure how she does it, but she really gets every second out of each day and shows up the next day ready to get back to work. Jennie is a great example of determination to achieve a goal and the daily discipline it takes to bring it all together. I hope you enjoy this interview!

Q: Hi Jennie, can you tell us a little bit about how your day went overall?

Jennie: Overall, the day was a pretty amazing experience. The venue was incredible. Penticton, BC is a beautiful place and I wouldn’t have even considered it unless Mike suggested it as my deferral option from the 2021 IRONMAN California debacle. The swim was in a gorgeous, calm lake and I felt pretty smooth throughout the swim. I still need to figure out how to find feet to draft off of, but ended up close to the split I was aiming for. The bike went by faster than I thought it would. I was able to drive the course a few days before, which is one big loop and the scenery is just insane. I underestimated some of the false flats and hills, and there were a few times that it was more of a grind than I thought it would be. I was at a point towards the end when I was doing the math in my head to determine if I was on track to hit my bike split goal and as soon as I figured out I wasn’t, it became a mental game. Ended up about 15 min over my goal split, but it seemed as if most people were a little slower than anticipated. The run is usually where I make up the most time and as soon as I started I was shocked at how good my legs felt. That set me up for a positive mindset that it would be a good run day. The first mile was up the most ridiculous half-mile hill that had most people walking. Fortunately, the sufferfest was followed by an out-and-back trail through beautiful vineyards, so I guess you could say it was worth it. The rest of the run was through town with tons of spectators cheering us on.

One part of the loop that went all the way down Main Street was a mental struggle because it was a slight decline down and straight headwind back up…twice! I would say the last 5k was when it got really hard. I found a second and third wind a few times, but once I got on that last loop of the run, I was ready to be done. Ended up right at my goal run split and still made it just under 11 hours. Having my mom, my mother-in-law, and Mike there to support me really helped make the day successful. Crossing that finish line was the BEST finish line feeling I’ve had yet. Nutrition-wise, everything worked out perfectly. I worked with Megan Dopp to create a plan that ensured I had enough sodium and calories for the bike and run. I have a very sensitive stomach, so I did a lot of testing during training and Maurten works well for me. I consumed only Maurten drink mix, gels, and solids the entire day. I ended up consuming a few extra gels on both the ride and run which definitely helped keep my energy levels up.

Q: Ironman is definitely the longest distance you’ve done. You’ve swum more than 3 miles before and you’ve biked over 100 miles plenty of times. You did run the LA Marathon last year after IM California was canceled. But you’ve never had that long of a training day. So, what did you think was possible?

Jennie: I knew I was capable of sub-11, but only if it was a good day. I also knew that there was really nothing else I could do to be more prepared physically to have that good day. I try to keep calm before big races and try not to put too much pressure on myself, despite any expectations I have. I give myself grace and mentally prepare for the uncontrollable. If shit happens, it happens, and that’s ok. So far that mental strategy has worked out pretty well for me.

Q: Obviously, there are points during the race where you may think, “Wow. This is really hard and it hurts a lot” but in the opposite vein, at what point did you think, “I’m actually having a great day and this is fun”?

Jennie: When I was running through the vineyards about 2 miles into the run. I was running at a pace that felt easy and it was faster than I thought I would be moving. I thought, ok, this marathon can actually be enjoyable if you can keep this pace up!

Q: On the opposite side of the coin, when did you think, “This is really hard and I want this to be over now”?

Jennie: Stopping never once crossed my mind, which is actually pretty shocking. But, there was a point late on the bike where I was going up a hill that didn’t look like a hill and there was a pretty good headwind at the same time. I looked down at my watch and I think I was going maybe 6-7mph and I literally yelled out loud, “oh, come on!!” in frustration. I was giving so much effort and barely moving.

Q: That’s pretty funny. Talking out loud to yourself. I can totally see that. Tell us about some of the key workouts you did ramp up for the race – which ones stand out?

Jennie: I had several 5-6 hour bike rides that mentally prepared me to be out there for so long. I also had a weekend of back-to-back 2-hour ride/2-hour run days and a few double 90-min run days that really helped my run endurance. My key swim workouts were longer race pace sets that added up to 4-5k.

Q: Great – double runs are definitely challenging and that 8 hours weekend of 2-hour bike/run on back-to-back days is hard as well. Tell us about some of your bread and butter workouts that you just ‘punch the clock’ on and get it done.

Jennie: I really enjoy the bike trainer workouts. For the most part, I execute those well. And tempo run workouts.

Q: If you had to guess, in the past 6 months, going all the way back to April 1st, how many days in your Training Peaks were NOT green (completion)?

Jennie: Not many. If it’s in TP, it will get done. I’m type-A so my TP MUST be all green, but there are probably a few orange ones in there because I’m also an overachiever

Q: True on both accounts. I think I counted 2 workouts that weren’t done and it was probably because you weren’t feeling 100% or something like that. Lastly – let’s talk a bit about your run fitness and dive into some details: Your coach (me) claims that when you started working together you were reluctant to run too slow – I had you running at a Heart Rate below 150 which was around 9:10 pace starting out. True or False? How do you remember that period – new coach – new workouts etc.

Jennie: I do remember this and it was an adjustment. When you go for a run, usually you don’t actively force yourself to go slower to…improve! I hadn’t paid too much attention to HR before and typically went by pace. So moving to a HR-based plan was new, but it’s definitely made me more aware of my effort levels and has significantly improved my endurance.

Q: Running in Zone 2 a lot – like 70-80% of the time builds a huge foundation of strength and aerobic power. What is your normal run pace and HR, if you don’t mind sharing? What was your run pace and average Heart Rate at IMC?

Jennie: My Zone 2 is somewhere in the low 8:00 min/mile range, sometimes faster, at 137-148bpm. My run pace at IMCA was 8:35 min/mile at 146bpm.

Q: Great – it’s amazing how even after a big swim and bike, your HR was dialed in and you were very close to your normal long-day run pace. We all know a great bike ride sets up a great run, and did you ride to the correct power/watts during your IM? Did you ever think “I need to hold back a bit”?

Jennie: My watts were slightly lower than we planned. I tried not to overdo it on the hills, but that was really the only time I held back a bit.

Q: Ok, good, well that leaves some low-hanging fruit for the next one.

What is the one thing that you think you could do to help you improve?

Jennie: Finding more gears in the pool and running. I’ve been told (not by Mike) that I don’t have many gears in the pool. My sprint pace is not much faster than my tempo pace. It’s true. And for running, I can go long and steady all day long, but sprinting is a struggle for me. This is not me asking to sprint more, Mike,

Q: Well, it’s always good to know there are more aspects to work on! Anything else to add about your IM build-up and/or workouts you didn’t like or never want to do again?

Jennie: I don’t hate anything about the process. Doing an IRONMAN and doing it well is a commitment. There were a lot of workouts leading up to the race that I didn’t execute well. Do I like riding for 6 hours on the bike every weekend for several months? Not really, but I know what happens if I don’t. Do I feel guilty about missing my kids’ sports games (occasionally) because I need to get a long training day in? Absolutely, but I like to believe that I’m showing them what hard work and dedication looks like.

That’s a great final quote to end it on – thank you for your time!

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Most running training plans when preparing for a 70.3 triathlon will indicate a specific pace or heart rate (HR) to establish the desired amount of intensity of a workout. There is often great debate between pace or HR and the best matrix to maximize training benefits and race day performance. For many athletes, pace is a quantifiable matrix to judge their performance during a workout. The athlete will compare paces between runs and evaluate the quality of the activity solely based on this information. However, many factors will affect an athlete’s run pace on a given day, such as wind, rain, humidity, hills, the workout the day before, and GPS accuracy, to name a few. Thus, giving them results that may not represent the actual intensity of the workout. Factors that affect the validity of HR training include dehydration, sleep, caffeine, cardiac drift, and the accuracy of the heart rate monitor. Choosing between HR or pace when determining training intensity could significantly impact your physiological benefit and performance goals. Whether using pace or HR, it is vital to establish the correct training zones to match the proper amount of stimulus for each prescribed workout.

Typically, I will have an athlete perform a running time trial to determine lactic threshold (LT) pace and LT heart rate. The hard effort must be constant without a drop in intensity to establish a heart rate defection point to determine the lactic threshold and create accurate training zones. Below are examples from a run test to set both pace and HR training zones. I will repeat the testing several times to confirm the results and will regularly repeat testing during a racing season to update the training zones.

For several reasons, most of my 70.3 run training plans are in heart rate. First, if we look at the pace chart above and view zone 3 (tempo), we see a pace of 6:01 to 6:29 min/mile. We established this pace zone with minimal fatigue in the athlete. Generally, the run test is conducted after a rest day or at the beginning of a training block, where fatigue is not a prominent variable in the results. When we retest after a training block, the same conditions are established to determine if we have made performance gains. It would be challenging to develop pace training zones when fatigued since fatigue is a complex variable to replicate. Fatigue is also a challenging variable to measure. We train to build fatigue resistance.

The more fatigue resistance an athlete has, the faster they will go. An example of a workout to build fatigue resistance would be a morning Bike 4 x 10 min. @ 95 – 100% FTP, evening Run 4 x 15 min. @ 6:29 -7:20 pace (zone 2). After a high-intensity bike workout in the morning, it may be difficult for the athlete to maintain the correct pace zone, and they will commonly run at a higher intensity than required. However, suppose the same run workout is written in HR as 4 x 15 min. @ 85-89% of HR LT. Now, we focus on the correct physiological stimulus based on the prescribed workout, and the pace becomes arbitrary. However, monitoring pace and HR together is a great tool to monitor aerobic endurance with a matrix called aerobic coupling, where HR and pace are coupled with a less than five percent separation. If the separation between pace and HR is greater than five percent, this is decoupling. For example, if you do a two-hour run-in zone 2 HR and your HR and pace remain consistent, your fitness is optimal, and you’re ready to increase intensity. Another reason I prefer HR over pace is the training environment and weather conditions. On page ten in Daniels’ Running Formula by Jack Daniels’, the author states, “switch days to accommodate weather” if your workouts are based on pace, that may be a viable option but not very practical for the triathlete.

However, when your workouts are based on HR, a very windy day has little impact on your training. During the winter months, many of us utilize a treadmill during training. Since GPS on your watch cannot measure pace indoors, you then become dependent on the accuracy of the treadmill. Unless you can calibrate the treadmill, the chances are the pace numbers will be erroneous. Again, in this scenario, training with HR is a better option. As a coach, the more data I collect from an athlete’s workout, the better. This data set includes HR, pace, temperature, and other valuable data points. So, the more information you can record from your workout, the better. There are also times when workouts written in pace are appropriate for an athlete’s training. Still, I generally reserve those types of workouts when working on specific goals or when we can limit the variables that could affect the results. I will also use pace training when I need to see an immediate response to an increase in intensity where HR will lag.


An example may be a high-intensity track workout consisting of 400m intervals where HR may not reach its peak until well into the interval. Also, pace training is valuable when doing workouts above LT, where achieving a specific response may be difficult since there may be only a few heartbeats between zones. The gap between zones above LT is significant because our max HR will continue to decline as we age. However, HR is also beneficial in this scenario, providing information on how quickly the athlete is recovering from the effort and is valuable in determining the volume of future workouts at that intensity. A good training plan will have workouts written to address detailed training zones to achieve a specific physiological response. HR training provides a prodigious option to complete your training with optimal results. Good luck with your training and racing. Hard work does pay off.

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During the week or two before your big race, you may be tempted to do some things to enhance your race performance. You have extra time on your hands due to reduced training time during your taper period, and you may be pacing to and fro like a caged tiger. You may be thinking about some of the workouts that you missed during your training period, and a little nagging voice wonders if maybe you could make up those workouts now, close to race day. Our physiology and neurology give clues about things you can do in the week or two before your race. You can relax your body. Your training plan provided the stimulus for your body to get faster and fitter, and that design also specifies your exact taper to let all that work absorb, resulting in increased fitness. More work now will not add anything but may interfere with the designed recovery, actually impeding your fitness gains. Some extra running sprints or bike intervals cannot make you faster now. But relaxing and recovering will help you accumulate the gains from all your training. Stay off your feet as much as possible. Go through registration and the expo efficiently and get out of there. Put your feet up whenever you can. You can get plenty of sleep. Sleep is among the most powerful forms of relaxation. Get to bed early in the nights before the race, especially the two nights before the night before the race. Sometimes it is challenging to get a good night’s sleep the night before the race, understandably, so the two nights before that one is key. You can relax your mind. Early in the week, take care of all your chores. Assemble your race gear and pack early. Give your bike a look over check the nuts and bolts, see that your tires are not worn and are free of cuts and sidewall blemishes, clean the drivetrain, and check the brake pads. If you take care of the details early, should any last-minute issues arise you will have plenty of time and attention to accommodate them as calmly and serenely. You can go over your race plan. Study the race map and profile. Walk through the flow of transitions. Imagine in your mind’s eye how the race will go by making imaginary movies of your well-executed race. Run this imaginary movie just before dropping off to sleep in the evenings before your race so that your brain already knows what do to when race day comes. For specific instructions see this article on USAT’s website

You can trust your training. All the work you put in will be there for you. Thinking about the workouts you missed doesn’t help instill confidence but remembering all the work that you did complete will bolster your resolve and let you race with resolve. In the days before the race with a little surplus time on your hands, you could easily get yourself into some trouble—sneaking in an extra strength workout, going for an “easy” ride with your pals, trying to make up for past missing workouts. But really, any extra-credit workouts during taper are just tearing you down and messing with your recovery. Instead, replace the temptation to do extra training with those things that will really help you. Then you can race unfettered and serene and free.

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