Wednesday, November 06, 2013

What Greatness Takes

We will be doing a new series of interviews. hoping to get some on video. The theme of these interviews will be a discovery of what make people successful. in life and in sport. We will be interviewing first timers to professional greats. 
Our first interview is an athlete of ours, Savas Gunduz, who did his first ironman, Ironman Lake Placid.  Savas's story is a common one but with some very uncommon common aspects. 
Savas only trained an average of 6.9 hours per week preparing for the race. While he has a athletic build at 165 lbs standing 5,11 and his past high school soccer and college rowing endervers surely shaped some of his ability he is no Olympic athlete in disguise. Personally I feel he could be a fantastic athlete. Qualify for Kona material but his lack of consistency over the years has been the biggest issue for him (as it is for most people). 
Despite this lack of consistent training over the years and less than 7 hr's of training a week he accomplished what many people fall short off.  a near perfect IM race and his first nonetheless. 
I have highlighted some he said at the end of his question 5 answer. This is something i have heard and seen form almost every successful person ever. I am sure it will be a recurring theme

1. whats drove you to do this event. IM lake placid. 
Answer:  A Subaru.  Just kidding.  The real impetus was the fact that two of my best friends and former rowing teammates were going to sign up. I got a 4-page email from one of them, JR, stating something to the fact that we aren't getting younger, and this would be a great challenge, and on and on and on and on.  His disertation was summarized by the simple question, "So, you in?", to which I answered his lengthy email with the one-word answer, "Yep".  Therefore it was a combination of some very positive peer-pressure, with the fact that if I were ever to do an Ironman, that Lake Placid was one of the toughest, most iconic, and admittedly closest ones to me.

2. what other priorities do you have in your life Savas?  aside form this race?
Answer:  Pretty much everything else, except for clean socks.  Ie. Family, Job, Training, and then clean socks - in that order.   My wife and I had a 6 month old daughter when I decided to do the race, and we had another child during my training - so my kids were 2 and 6 months when I did IMLP.  They were definitely a priority in my life.  Following that, my job was very intense.  While I sometimes worked from home - those were 12 hour days, and I often had to travel during the week.   Behind those two things, came training.  Ahead of clean laundry, mind-you. 

3. what were your goals for this race? 
Answer: I had 2 goals - (1) to finish the race upright and feeling good.  (2) to break 12 hours, even though my coach said time and time again that "time doesn't matter".   I  knew what he was saying, that the weather could be rainy and thus the bike decents would be slower than normal.  Or the course could be windy, which would slow down times.  Or I could have a great race, but have a mechanical on the bike which would affect my time.  But still - I wanted to finish in sub-12.

4. what challenges did you face in preparation for achieving these goals? 
Answer:  The biggest challenge I faced was time available to train, plain and simple.  I had very, very limited windows of time, and those windows were constantly moving based on my work schedule/travel, or the kids' nap schedules, or other commitments (see priorities above).   I was never able to say "Every morning from 6-8am I'll swim/bike/run", or "Saturday's will always be my long rides and brick runs", because my wife could have needed help with the kids some mornings, or my work schedule would shift.

5. what were the keys to over coming these challenges? how did you succeed? 
Answer: I got a coach.  My coach was key for not just race tactics an workouts. But most importantly he was a "Time Management Expert".  I would talk to him every Sunday night and present my schedule for the coming week.  He would then tailor my workouts accordingly, for example making my work travel days my "running days" where I could simply pack my shoes.  He would help me to restructure my week's worth of training if my job suddenly shifted, or the kids got sick and I had to miss a long ride, etc.   As a result, I was able to be very consistent with my training from day one, and while it wasn't quantity, my training was definitely quality.  One other key is that I made each and every training session count.  I would be 100% mentally focused on my task at hand, and block out everything else.  Then when I was done with my training I would focus 100% on the other priorities in my life.

6 what was race day like?  this was your first IM how did it compare to what you expected/ what your training was like? 
Answer:  Race day was magical.  Thanks to the preparation from my coach of my physical abilities in the months leading up to the race, combined with the mental preparation from my coach in the days leading up to the race I had no surprises on race day itself.  It was just a matter of executing on my strategy of heartrate management, fueling, and enjoying the day.  I had a better than expected run, but that could have been because I was a bit too conservative on the bike.  But if I was more aggressive on the bike I could have potentially blown up on the run - so all-in-all it was a perfectly executed day.

7. what was the most unexpected thing that happened to you on race or in your preparation. 
Answer: The timing clock at the finish line flashed 12:01 for my time as I crossed.  And while the first person that I saw was the lady who handed out the finisher medals, the second person that I saw as I crossed the finish line was my coach, who had snuck back into the area after his own race to greet me.  That alone was unexpected, but even better was his smile when he told me that I broke 12 hours.  "Huh, how?" I asked in that post-race fog that we all experience.  "Since this was a rolling swim start this year, you actually started 5 minutes after the official time - so your real time is 11:56."   While unexpected at the time, in hindsight it made sense.  I had done the most with my training that I could  - blending consistency with quality.  I listened to ever trick that my coach told me in terms of mental preparation, and I executed my race to the best of my abilities.  The result was my hitting both of my goals - a great race where I finished upright and strong, and breaking 12 hours.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

First timer Ironman race report - Savas Gunduz


It was 3:30am on July 28th, 2013. I had already been lying awake in bed for 40 minutes when my alarm went off. 18 months ago, two of my best friends, EK and JR told me that they were going to do Ironman Lake Placid, and JR specifically wrote me a lengthy 4-page email detailing the reasons why I should join them, summarizing his magnum dissertation with the question - So, you in? My one-word email response, "Yep", set in motion the next year-and-a-half of buying a tri-bike, hiring EK as my coach (more on that later), training more hours than my work or family life was comfortable with, but both accepted, all leading up to this point. 3 hours from the start of the biggest athletic achievement of my life.

I have been an athlete my whole life. Soccer from the moments that I could walk. Then rowing in college, and a weak attempt at the US Rowing National Team in the years to follow college. Some minor stints as a Cat 5 cyclist, winning 2 local crits, but nothing more, and then some local triathlons where I consistently finished in the middle of the pack. Top 3rd would be a good race. But now, as I walked down the stairs of the rented house in Lake Placid at 3:32am, my athletic life would culminate in a race that everyone knew of....athletes and non-athletes alike. My co-workers, my friend, heck even my Mom knew that "Ironman Lake Placid" held a special place in the heart and soul of any person who has elevated their heart rate for the sake of competitions.

3:42am - I'm standing in the kitchen with EK and JR, coffee in hand, eggs and rice on plates....eating and drinking enough calories and energy to be fueled up, but not over-full that we don't digest.

3:51am - we're done eating. Water bottles are already filled with our special caloric mixes on the counter. Bikes have already been checked in the day before (or earlier that day? Hard to tell), and all of our transition and special needs bags have been packed, and re-packed. And then checked and re-packed again. Nothing else to do but sit in the pre-dawn darkness, EK, JR and I, and talk about anything other than the impending day that we have before us. We talked about rowing races we had won and lost in the past. We talked about cross-country skiiing training weekends in -9 degree temperatures in New Hampshire, where when we opened the door to our cheap-ass Motel 3, the heat and humidity from the motel room's shower colliding with the sub-arctic temps outside to literally form a cloud in our door-way. We talked about the good old days when we roomed together, rowed together, partied together, suffered together, and all of the good things that 3 friends talk about when miles have separated them in their adult lives, but memories bring them back closer than ever before.

Before long, the sky turned a light shade of grey, and without formally acknowledging it to each other, we each knew that it was time to walk down to Mirror Lake, to the start of the race. We filled our bags with our water bottle, slung our bags over our shoulders, and marched down in the cloud-covered grey dawn to get body marked, suited up in our wetsuits, and plow into the water with 3,000 of our new closest friends.

Mirror lake:

The first doubts grabbed me at the 1/4 point of the swim. Just as I rounded the first turnaround, I was getting pounded, kicked, smacked and otherwise beaten down by my 3,000 "friends", I realized that it was not my day. I hadn't trained enough with work and family. I could always come back another year and do it right. No shame in tapping out, and as I looked frantically for a boat to latch on to, I decided to just take 2 more strokes. Then 2 more strokes. Then 2 more strokes (where's that damn boat?!?). Then 2 more strokes. Then 2 more strokes. After a while I realized a couple of things. (1) that boat was no where near me and (2) I was actually finding a rhythm with my 2-strokes at a time. I finished the first lap feeling good, and headed into my second lap latched into the draft of someone's feet. Not someone speedy, mind you, but someone my speed. Before knew it, I was 200 years from the finish of the 2.4 mile swim, and even if my goggles got kicked off my head I knew that I would finish the swim. Things just got better from there.


The bike started off slow, but steady. My Coach, EK, had told JR and I "People should be passing you on the first 5 mile climb. If not, then you're going too fast." Well, if that's the case, then I'm doing it right. First the guys passed me. Then the fat guys. Then the women. Then get the point. But I kept it under control, crested the hill, and descended 6 miles in the rain and on wet roads into the town of Keene. From there, I again found a rhythm to my stroke, enjoyed the moment and rode intelligently...for me. Starting the climb out of the valley, back up to Whiteface and Lake Placid I started to real in the same people that passed me on the initial ascent. Aid stations were there when I needed them, and I rolled thru each one perfectly, grabbing water and Gel's and continuing on my march. I climbed the last 3 climbs (Mama Bear, Baby Bear, and Papa Bear) without breaking a sweat, especially since our Coach had told us about them on the pre-race ride the day before, and rolled back into the town of Lake Placid to begin my second lap. I felt great. Perhaps too great? Should I speed up and go harder on the bike? have a plan to break 12 hours, you're on plan, don't get greedy. The second lap went by without a mistake...which again were words of wisdom from Coach. "Just don't make a mistake". No crashes, no mechanicals, no missing any fueling opportunities, and most importantly - no burning any matches. I rolled into T2 feeling like the worst was behind me, and the only thing between myself and the finish line were my own legs. Not getting kicked in the swim, or crashing on the bike. Those were behind me. It was just me for the next 26.2 miles.

"Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast" was the mantra that my Coach had told us the day before and what ran thru my head in transition. Don't forget anything, don't make a mistake, and be smooth. I did a check of my watch and realized that my goal of sub-12 hours was seriously in jeopardy. I wanted to do a 1:15 swim. A 6:15 bike. 15 minutes total for transition and then a 4:15 run....finding 1 second somewhere to be able to come in at 11:59.59. But my swim took 1:17, my bike took 6:20, and my transitions, while smooth, were not "fast". Shit. I had to run nearly a 4-hour marathon to be able to break the 12 hour mark. My fastest, and admittedly only, other marathon to date was a 4:09 in Boston in '06. I was supposed to now run faster than that, after 2.4 miles on my shoulders, and 112 miles on my legs?!? Yeup. Let's do it.

26.2 what?!
My first 13.1 mile lap had me at 1:58.30 pace. Great, I had 90 seconds to play with for lap two. I held off the goblins for the first 6 miles, but then the goblins started to grab my toes. I would later find out that one of my toes was rubbing against my shoes and I would lose my toenail. But I pressed on. The goblins tried again to grab my hamstrings, but again I shook them off. They then tried to give me a cramp in my quads, but I beat them back with a banana at a feed zone. I ran thru another aid station at mile 21 and went to grab another banana, but it slipped out of my hands and fell to the ground behind me. A volunteer, a kid, perhaps 15 or 16 said "Keep running...I'll bring it to you". By then my mind was a bit blurry. "How will he bring it to me, what should I do. I need that banana". What seemed like an eternity, but what was probably only 20 yards, the kid came sprinting alongside me (mind you, I say "sprinting", but I wasn't moving that fast to begin with") and handed me another banana as I ran. He even had the composure to say "Do you need anything else?" I shook my head "no", thanked him, and he drifted on back behind me to rejoin the ranks of the other absolutely amazing volunteers who would do anything to make our lives just a little bit better in those moments of pain.

I decided to walk thru the next feed station so that I didn't make another mistake. And the next feed station. And the next hill. And then I ran past where my beautiful wife was cheering for me with my 5 month old son at mile 23. She told me that our 2-year old daughter was with her Uncle, my Brother, at the finish line. I ran as hard as I could for the last 3 miles....not so much to finish the race, or to break 12 hours, but rather to make my daughter proud as she watched her Dad finish the Ironman. If she was going to be at the finish line, Goddamnit, I was, too. My GPS watch died with 1 mile to go so I didn't know my time, didn't know my pace. I knew that I slowed down a lot in the 2nd half of the run, and that a 12-hour race was slipping away. All I could do was run. I ran past JR and EK's families - both of those guys had long since finished, but their families were like my families and they stayed out on the course to cheer me on in the last mile. I entered the Olympic circle, and saw my daughter waving at her Dad. I touched her hand as I ran by, and floated the last hundred yards to the finish.

12:01:16 said the clock above me as I crossed the finish line. But I didn't care. I had finished an Ironman. Without a doubt the hardest athletic achievement of my, or most anyone's else's, life. The first person I saw as I crossed the finish line was the woman who handed out medals. The second person was my Coach, EK who had been waiting for me (after his own race, mind you) right at the finish line. He who told me relentlessly for the past 18 months that "time doesn't matter", told me with a smile that I broke 12 hours. Huh? With the rolling start time, I actually entered the water 5 minutes after the gun went off, and my official time was 11:56. I gave EK a hug, as I couldn't have achieved what I did without him.

Will I do it again? Who's to say. I don't need to right now, as the experience I had was absolutely perfect. Given the time commitment that I had to train with work, a 2 year old, and 5 month old at home....I couldn't have asked for a better race. I executed on my plan, achieved my meager little goal, and have a lifetime of stories to tell all wrapped up in one 12 hour (11:56) day. But the future is unpredictable, and I wouldn't rule out anything. Beside, I think that I could break 11:30 some day with just a bit more training. :)

Friday, August 09, 2013

Running from Goblins. IM Lake Placid 2013

Every race is different. Every time it's a new experience. People around you and more importantly you. You are different. For better or worse you are a different new person shaped by your life, experiences, training and more.  At Ironman lake Placid in 2013 things were every different than the last time I did the race is 2011 but I wouldn't know how different until well after the finish line had come and gone.

~The view from the house we stayed at was... well, you get the idea.

If you ever need to wake up at 3am. wide awake, more alert than maverick right after he "flew right through his jet wash", do an Ironman.  Then you get the bliss of drinking coffee, readying your special needs bags, walking to transition at a rate that would rival most Olympic speed walkers and then... Wait.

With the earlier 6:30 start time me and my to racing pals had a measly 40 minutes to kill before the gun. piece of cake. Take in "The scene" body glide up. look at the wet suit, and... 39 minutes to go.  With the new start format we all congregated on the beach instead of the floating start.  Still a very intense moment. 3000 people getting ready to start what is likely their #1 event all year. Maybe in there life. The energy and the tension is indescribably. I lined up right in front and got the first and biggest reality check I would get all week.  Two guys sitting on a bench, wet suits on, looking tough, big arms, they had that focused look on their faces and... no legs.   Makes all your "bad workouts" or that missed pool session because of lightening seem, not really that big of a deal to say the least.

 Pro men start, BANG. pro women, BANG. some hand shakes and "have a good day's" to people you have never meet and we are off,  into the water we go.  I settled in quickly and was leading the race for a few 100. yeah me!!   The swim went off without indecent. The chaotic first 1000 simply turned into a very chaotic last 1000 with the new, I'm sorry is the ironman to hard for you, start. I still feel that the new rolling start is total BS and I will likely not do another IM with this start. If I wanted to have a leisurely day I would go golfing. Most fast people don't like it because it eliminates the "race" you are on a chip time not a gun time.  Most slower people who don't like it either because this new procedure puts them right next to each other from the get go. for all you people who can't swim and are upset because you are "loosing time" DO SOME FU**N PREPARATION!  better yet, go tell the guys with no legs your, "problem".

After weaving through the crowd to the exit I was out and into T1. The volunteers are absolutely awesme at every race I have done.  Into T1 change tent. "what can I do for you?"  "get my bike out # 1669." "Ok got it. what else can do?"  "get my bike out # 1669."   this repeated until I ran out. who ever you were, you're awesome!  calm, and focused. You are all awesome.
   Onto the bike and into the Rain:

 The rain had started and the roads were wet. The start of the bike for has slowly evolved for me each year due to my slowly yet steadily increasing speed and efficiency of my swimming.  I don't spend the first 25 miles passing hoards of people, I'm at the front from the get go.  I settled into a rhythm quickly but found my gluts tight and my HR rather high. It was the feeling and reaction I've had in Hawaii the last 2 years. I thought "maybe I just don't have it today".  Chris put that thought out of my head quickly. 

I took it easy down the fast decent and recovered well. Full gloves on, arm warmers and a piece of Mylar space blanket up my jersey I was comfortable.   I went back and forth with some guys on the long flat section down rt. 9. every thing was now in full operation. stomach felt good, legs good, HR low, watts right there. "we can't seem to figure this out can we" some guy said to me as he passed for the 10th+ time.  "obliviously you haven't raced much idiot! #1 this is perfect, just stay legal and #2 few people hang with my on the first lap of the bike without walking and crying the last 15 miles of the run so.."  EASY Chris!  Good thing I can keep him in my head better than I did in the 90's. such an ass!  I said, "I think we were doing pretty good! and smiled. And it was true this was perfect. legal, free, speed!
The first time up the climb I was moving to the front of the race but there were strong guys around.  I wasn't simply riding away.  My legs felt a bit heavy also. through transition, I missed my special needs feed. I was going to grab it as I was draining my bottle of Infinit much faster than normal. it was gone! humm...
"figure it out after the decent, we got riding to do." Chris said in his so understanding tone. sarcasm font. 
    Onto the rollers, big decent and rt. 9 again.  The decent was drying out so I bombed it. Never left the aero bars.  One big race execution thing that EVERYONE does wrong at IMLP is thinking of the bike in its 2 loops starting and ending at transition. After climbing for an hour plus on the first lap you arrive in town and start your second loop, which starts right away with BIG hills! you must think of the first climb as 1:30 (if your fast) maybe up to 2hr's of mostly up hill riding until the big decent were you get a break. I was with several guys coming into town I dropped them all on teh next set of rollers and didn't see any of them again until the end of rt.9. 30 miles or so later! And my watts went down if anything on this section.
The last time up the hill my legs were heavy again. and I was a stiff in places. shoulders, back and the quads just didn't feel like magic. Chris took the flame thrower to those thoughts but they kept coming back. I grabbed a few bottles of perform for some extra calories but I felt fine in that regard. Into transition and out quickly, onto the run and a HUGE eruption of cheers. You have to do this race, coming into town is unreal. There are so many people watching its indescribable. and there is this aura that hangs in town. its Olympic... I don't know what. but when you are there, racing, you can feel it every time your in town.
  Within 1/2 a mile the tightness was gone, energy was high, I was trying to slow my pace (it was to fast 7:20-7:30) I caught and then passed someone.  The road was clear I was 2nd in my Age group. It was all the same. 2 years ago at the 2011 IM LP. it was all playing out very similar.   when you have time read this report from 2011. It worth the time and while I am not fond of my own writing, it has, for whatever reason, seen several Thousand hits since that July.

Down to the turn around. OK Ek here's the uphill, just manage, hold your intensity and we reset for "overtime" at half way.  "No one can fuc** hang with us dude! are you kidding me! all systems go Eric lets get this done",  Chris  this was confidence building and but there was this pain in my foot. right in the bottom like someone was stabbing me. my right foot, which was strange because it was my left ankle that had blown up 2 wee... "IT'S FINE EK, RUN! AND STFU!"  Katie Blackmore went by in the opposite direction racing inte pro womens race. she wasn't far behind me. she yelled some words of encouragement and "there's 2 girls  ahead of you Eric!" the 1st and 2nd pro women. I smiled and said quickly. "well... get your ass up here and there will be 3 ahead of me!  She eventually caught me and came in 2nd on the pro women's field. Awesome to see friends do so well.

I sometimes describe pacing of an Ironman as Running from Goblins.  We have all dealt with them before. On long training session and races. They start the race shortly after you and just follow you. They are faster and they WILL catch you... eventually.  Everything you do and don't do is simply trying to stay in front of them as long as possible. Go to hard and slow down they catch you all at once. At first they flick your ear and tug at your shorts. Then one will jump on your leg, then the other, then your back, then they start punching you in the gut, pulling your hair and tripping up your feet. "you have to stay just ahead of the goblins for as long as you can, if they catch you 6 miles into the run, its over, you simply can't deal with them for that long"  -I will tell people.  

Ok, so onward, pace was good. but the pain was getting worse had spread to both feet and now.. the ankle was throbbing.  Trough half way and starting back down "you're top 5 EK!"   This barley registered. The next 6 miles are so are, as I look back now, a learning experience that reinforced something I have known but didn't realize just how important it is for racing long.  They say you never really appreciate something  until it's gone.
So. You know what happened?   Nothing. I honestly can not tell you what happened in those miles. They are blank. Totally empty I didn't look at my watch, Chris was gone.  He is very necessary for me as most of you know by now but I didn't realize how important he was. I always knew how you had to be hyper motivated to race 140.6 miles. Well, give a man a fish he'll eat for a day, show a man how to fish he'll eat for a life time.  I have now been shown what happens when the killer motivation leaves.  If you do not have the motivation, the fight in you, to push every moment of every minute in the last 6-13 miles of an Ironman you will not succeed in reaching a high goal. Period.  As I approached the turnaround that marked about 7 miles to go I looked at my watch. I was running 10:30/ mile pace on a flat to down hill stretch of road and my body stopped. I curled my toes reached down to loosen my shoe laces for the second time. I did this quickly in the first lap as well.  I thought about what people would say behind my back.  In have been cursed with hearing people talk about me behind my back. An e-mail once that some how I was put on and clearly shouldn't have been. In the next isle in a grocery store, (yeah believe that crap?!) In the locker room at riverside boat club as I was out side about to walk in. It haunts me. anyone that tell you "I don't care what people think of me."  Their lying. it sounds great and I believe you don't want to care about what people think but you do.  Ladies that are disagreeing with me, don't wear makeup. Just for one day at work. I dare you.

I started running again, walked an aid station, ran again, walked a hill ran... wait no I couldn't.  my legs locked up and ankle folded.  I stopped, bent down, hands on my knees. "its over" I thought.

    As I stood back up I saw a 4 wheeler type vehicle bringing supply's to the aid stations and I thought, "come on hit me. just graze me enough so I fall and I can stop"  My roadie friends will know what I mean we have all been in those races where you are just BEGGING for a flat tire. I mean making deals with God for just a little flat tire.
So I walked. I thought I'll run there, after the hill, I'll run. I never did. I saw my friend and athlete JR coming from behind .  I'll run with him. didn't happen. seeing him race well cheered me up. I stopped to tell Christy, Evren, and Tara thanks, some high fives and I was back off. Then I saw my other good friend and Ek Endurance Coaching athlete Savas. He was on his way at mile 15 or so. And he looked amazing. Coaching him was a challenge. He averaged about 6.5 hr's a week.  He is not "talented" as some are with that genetic ability. He's fit, he played soccer, he rowed crew in college and after. and used no data of any kind in training.  Seeing Jr and Savas lifted me up.
Those who can't do, teach" ?
No shame in that for me, if could give up all my victories to be the best endurance and athletic coach in the world, I wouldn't even hesitate.   I stopped a few more times. My feet hurt so bad. I thought I was moving (walking) well but as I came to the large crowds in town there was no "you can do it, get the run back, come on!" I saw several  "ohh shit" kinda looks. I saw my mother and brother in law. "Are you OK?"  I handed them my fuel belt, " yeah I'm fine. see you guys in a bit." I said.  I walked into the Olympic oval I think everyone there high fived me or touched my shoulder. The crowd was so loud. I looked behind me as runners came by and passed me, I waived them by and gave them a congrats as they came by. It was there day. I made sure I didn't impede on anyone's finish before mustering a wounded, manatee like hobble to the finish line. "Eric Kenney you are an.." " Yeah, yeah we know Shut the hell up!"  Ahh Chris you're such and ass...
 I went straight to the exit after some food, saw Lindsay and my parents then headed back into the finish area to wait for Savas. Think this guy is happy?

"Even Tom Brady doesn't make it to the supper bowl every year" a friend told me. True. I have qualified for Hawaii twice.  Last yr. at IM St. George someone said that I "got lucky". maybe I did, I've been told you don't do something twice in a row on luck.  A director from a pro cycling team once said about Paris-Roubaix  "To win you don't need to have good luck, you just need to avoid the back luck" I think this is more the case with racing an Ironman.
After the race I saw a friend Patrick.  he said "Dude! what the hell happened to you?!!?"  This was refreshing for me really, I didn't just fade, something "happened" and apparently it showed more than I thought.  I still wonder if I would have pulled it of even if my ankle and feet were 100% fine.   In training I had some very positive results. some better than ever before. I also had some that were shy of the last 2 years...
 I won't blame it on my ankle, we will never know. people say to me, "awe man, you were right there. doing so well! its to bad."  well, yeah but that's the IM story. "I felt so good until mile 13 on the run. really? No shit! If you dont' have "IT" with 13 to go in an IM you will fade, hard, at best.  What is "IT"?  Everything.
The physical, mental and structural capacity to push your self to the brink or you will wind up that big part of the statistics bell curve.
  Whats next? When?  Will I be back?  ...ask Chris.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Bob Cook, Mt Evans Hill Climb. Chris Carr race report. 2014

 Mt Evans race report by: Chris Carr:

I went in to Mt Evans with the goal of a top 5 or 6 - realistic expectations I thought.  Lining up at the start that morning I didn't really know what to expect; the field was relatively stacked, and I had those "unsure" sensations coming from the legs.  The kind where you can't tell if you're going to have a great day or barely finish.  My one teammate in the race, Rory Kelly and I discussed it briefly while we spun around warming up and decided we both felt the same and would just see how it played out on the road and roll with it.  He's a better pure climber than me, so in the back of my mind, I'd do what I could for him and see where I'd end up.
We started off slow, really slow.  A guy went solo from the gun, didn't see who it was because I was 20-30 guys back in the pack.  No one really thought anything of it because usually once the climbing really starts about 6 miles in, things get fast.  There was also a predominantly southwest wind (headwind) that morning, so being tucked safely away in the pack ensured a calm and easy ride.  We hit the real climbing and we went hard for a few minutes at a time, but then it slowed dramatically and everyone caught back on.  This continued all the way to Echo Lake, roughly the halfway point of the race.  Every other year I have done this race, the field has been reduced to less than half by this point, but this year I don't think we dropped a single person, yet...
People started attacking out of the fee station gate, and it was enough to whittle the group down to maybe ten guys.  We came around the corner out of treeline into a long, 5-6% grade with a cross wind from right to left.  A few of the strong guys, my teammate Rory Kelly included went to the front and "guttered" us along the yellow line, which was perfect strategy.  I knew I could hang on at that pace in the cross wind (we were all essentially doing equal work because there was no draft) and I could see that others were starting to show signs of fatigue.  There were a couple of people, won't name names, that found it acceptable to completely disregard the rules and safety of other riders that day by riding well across the yellow line, in the middle to the oncoming lane to try and gain an advantage.  But, sadly for them, when we turned out of the wind, Rory attacked pretty hard (hard enough that I thought I would be dropped) and those cheaters would not see the front of the race again.  Good riddance.
The next several miles are fairly flat, even downhill at times so the name of the game was staying out of the wind and conserving.  There were a few attacks through here but nothing too serious, but then again, every effort at this altitude takes a toll, so legs were still being softened up even if you didn't realize it.  We hit the long, sustained climb out of Summit Lake and the place slowly ramped.  I found myself at the front here thinking that I would try and set tempo for Rory and I would hang on as long as I could.  Matt Cooke and Julian Kyer (both domestic pros known for their climbing prowess) took turns attacking, and I held on for dear life.  Each time I would say to myself, "one more of those and I'm done!"
The last 5 miles or so are mostly steady grade with a couple steep pitches, but the long straight switchbacks to the summit seem to go on forever.  It was there that we could see the lead car a couple minutes up the road and realized, "oh yea, there's still a guy up the road.." That guy was Ben Blaugrund, teammate of Leroy Popowski, who has dominated the Colorado hillclimb scene the last several years.  That also explained why Leroy had been unusually quiet the whole race.  Normally he goes early and hard, and few people if any could stay on his wheel to the end.  At this point it was the two pros, Rory, myself and Leroy, with Ben still up the road.  Julian attacked, and I countered at a switchback into a tail wind.  I knew attacking into the tail wind was the way to get away, or at least do some damage because there is no draft in the tail wind, so if people wanted to catch or stay with me, they had to go at least as hard as me.  To my shock, I looked back and had dropped everyone.  Leroy was the last one, but dangling a few bike lengths back.  I hesitated for a minute because I knew we still had over 2 miles to go, and half of that would be into a head wind.  I decided I needed help, and would wait for Leroy.
He caught back on and I sat in his draft when we turned into the wind, then once we turned into the tailwind again, I slowly ramped up the pace and when I looked back, I saw something I had never seen before - I was dropping Leroy in a hillclimb.  I actually panicked for a second thinking that I was going way too hard, was going to blow up or something.  How could I possibly be beating Leroy, Rory, Cooke and Kyer in a hillclimb?  I caught and passed Ben shortly after and realized that I had a shot, a really good shot.  My legs were beat, I was going all out at 14,000 feet.  Each switchback I thought would be the last one, it seemed to go for an eternity.  I crossed the line, arms in the air, legs barely able to pedal my body out of the way of the finish line.  I was in disbelief.  I didn't realize that I had really won until I got a high five from Rory who powered home strong for third, just behind Leroy.  I went from thinking I'd be happy with seventh place, to a solo victory.
Looking back at my training for the last month, I shouldn't be surprised.  Coack EK and I have done A LOT of work specific to this, and similar hillclimbs.  Tons of long, climbing threshold intervals and over-unders getting ready for the big hillclimb at Mt Washinton later in August, but it clearly it paid off here.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Mt Evans Hill Climb

The MT evans Hill climb is coming up soon!!
I have done this race a few times. Here is a report I did about the last time I raced it in the Pro-1-2 field. This report has a full wattage breakdown, watts per/ kilogram analysis, and more.

I wellcome coments and others toughts relatung topics!

Mt Evans stands over 14,000 feet in altitude and has the highest paved road in the country. So it only makes sense that we as athletes who ride bikes should race up it!!
On sat July 19 2008 I did the Mt Evans Hill climb. High altitude riding is not my specialty but it is the CO climbing championships, it’s a fantastic ride and I know that I am capable of doing well. Top 15 top 10 in the pro-1-2 field. as always it will depends on who shows up.
My preparation:
Nothing really crazy here. No knarly FTP workouts, no altitude tent that I slept in. I did get up to 10,000 feet once a week to do 1 or 2 x25’ intervals at what I perceived to be Threshold. I would normally lose about 15%. These were also not fresh as I had to ride up there!
See attached article at bottom on some past data form high altitude riding.

The Climb:
Ride: 27.3 miles
6,920 feet of climbing
Avg. grade: 4.5%
From 7500 feet elevation – 14,135 feet.
**Mass start race, not an ITT.

My Stats:
FTP 340ish...
Time 2:10 (very slow for me even with the wind we had)
Avg. watts: 275.
2253 kj’s
6’ above threshold
29’ Z4
85’ Z3
10’ Z1 and 2.

I was pretty happy with my numbers but with a dismal placing of 30th I new something was wrong. Something didn’t add up. every thing was perfect. The steady but firm pace as the bottom was a good warm up. I never had to accelerate, my bike supper light, etc… I was alone for much of the ride after it split up so no drafting there…

I did 303 watts for the first half , 250 for the second half and the last 20’ at 235. Between my loss for power from altitude and loss from fatigue I was thinking anything over 245 for the second half would have been good so I was pretty happy to see 250. I never cracked. I felt good the whole way. The few sections where we picked up the wind at our backs I was able to really get the bike moving.
Notes on training:
If you can’t sleep/ live at attitude the training AT altitude seemed to work well. At the very least the brain body connection will be lined up. You get some weird sensation riding all out above 12,000 feet! I can not speak on the cellular level on what adaptation occurs with this type of training but from what we do know about loss of power at increased elevation, this preparation seemed to put me one steep ahead of that curve.
Training at higher altitude tips:
1. Go by P.E. If you try and nail your normal watts you will quickly dig a whole for your self. Doing hard work at a significantly higher elevation takes allot out of you.
2. Take more recovery time than normal.
3. Keep the Iron intake up. Consult your doc. As your body tries to make more red blood cells it will need Iron. some people with handle the low O2 levels better than others but keep a healthy and divers diet coming, as always!!

So was everyone else just that much stronger? Is my FTP not 335? Was my power meter way off? What gives?
Here’s the deal I am normally about 70 kilograms, 155lbs. if I really get into it for a big stage race, etc. I can be 152 maybe lighter and feel strong, healthy, with energy to spare.
This year things have been very busy I have opted for more higher intensity training instead of the mega long tempo climbing workouts. This combined with a high frequency of dinner beers, I have been a bit heaver. Not so much to make me worry but a few lb’s. On Friday night I weighed myself 160 lbs!! I thought I was just retaining water maybe, a full belly? But, Sat. after the race when I got home I weighed in again, 160. so lets re-crunch the numbers.
Doing 275 watts at 70 kilo’s is 3.92 watts per kilogram, pretty good. talking with some friends after, ones that beat me, I figured they were in this area.
But 275 at 72.7 kilos is 3.78 big difference.
There are a few wattage calc. out there and even on a hill that is not that steep like Mt Evans, that extra weight comes out to 5-8 minutes!! Add in the fact that accelerating will have an exponential negative effect on a heaver person. And by “hanging onto” a group longer one can get more of a draft for more of the climb. That all adds up to a much, much faster ride and a better place.
Note on my % of loss. I lost 19% for the whole climb from my FTP. Realize that this is 2 hours not a threshold effort. In the 2nd half of the race I lost 26%. Which I figured is pretty normal. 20% from the extreme altitude change, 6% from fatigue from the first hour.

Some final thoughts on this. Yes, Threshold watts per kilo of body is important. And for a hill climb or hilly RR or stage race it’s very, very important! However, there were people that beat me that are significantly heaver. What’s there FTP? I don’t know. probably better than 4.6 watts/kilo. But, I know this. To reach your maximum potential nothing beats being healthy, happy and strong. In bike racing or any endurance sport simply being able to crush the power out put will pay off huge!!

~Here is some other data from training at altitude:

Here are some numbers and percentages of loss that I have so far. As you will see my data has not only the altitude but a varying amount of “work” before the high altitude intervals.
My FTP is about 335ish, 155lb’s
I live at 5500 feet
Normally, at my living altitude, I train that “late power” quite a bit. I lose about 8% after 2500-3000 kj’s of Z3-4 riding.

~Intervals at 10,000 feet: I push 290 watts (also after 1500kj’s) A loss of 14%

~My ride up trail ridge road. To 12,000 feet. (after 2500 kj’s, with 6’ above threshold) I did 235 for the last 30’ or so. A loss of 30%!!! Keep in mind there is also general fatigue acting here as well from early part of the ride. But even if we take out my usual 8% of loss thats still 22%!
Again these are all a bit tough to use because of the “work” that is done before the efforts None are “fresh TT efforts at altitude.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Your Next Big Training Block

Where are you with your training?
For many of you doing a big race this yr. you are getting into some serious training. This can mean simply being structured and more disciplined or, as a pro friend of mine is, hammering 20+ hr’s a week! As you come into a critical phase or block of training there is a lot going through your head. You have probably done a few TRAINING RACES and there for have some results, good or bad, to learn from, make adjustments, etc.
During this time its easy to get distracted and stray from your original game plan. It’s during this time that I see many athletes try to do too much. Its seems wired that someone could not reach their goal by trying to overly prepare… but it happens all the time. Now is the time we are looking for lots of bang for or buck. Ie. We are looking for the most adaptation possible in a given amount time. While one should always be managing their training in this way now we are fit and efficient at are sports. Yesterday was the longest daylight day of the year, race day is drawing close and we are looking to really push the training envelope!

As I rode home form the 5430 sprint tri in boulder Sunday I had several thoughts on how to manage this phase.
· Get back to basics: you should have a list of goals and training objectives that you made at the onset of training. Go back look at them.
~Do some need to be revised? You may have learned that you thought a 1:20/100yd. swimming threshold pace would net you a 1 hr. IM swim (1:25/100yd pace). But are now thinking that its more like 1:17-1:18 threshold pace?

· How many training objectives have you meet?

· How many have you not meet? Do you need to change things up, or do you need to keep plugging away? You may just need more time in a particular area.

· The more you train the more recovery you need. Plan extra time for rest and active recovery.

Realize that while it is important you make progress it will take time. I have an athlete who is not making the progress we hoped for on the bike. While he feels better his threshold watts are somewhat stagnate. However, each race he does he performs better and better in the bike leg. places higher and higher in his age group over all. Some things just can’t be explained. While we are still working as his riding it’s no time to be disappointed or panic!

OK Eric so I am going to train real big this month. What should I do?
· Block Training:
In the triathlon world it is very easy to get caught up in the “routine”. When people ask me “what’s a normal build week look like for you?” I say, “There is no such thing.” It’s so easy to get into that Monday is off. I swim tue. and thur., do the team run wed. long bike sat. long run Sunday, blah blah blah… if you want to improve in something you have to work at it, A LOT!!
We all know that you don’t get faster from one workout yet we get so crazy about doing just this one workout today! “I can’t miss the team run, or I will lose my running legs.”
You really think so? If so, you’re wrong. If you want to maximize your time and get good riding your gona have to cut back the swimming and running. Or quit your job.
I am always doing focus or block training. 1-2 weeks of focusing on one sport or one aspect of that sport. Here are some ideas for a focus week of training and an example of an athlete’s run focus week.

· Think big picture, plan ahead. You want to get as much training in as you can. You will do this by being consistent. Frequency is KEY! While you will want to do some big training days don’t kill yourself! Push your limits, don’t reach miles beyond them.

· Dial back other sports. If you’re doing a focus week on the bike you can still run and swim but dial it WAY back! You’re not going to forget how to run if you stop for 2 weeks. Do just 1-2 runs a week. Make them Z1-2, brick runs, easy. All you’re looking for is the bare minimum here or less. Same with swimming. Dial your other sports back at least 50-75%. and drop any intensity. Use all your physical and mental energy for you focus sport!

A previous run focus week for an athlete of ours looked like this:
Mon: recovery day easy 1 hr. ride.
Tue: masters swim, longer and easier 4k total
Run long, 90 min. 6x 20 sec. pick ups at end of run
Wed: Easy ride, 2hr. (it was nice outside)
Thur: 3 hr. ride at IM race pace,
Run brick, 45’ Zone 3 pace
Fri: Masters swim, longer and easier again.
Run, 45’ tempo run, Zone 3 pace
Sat: Run: long with tempo 30’ Z2, 30’ Z3, 30’ Z2.
Sun: OFF

Interesting to note that while this was the most running this athlete has done in one week, because it was managed well and totally focused on running the last run on Sat. was the best run he has had yet this year. He averaged a low zone 3 pace and having the lowest RPE ever this year for a run!! The following week at a training race, he PR’d, running faster than he has ever in a sprint tri. And yes his swim and bike were fantastic as well!

A bike focus week (for myself coming up soon) will be even more extreme. I will have only 1 swim, 2 short Zone 2-Zone 3 runs. Rides will be every day (sans rest day) hard group ride Tue. Long mountain ride wed. flat IM pace ride thur. recovery Friday and a 2 day stage race (3 stages) on the weekend.

So get back to basics, get the big picture back in focus. While you want your training to be dynamic and flexible don’t “hop scotch”. If you were confident in the grand plan when you made it and progress is being made stick with it! Getting fast doesn’t happen overnight.

As always every one, train hard, train safe and have fun!
See you on the road!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

new triathlon swim start protocol

     Letter to all race directors and Ironman:

I am writing in regards to the new swim start protocols that are being implemented at some Ironman races and short course triathlons.
I understand and respect the actions and thought that goes into putting on a safe and competitive event. However, this new timed swim start is an atrocity to the sport of triathlon.  As a young and fast growing sport changes are going to be needed but we tread lightly.
first off we must realize that is problem of swim starts is a good one to have. 1020 years ago we had 100-200 people show up to race we have an issues that we now face with 1800-3000 athletes racing!  The sport is growing fast and thats a good thing. So take yourself back a notch (my self a few notches) and relax, things change and understand that people are only trying to make them better.

   Every sport has its challenges and dangers, simply eliminated them one at a time is not the answer.  With this new start protocol athletes are no longer “racing” rather simply completing the course and seeing who has the best time. Imagine the winner of Ironman lake Placid, the oldest and most prestigious IM in North America crossing the finish line lifting the finish line tape high in the air to the cheers of the crowd old to find out the next morning that he did not win.  You have stolen that feeling and the moment from that winner forever.  Imagine this happening in every age group at the boulder sprint or boulder peak triathlon.
Two.  while Age Group starts are not the best they at least put all the same “category” together. You cross the line ahead of that person you beat them, plain and simple. This simplistic nature of “racing” is the defining difference between field sports and racing sports.  In cycling there are different categories based on ability and how well one has done and you race those people. The other method of “self seeding” one’s self for the swim is horrible. The swim is one very small part of the race.  imagine going to your son or daughters track meet and the finals of the 100 meter sprint is “start whenever you want and we’ll time you” not sure there would be many happy parents.
  At IM lake placid in 2011 the water temp was too high for wet suits the decision was made to not allow wet suits for folks who wanted to compete for a podium, and spots to kona and allow wetsuits for those who just wanted to complete the race.  Even playing field.  This decision was bad however, some none wet suit athletes got pummeled by wet suit folks. Separate start times would have been good here.  For the short course races, especially the boulder peak and sprint why not conduct a whole different race?  They sell out. Pros and top AG On Saturday. Everyone else on Sunday?

Three.   Every athlete regardless of ability has the right to a safe race and a good finish time. Yes. They absolutely do. But at the cost of everyone else? When I was in grade school in one of my classes I remember talking about our rights as Americans.  Freedom of speech was discussed and, of course, “if I have the freedom of speech why can’t I swear in class?” it’s a good question. There are many areas like this in our world. How do we know what we can do and can't do? “Because your rights end where someone else’s begin”  I never forgot that.  How far will you go to accommodate people worries about the swim start?
If the swim start worries someone that much why not just wait 30 seconds to 1 minute for the ciaos to clear? Yes they would “lose time” but that shouldn't be there concern anyway?  If it is then time should be spent properly preparing for the race at hand. What happened to that? Proper preparation.  Running is the major cause of injury in triathletes. The training for hardest section of the race puts people on the disabled list all the time should we shorten all the runs? 
And what about ones “Time”.  what about that clock? For all those concerned about their time in the race how will the clock be calibrated for every athlete across the line for their classic triathlon finish line picture? I remember my first triathlon and my first ironman. I still have those pictures wouldn't trade them for the world…
Implementing a category system may be good. There is still very large gap between many top AG’s and Pros. Also there may be simply too many participants for this to be logical.
I feel simply adding a rule or separate timing mat (like at IM LP in 2011) those who want to compete for podium make it known. Steep up and all race together.  

And what about having AG waves at the bigger IM’s? this is a great way to minimize numbers at the swim start. Even doing every 10 years (or bigger) would help a lot and keep racing age groupers together.
Finally, there are few things that compare to the exhilaration of being in the water at the starting line counting down to the starting gun with Three Thousand (3000) other people. All starting at the same time.  All facing the 140.6 miles. Doesn’t matter if you are a pro, first timer or a veteran age grouper starting ironman number 15. We are all equal.  I want everyone to be able to have that feeling.

I beg those of you making these decisions to tread carefully. You are changing the course and history of the sport in extreme ways. If this kind of “leveling” continues what will an ironman race look like in 5 years?  20 years? 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Getting over Snow in April. and dealing with the indoor trainer.

Indoor training can be rough! 

Well its snowing again in CO. A lot. Its April 17th and we have a foot or so of the white stuff.
for folks training for early season races this is a big blow. you are mentally strained as it is,  packing in the volume and hard training. This is tough enough in nice weather never mind the bad weather.
what are you going to do.  Here are a few short and simple answers. They might not be the best, but it will have you NOT making mistakes and should keep your head from exploding.

First and foremost remember that it's a privilege to be doing what you do. worrying about what wheels to use, which type of intervals is trivial in the big picture. Monday at the Boston Marathon 2 bombs went off killing a few people. one of which an 8 year old boy who was waiting for his father to finish the race. As focused athletes we get tunnel vision. no one has been more guilty of this than yours truly in the late 90's. as frequent readers here know this is where "Chris" is from and his upbringing is less than pleasant.
Ok enough. head up. onward.

Don't freak out about duration!  if you try and ride 3+ hours on the trainer you are most likely going to lose e it! I have talked about "Endurance Training" a lot.  its gone over here again in this webinar.  start 20-30' in for the Endurance training part we talk about the 90' mark, intensity as a tool you control and more.
you don't need to ride 3+ hours to achieve good endurance for long races.  well, OK long rides are key but this snow its going to last all summer and you have likely done some long rides. so go back look at your training log take confidence in ALL your training over the last several months and deal with the resources you have.

Ok so your on the trainer you realize that 90 minutes will do 90% of the job, but what are you going to do with the time?  a while back I came up with a selection of Hour Of Power trainer sessions.
add a 15' warm up (or more) a 15' cool down and you are set!   these are workouts that are focused on a one task. VO2 int. endurance and strength, etc. and twisted a bit, be more fun and more engaging than your standard 4x10' at threshold. BORING!!!!
so why not pick one, and watch the training webinar while you ride. that's some multi tasking right there.

And while we are at it I'll plug our new program, 24-7 Coaching I hate training plans. they don't work. Why? because there is no rhyme or reason to them. so all of Ek Endurance Coaching plans are free. join 24-7 coaching for the year and you get a free plan. this plan will be 100% better than any other training plan you can by. Why, because you will get daily coach support in our private forums.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Training tip for the time crunched athlete


We have talked about training in training races, and all sorts of spring type training and races.... things. OK its early give me a brake on teh adjective finding.  But it IS still winter. as I type this I look at the forecast for 6+ inches of snow in the next 36 hours. this is one of my favorite time saving workouts that I prescribe almost every one of my athletes at one point or another.  

We talk about many more time saving methods Here, a free webinar on you tube.   And for more full time tranning support for teh self coached athlete or if you have a training plan.check out 24-7 coaching

With busy schedules, many athletes just don’t have enough time to work on all the aspects necessary to reach their full potential. Let alone the Triathlete who needs to be effective in three sports.
 Because of this, it is of great value if one can combine workouts. I am not talking about a brick workout or double sessions either. I’m talking about maximizing your time. Even pro’s whom train for a living need to be effective with there time and training.
SO, a quick tip here that goes along nicely with the webinar I did not long ago. You can find that here.
   A great way to do this is by focusing on more than one aspect of your training in one workout. By placing workouts within workouts one can get a double whammy effect out of his or her training. Consult your coach before concocting your own “double whammy” workouts. One of the best ways to do one of these is to place tech. drills or hard intervals into a longer endurance workout. For example: In your 3 hr. ride, focus on your technique while riding up hills.  Keep pedal cadence high and concentrate on pedaling “perfectly”.  Talk to your coach about that too.  Alternate standing and sitting. Stand up on one hill; for the whole hill, sit on the next. Hone your skills.  Do fast pedal drills in your long ride or strides in your long run. Another option is to do intervals or some kind of harder effort in your work out.  If you are looking to increase your power or speed, do your intervals after a solid warm up.  Cool down easily, hydrate and fuel up appropriately, then continue with a low intensity endurance workout.  
Bike example:  20’ warm up.
3x10’ Zone 4. (rest 3’). 
10’ cool down, continue cool down at level 2 for 2 hours

Looking to focus on more endurance for that IM. Do the intervals after 2 hours of riding at Zone 2.  BAMB!  Two birds with one stone!
This example is one of my favorites. You are working some threshold intervals into a longer end ride. However, its important to understand that “threshold” work is mostly aerobic. So despite the high increase in intensity you are still doing an Endurance Ride.
Please consult your coach or sign up for 24-7 coaching and get some specific advice before doing any of these as they are a bit more taxing than your normal single aspect workouts that mere mortals do. There are some “double whammy” workouts that are a bad idea.
   Example: working two different maximal effort zones in the same work out. Working long tempo, cooling down then doing 1 minute intervals.  Not the best idea here. especially for the novice. 
With proper planning there is no reason that anyone can’t finish that IM, be a contender in there age group, or win the big one. Happy training!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Group rides. the sweet spot.

Many cyclist and triathletes a like participate in group rides. They have unique place in our training and over all preparation. They can simulate a bike race, add some intensity to your tri training, be great prep for those doing ITU races and lets face it, there just fun!
Matt Reed is seen on the local group rides in Boulder often. Many long distance triathletes add in a fast rodie like group ride to mix things up and get some high intensity. Tony Delonge
winner at IM USA a few years back through down a record bike split on his way to an 8:56! Tony would take part in the Tue. group ride out side of Boston quite often. Regardless of your racing goals these can be great training but all group rides are not the same and, more so, the same group ride can be a very different experience for different people.

So what’s your Sweet Spot for a Group Ride?

First off we are talking about the fast rides. Hard, pre-set course, if you get dropped no one is waiting for you rides. Not the "team rides".   The first thing you should be doing, or not doing really, is trying to make the ride something its not. I have heard before "I'm gona do my threshold (or tempo) work on the group ride tonight", ahh, no your not. With these types of training sessions or any where you are looking for "muscle endurance" and Friel calls it. The type of training where you're on the legs every pedal stroke for your selected interval time a group ride is not the place to do them. Unless you can ride on the front of the group in your zone for that long with out anyone coming around you. I'm guessing you can't.
A group ride gives us a few unique things we simply can't get alone.

  • Higher speeds: turning bigger gears, even at a similar wattage it has a different feel.
  • Variable power: the up and down stop, go, stop, go nature of a pack ride
  • A large amount of total anaerobic riding
  • The repeating nature of these above threshold efforts
  • Higher cadences, hopefully
  • The unknown. going hard when you would like to rest, recovery periods when you least expect them.
  • learning to relax in a pack, cross winds, etc. ie. more efficient riding when the situation is stressful. better bike handling on a efficiency level.
If you are going to do a ride of this nature you should be looking for at least some of these things.
  Ok so were are going to do some group rides now what. What’s a good ride for you, what’s not so good. First off know the rout, maybe ride it solo or with a few friends before so you know where your going, where the big hills are, down hills, turns, etc.
Intensity, the key factor:
This is where I see so many people blow there "group ride" type training.
If going on a group ride involves you hanging on for dear life for 20-30 minutes, accumulating 40% or more of your time above threshold (power time), getting dropped and limping home barely able to push Z2 wattage the ride is too hard and you’re doing more damage than good. You want your ride to be challenging, not over reaching, you want to be able to repeat your training! ie. get out of bed the next morning for your run, or another ride. You should be able to finish the ride. if not with the front group at least a group of other riders. Beyond this look to be able to do a few hard efforts without getting dropped. (go to the front and do some pulls, a few 1' attacks off the front, etc) and be able to recover in the pack when you need.
so a few, more tangible factors to aim for:
  • No more the 20% of your time above threshold, power. or 30-35% of HR time. even for a road cyclist, who is trained for lots of anaerobic time is going to have a really hard ride with more than this.
  • Your best hour normalized power being below threshold. if you start doing long sections of time at threshold things are going to get unmanageable fast.
  • Peek avg. power: having only your best 10 min. avg. being at threshold you will find the ride to be over all pretty hard. start doing 20 min. or more. get ready to suffer.
  • wattage spikes: 10 watts per kilogram of body weight. This is a big benchmark for bike races and mass start rides. The more of these the harder your over all effort is gona be. get up to 12 or more per hour your gona know it! In a tough crit style race we can see up to 40 in 1 hour.

Above is a link to a group ride done by coach Eric recently. The ride is less the first 30' and less the last 40.
This ride was tough. One reason is because it was the first one of the year! That first date with significant anaerobic time is always hard. I got a flat with about 30' still to ride. the last 30-40 minutes of the ride was tough. after a quick flat fix I was riding in a smaller group pulling through more frequently and getting less rest time. one of the things to note about any ride is how difficult there are while still having so much time in Z1 and not pedaling!!
Find your sweet spot. Make sure you can keep training after the ride. can you finish it? What does your power file and HR file look like? The over all idea here gang. Can you get all of these adaptations in (mentioned above) but minimize the crushing fatigue and muscle damage of a full on race effort?

So before you decide on the group ride workout get some info on what your in for, know your rout and decide what your really looking to get from it. Is this ride going to give you that?
be safe and have fun. tough group rides can be the most fun you can have on 2 wheels.
Check out Ek Endurance Coaching latest can do for you and there new 24-7 Coaching group here:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Training in Training Races.

Training in Training Races

Ok it is still a bit early but it’s that time of year when we all start to at least think about it. For many of us some of these first races are non- priority races or “training races”.  There are a few different ideas as to what a training race is and how it should be done.  Some people think that it just means you don’t taper and “training through it” giving us a nice excuse for not doing well.  In fact a training race is a prim opportunity to get great training, important experience and test our self’s in the exact environment that we are training to excel in the first place.  Here are a few key points to consider and plan out when doing your early season race’s and race simulation workouts.


~One can still do well in a "Training race" your truly won this training race in the Boston area (the classic Wells Ave.) early one season by making a break mid race that stayed away.

   1. Its still a Race: A training race is NOT a time to waist 60$ (or what ever) in gas and entry fee to ride around in a circle with a bunch of other spandex clad freaks for the heck of it!   It is an opportunity to really test your self, in the field and against your pears instead of your self.  With this, aim for a specific, measurable goal. While this training race will not require a 3 week peeking phase you should take the few days before to make sure you are well rested and ready for a good effort, physically, mentally and with all your equipment working 100%!  You have committed the money, time, energy, the sacrifice of getting up at, still dark out- thirty to meet at some random office park. Make it worth while!

   2. Make a goal:  If you have been working on your strength and all winter and are now ready to turn that strength into accelerating power than make a goal to do some number of BIG accelerations. Attack the short hill, jump on a break forming, or go for the half way prim. But commit to this goal. if your going to work on your jump then do that and just that. Spend your other time sitting in and riding smart. Make the sprinting efforts as strong as possible.  Killing it on the front, riding in a break for x number of laps, going to the back then to the front, then back again will make your “training race workout” end fast.
     Maybe just getting through the race will be hard enough. Then do that. Ride smart. Is holding your position in the pack hard for you? Make a goal to simply ride in the top 15 riders or so the entire race, I have done this my self.  Focus on warming up well, if necessary, and watching the race play out. Identify when its go time and you must get across that gap and to the front group and when is a good time to sit in, fuel and relax.
     Maybe your endurance is lacking. Do some extra mileage before (ideal) or after the race.  If you go this way keep your effort in the race under the hood a bit. This should be a hard workout but we don’t want it to take us a week to recover! Be deceive. If your going to attack. Do it!  See if it works and move to the next steep. Always have a reason for doing something. Always have a purpose.

3.      Gain experience. Learn.  A training race is a prime opportunity to learn. About your self, about your competition, your preparation, your fueling plan, your equipment,  your warm up (or there lack of) if you ride well in the wind, on the hills or technical cornering sections?  How did you feel afterwards. Like you just parted the seas? Or do you feel recovered after 15’ of hanging out with friends and teammates thinking “man I could have gone way harder?” The list goes on. Come the big race day you can’t afford to be caught off guard by something silly. A cross wind hitting your fancy new disc wheel, your new helmet not fitting right, etc… Gaining as much experience about your self, and how your body works in a race situation will have you better prepared come the big day. This may not have you breaking any records but when the going gets tough the prepared shine trough.  Anyone can post a personal best in there ideal conditions on there ideal terrain.  You want a personal best in any conditions, on any terrain, on any decided day. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Winter training methods and tools webinar follow up

There were some 1000 people that registered for the webinar we did via training peaks last week.
You can View it HERE

Thanks!  I hope everyone enjoyed it.
Here are few items that we didn't get a chance to discuss or I simply for got to mention.

Tempo work: 
   when you are doing tempo rides run or any endurance focused training one of the keys is being steady and never resting. at all. some times with a new athlete I will have them ride a normal rout at what ever intensity they feel is the "normal" endurance ride effort with one rule. NEVER coast. ever. if spin out on a down hill, use your brakes or simply keep the legs moving despite the 0 pressure on the pedals.
Many find that their "normal" endurance ride just got a whole lot harder. this is also likely where people get the idea from that they can ride for less time on the trainer then if they were to ride out side. I have said this before "there is no such thing as junk miles, just junk training"   this protocol eliminates the fast group rides or group rides/ team rides all together. Again! the team/ group rides are a must, more fun and a nicer way to get  longer hours in. Like the tempo rides, not coasting and being steady is a great way.

Burning fat for fuel, sparing muscle glycogen and loosing weight. 
There was a few questions on burning fat, loosing weight, the fat burning zones, etc. we didn't have time to address. This is simple concept but can be hard to fully and accurately explain.  it is true the lower intensity you work at the more greater % of fat you burn for energy. however, you also burn less total calories.  so for the athlete looking to improve performance or your avg. person looking to loose some weight the idea is to burn calories and become more efficient at burning higher % of fat at higher intensities.  If you want to loose weight you need to burn calories. more calories out then you take in, you will loose weight. Period. there is no magic food. any fancy diet, food, or protocol of what and when to eat must have this calories deficit for one to loose any weight.  
  As I said in the Q&A part of the webinar I would like to learn more and do more research on types of training and methods that can enhance this adaptation. what I do know CONSISTENCY IS KING. if you train consistently, year round, this will improve. After a point this ability will become sport specific. like many things.

The Power of Will. 
when talking of strengths and weaknesses, do not underestimate the power of your will. more than half the time I see athletes excel in an area because they want to. when I first started cycling i wanted to be a good climber. Ride away form my competition in the long road races. so, I trained for that and I soon started to excel in that area. I had zero regard and frankly zero knowledge that I was better suited for shorter efforts and the  longer the event the harder it would be for me. physiologically to do well.   I have heard of a book called "talent is over rated" I have no clue what its about but just by the title I want to read it. Please, DO NOT set goals on what you think your better suited to do. Lets find goals that motivate you, that get you up in the morning and go after those!