Thursday, May 25, 2017

Chattanooga 70.3 Race Report Sponsored by Complete Human Performance

The Lead Up:

What I’ve discovered about myself in the last year working with Marilyn is that I’m a fast athlete, but not necessarily a strong and durable one. I can move pretty fast (although I always need to get faster), but I break down and slow down pretty easily. Ironman racing requires you to be very strong and it requires you to sustain your speed for a very long time. The main overarching goal has been to build strength across all three sports, but especially in my swimming and running.

To address this issue with swimming, we decided that I just need to swim more. I’ve been swimming more weekly yardage than I ever have (I previously did roughly 15,000 yards or less a week, this year I’m swimming about 25,000-35,000 yards with some 40,000+ weeks). I’m also swimming with masters in addition to doing a lot of resistance work with tools like the band and drag suit. 



To address this issue with biking, I’ve been doing more overgears than I have before (peddling between 50-60rpm, sometimes for 4 hours straight). We actually reduced the overall biking volume since I seem to be able to hold my bike fitness for a long period of time.

To address the strength issue with running, I’ve been doing more long runs, more long bricks off the bike, more trail running, and more weekly volume (averaging roughly 35-40 miles a week compared to the 20 that I was averaging last year).

I also lifted more than I ever have this winter, but the strength training volume drops a bit as the endurance—and namely the run—volume increases. In triathlon, there is only so much you can work on at one time and you have to choose how to load to produce the best outcome. Thus, my strength training is periodized. It decreases in the competition phase of training. I do a set of core and light weight exercises 1-2 times per week, but it’s mainly to maintain the strength that I have.

There is always some risk involved as you increase training load or change what you’ve done in the past. We’ve built my training slowly and carefully, but sometimes the body breaks when pushing the limits. This time, my foot broke down about 4 weeks before the race. At this point, I did a 70 mile ride at IM race pace followed by a 17 mile hilly run at IM race pace. I felt tired, but not out of the ordinary. I followed this up with two days of active recovery and no running. On the second day, my foot felt a little tight but I didn’t think much of it. I had a short 3 mile run three days after the brick and a slightly longer run the day after that (about 8 miles with some intensity). After the 8 mile run, I felt some soreness in the top of my foot. It was enough that it warranted getting checked out. I rested it immediately and got it checked by my first go-to for any injury, Dr. AJ. AJ said he didn’t think it was a stress fracture, but noticed that a tendon near the cuboid bone was “pretty jacked up.” I rested it for another week and the pain came and went for what seemed to be no apparent reason.

All the while, I did some pool running to keep in the best neuromuscular shape that I could. When the issue didn’t seem to get any better, I decided to see a podiatrist, Dr. Jeff Delott, to get an x-ray just to make sure I wasn’t harming myself with more running. The x-ray confirmed that I did not have a fracture and that I could continue to use pain as my guide as the race approached. I continued to alternate running on the road with pool running going into the race. I took one full week off of running, ran 10 miles broken up over the next week, ran 16 miles broken up over the following week, and ran 4 miles the week of the race. Almost all of this was at a low to moderate intensity which wasn’t optimal, but it was the best that I could do without risking further injury.


The Race:

I went in with my best swim fitness ever. My goal was to race the swim as hard as I could unless I found myself in the front pack. If I swam with the front pack, I would sit in. If not, I would swim hard on my own no matter if I was pulling other athletes or not.

The race started off normally. I pushed hard at the beginning and got dropped by about 350 meters or so as we swam up river. Although getting dropped is never my goal, I was happy to see that I got further with the main group than I ever have before. I took that as a win and got to work pushing as hard as I could.

At the end of the swim, I knew there was one guy was behind me because he touched my foot occasionally as we went along. When I got out, I realized I ended up pulling the whole second group along with me (about 6 other guys) including Matt Russel who would eventually go on to win the race. I came out of the water a minute and thirty seconds behind the main group which is a personal best for me. Usually I come out with a 3 minute gap in a wetsuit swim and a 3:30-4 minute gap in a non-wetsuit swim. This shows that the increase in volume is helping. I know I worked hard because after the race, my shoulders and latts have never felt so sore.

I came out of the water with Russel and another athlete named Blake Becker. Russel and Becker ran slightly ahead of me into T1. I wasn’t 100% sure of running in bear feet, so I admittedly took the first part of the run on the conservative side.



I had a fast transition and came out of T1 first. Russel came around me hard in the first mile. I lifted my pace to stay with him. At this point, I think there were 4-5 guys in the group plus a race official on a motor cycle. I was second. As I struggled with my shoe dials for a bit, Russel pushed forward and Becker came around me. I sat behind Becker and got myself together, getting my shoes adjusted. I looked down to see my power meter wasn’t working. After playing around with it for a minute or two without getting it to work, I just disregarded it and focused on the race.

We dropped 1-2 riders behind us and Becker kept in close contact with Russel for about 15-20 miles. At that point, Becker started to slow a bit and Russel pushed on. This was about the first time where I looked at my HR and saw it was about 155 or so. The effort felt about right, not too hard, but not easy either. With this information, I made a conscious decision to let Russel go and stick with Becker. It was down to three of us plus the official. Although the effort felt easier and easier (and based on my HR info where my HR drops throughout the entire ride, the effort actually was getting easier…HR 165+ out of T1 dropping to 150 towards T2), I decided to hang behind Becker. This was a tactical move that I committed to for the rest of the ride with the idea that I would conserve energy and have a better run. At about mile 50, 2-3 guys came around us, but I chose to stick to my plan.

With a little less than 2 miles from the finish, I went over a rail road track and got a flat in my front tubular. I decided to roll it in. Obviously, this slowed me down and I got gapped quickly. I did what I could to conserve time and ride into transition as safely as possible. As I got into transition, I was happy to see that the main group of runners weren’t too far up the road. I was about two minutes behind them.


The run was a big question mark. I knew that I would be able to run, but I wasn’t sure if I lost speed or strength due to the premature lift of the running load a few weeks before the race. It turned out that I had a lot of strength, but not a whole lot of speed. I made sure the first mile wasn’t too fast and then ran by perceived effort for the rest of the race. I know I couldn’t have run much faster because my HR avg was roughly 179 with a max HR of 190 towards the end of the race. The heat wasn’t too awful in the high 70’s to low 80’s, but the humidity was very high which made for a tough run.

Concluding Thoughts:


Overall, I was the 15th pro. Considering how I felt going in, I think this race was a descent reflection of my training. My swim was my best ever, my bike was solid, and my run was strong, but not fast. I chalk the slower run due to the humidity and lack of speed training in the final lead up. It’s also challenging to prepare for the heat of the south when I live in Connecticut (it was 50 degrees when I left), but I’m getting better at training for this. I am not discontent with how I raced, although I always want to be faster. I’m hoping I can carry this fitness over to my race in Raleigh on June 4th. Stay tuned for more updates! 

A big thank you to the Rivers family for hosting Amber and I!

Looking for a coach? Don't hesitate to contact coach Jon with any questions at jafecik@gmail.com. Also check out CompleteHumanPerformance.com for more information about coaching in all areas of performance. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Six-Week Brick Workout Progression

Jon originally published this on USA Triathlon's Multisport lab... 
Brick workouts are a tool in your workout arsenal to help you become a better duathlete or triathlete. At a basic level, a brick is a workout where you ride your bike and follow it up with a run. It gets its name from the feeling you get in your legs as the muscles transition from one discipline to the next. Ideally, your legs feel awesome coming off the bike, but more often than not your legs will feel like bricks!
Example: A good starting point for a brick workout would be a short aerobic run off an aerobic bike. You can make it more challenging by upping the intensity or adding in a run prior to the ride and finishing off with another run.
Basic Brick Sample: 45-minute aerobic ride + 15-minute aerobic run
Advanced Brick Sample: 5-minute run at 10k race pace effort + 10-minute ride at 40k effort TT effort + 5-minute run at 10k race pace effort

What does it do?

Brick workouts have a variety of benefits. From a physiological perspective, you will benefit from the aerobic or anaerobic exercise that you do as you bike and run. This will increase your overall fitness. You also build sport specific muscular strength from running off the bike on tired legs. From a skill point of view, you can practice your mount, dismount, transition and pacing at the beginning of each discipline or close to race pace intensity. From a mental point of view, you can build your confidence in both your transition skills and your ability to transition and run well off the bike without stopping.

Who’s it for?

Brick workouts are somewhat controversial in the elite world. Some professional athletes do bricks often while others don’t do them at all. If you have never done a brick, it’s a good idea to do one before your first triathlon/duathlon to prepare for the “brick” feeling and practice for race day. If you have been doing triathlons/duathlons for a while and have had trouble with transitions or running well off the bike, it’s a good idea to do them in order to build more sport-specific preparation for race day. If you need a muscular endurance workout alternative to running hills, it’s also a good way to build muscular endurance. If you don’t have trouble with these things, you may choose to work on something else instead.

Key Points for Brick Workouts

1. Warm up well — you can always extend the warm up if needed.
2. If possible, do this workout on the week day and time that your duathlon or triathlon will be held. This will allow for enough recovery time in between weeks. This will also help your confidence going into the race since you’ve done a number of dress rehearsals on same day of the week.
3. Follow the same nutrition and hydration plan in training that you will follow on race day. That way you will know if your fueling plan works well. It will also give you time to change something if the fueling plan needs tweaked in the first couple of weeks.
4. It’s better to be conservative in the first round. You want to see a steady improvement in power or speed as the workout progresses. If you find yourself failing at the end of the workout, you may have gone too hard.
5. Run and ride at or slower than the power/pace that you plan to run/ride on race day; you don’t need to go faster. Leave the true speed work for another day.

Turning the Brick Workout into a Six-Week Progression

Warm up (25 minutes total)
5-minute walk
5-minute jog5-minute build to race pace effort by the final minuteJump on bike for 5-minute easy spin5-minute build to 105 percent of race pace by the final minute5 minutes easy back to “transition” area
Main Set
See week progression below.
Cooldown
5-10 minutes of easy walking, jogging or spinning
Main Set Week 1: Get the Process (25 minutes)
  • 5-minute run at 30 seconds slower than goal race pace effort + 10-minute ride at 85 percent of race pace effort + 5-minute run at 30 seconds slower than goal race pace effort + 5-minute easy walk or jog
Main Set Week 2: Build the Effort (50 minutes)
  • 5-minute run at 30 seconds slower than goal race pace effort + 10-minute ride at 85 percent of race pace effort + 5-minute run at 30 seconds slower than goal race pace effort + 5-minute easy walk or jog
  • 5-minute run at 15 seconds slower than goal race pace effort + 10-minute ride at 95 percent of goal race pace effort + 5-minute run at 15 seconds slower than goal race pace effort + 5-minute easy walk or jog
Main Set Week 3: Build the Effort and Volume (75 minutes)
  • 5-minute run at 30 seconds slower than goal race pace effort + 10-minute ride at 85 percent of race pace effort + 5-minute run at 30 seconds slower than goal race pace effort + 5-minute easy walk or jog
  • 5-minute run at 15 seconds slower than goal race pace effort + 10-minute ride at 95 percent of goal race pace effort + 5-minute run at 15 seconds slower than goal race pace effort + 5-minute easy walk or jog
  • 5-minute run at goal race pace effort + 10-minute ride at goal race effort + 5-minute run at seconds slower than goal race pace effort + 5-minute easy walk or jog
Main Set Week 4: Build the Effort and Volume (75 minutes)
  • 5-minute run at 15 seconds slower than goal race pace effort + 10-minute ride at 95 percent of goal race pace effort + 5-minute run at 15 seconds slower than goal race pace effort + 5-minute easy walk or jog
  • 5-minute run at 15 seconds slower than goal race pace effort + 10-minute ride at 95 percent of goal race pace effort + 5-minute run at 15 seconds slower than goal race pace effort + 5-minute easy walk or jog
  • 5-minute run at goal race pace effort + 10-minute ride at goal race effort + 5-minute run at seconds slower than goal race pace effort + 5-minute easy walk or jog
Main Set Week 5: Back Off, Maintain Confidence (50 minutes)
  • 5-minute run at 30 seconds slower than goal race pace effort + 10-minute ride at 85 percent of race pace effort + 5-minute run at 30 seconds slower than goal race pace effort + 5-minute easy walk or jog
  • 5-minute run at 10 seconds slower than race pace effort + 10-minute ride at goal race pace effort + 5-minute run at race pace effort + 5-minute easy walk or jog
Week 6: Race Week

This brick progression is one great way to prepare both mentally and physically for race day. You can always modify the progression to meet your specific ability level and goals. Good luck and enjoy the process.