Author: Tom Bland

Coach Tom's journey to Ironman 70.3, Indoor training, Training and nutrition, triathlon

Ironman 70.3 New Zealand, the FSA Way – Blog 3


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In the third installment of coach Tom’s blog series on using the FSA Coaching principles to train for the Ironman 70.3 NZ in March, we look at the use of intelligent and targeted training to make the most of the time and the tools available to you.

Fitting in a high intensity bike session after the kids have gone to bed…

You’re all busy people, right?  You’d love to have 35 hours a week to train, just like the pros do.  Heck, you might even be as good as them if you trained that much… 

But anyway, in the real world you’ve probably got about half the time that you’d really like to train and even then it’s early in the morning or late at night when all the other priorities are sorted.  And that’s OK.  I totally get this.  There are those who are lucky enough to be in a position to put their training above everything else in there life.  For the rest of us, we have to make our training and race work as part of our wider life and responsibilities.

We want to get the most bang for our buck and that’s where intelligent and targeted training comes in.  Intelligent and targeted training, in this context, means:

  • Training at the right intensities (which means a bit more testing than you might like…)
  • Using training time efficiently and effectively
  • Tracking progress and using feedback to tweak and refine
  • Using (but not being a slave to) gadgets, tech and data
Tracking progress with good, old-fashioned data

Here at FSA Coaching, we’re big on the use of data, feedback and testing to get the most from our training. We use TrainingPeaks, which is a fantastic tool for planning, monitoring and tracking progress. It allows our athletes to track their training, see what they’ve got coming up, make sure they’re training at the right intensities and, probably most importantly, provide a subjective comment on how a training session felt.

But as with any data-driven method, the outputs are only as good as the data you put in.  And that’s where the testing and intensity-setting comes in.  As part of any well planned training programme, it’s critical to test regularly to see how things are going and to tweak training intensities.  We try to test every 4-6 weeks (maybe a little less frequently for FTP testing – it hurts…) as part of a regular cycle of periodised training.  Tweaking intensities makes sure we’re always pushing the ceiling up a little higher.

  • We regularly test our athletes for:
    • Critical Swim Speed (CSS);
    • Functional Threshold Power (FTP); and
    • Threshold run pace.

In my build up to Ironman 70.3 NZ in March next year, that’s exactly what I’m doing.  I’ve been swimming my 3x300m CSS tests in the pool, suffering through the FTP test on Zwift and running threshold tests at the track.

FTP testing….brutal

With each test, I’m using the feedback to amend my training zones (hopefully upwards…!) for swimming, biking and running.  I’m using the cold, hard facts of the results from my training and testing to build confidence that the training is working and I’m heading in the right direction.

In the next blog, I’ll update you on some of the early season events I’ve been using to tweak and refine the race plan before the big race goals later in the summer.

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Coach Tom's journey to Ironman 70.3, Mental conditioning, Training and nutrition, triathlon

Ironman 70.3 New Zealand, the FSA Way – Blog 2


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In the second installment of coach Tom’s blog series on using the FSA Coaching principles to train for the Ironman 70.3 NZ in March, we look at season planning, build up races and structuring the training year.

In the first blogpost in this series, I talked about the 5 principles of the FSA Coaching method.

Those 5 principles, nice and simply, are (in no particular order):

  1. Training should be fun and purposeful;
  2. Athletes should understand their goals and the path to achieving them;
  3. Make the most of your time through intelligent and targeted training;
  4. Train to race through race simulation; and (most importantly)
  5. Enjoy the process!

In this post, I’ll talk a bit about how we use the purposeful training and race simulation parts of those principles to plan a training and racing season.  As with any season, this year I’ve got major goal races, some other races that I fancy doing, small local races that would probably be fun and heaps of other commitments and plans that everything needs to fit around.  This is where season planning comes in.  Season planning is important to ensure our training and racing is optimised, to make sure our triathlon lives are realistic and compatible with the rest of our lives, and to ensure we know where we’re going with the season ahead.

Purposeful training

Untitled
TrainingPeaks Annual Training Plan

I always use the Annual Training Plan (ATP) function in TrainingPeaks to plan out a season.  It’s an awesome tool for scheduling races, building a season and focusing on individual weekly training needs for a fully-periodised plan.

With the ATP function, you plug in your A (major goal), B (important build up) and C (just for fun) races, work out want shape you want to be in for your A races, and work backwards from there.

Once you’ve got your ATP nailed, you have a roadmap to your goal race.  Each week in the ATP has the areas to focus on clearly set out.  You can then start developing and planning the individual weeks to help you on the way.  Having this  ‘line-of-sight’ from the run session your about to do this morning to your goal race 6 months down the line is the ultimate in understanding your training and making sure it is purposeful and targeted.

Training to race by racing to train

The second part of this blogpost about season planning focuses on the value of lots of racing in the build up to your goal race.  Build up races serve a whole heap of purposes:

  1. Check your current fitness levels in a fun, competitive environment – let’s face it: smashing out a fast aquathlon is waaaay more fun than doing an FTP test in your basement…
  2. Practice race nutrition through trial and error – you’ve all heard “nothing new on race day” before, but that doesn’t stretch to C-priority build up races.  These are exactly the time to try something new and dial in your race nutrition through trial and error.
  3. Minimise the anxiety and nerves through experience and practice – anythingUntitled that reduces the fear and anxiety of a big race through familiarity and experience will help you stay focused, level-headed and confident when the goal race comes around.  For many, this will be getting more open-water swim experience in a crowded, race-like environment.  But it could equally be practicing transitions, running off the bike and anything else.
  4. Have some fun with your mates – Racing short, inconsequential events is fun.  Nuff said.

Too often, I’ve seen Ironman athletes line up on race day having done 1, maybe 2, half in the build-up, almost paralysed by the fear of what’s ahead.  Don’t be that guy/girl.  Race often, race for fun, race for experience and you will feel more confident, more relaxed and more ready to take on whatever the day is about to throw at you as a result.  I guarantee it.

My own approach

So what does this all mean for my own build up to Ironman 70.3 NZ in March?  Well, I’ve dialed in my ATP and I know exactly what I need to do in each training block, each week and each session; I’ll use each session for the specific purpose it has been designed towards the goal race; and I’ll be racing often (Rotorua Quarter Ironman, Kinloch Triathlon, as many of the Wellington SplashandDash events as possible, heaps of 5ks and Parkruns) and not worrying too much about the outcome of those races.

In the next blogpost,  I’ll look at the need for training to be intelligent and targeted.  For many age-group athletes, this means making the most of the time and the tools available to you.  You might call it getting the most bang for your buck.

Never miss a post

If you want to make sure you never miss a post from the FSA Coaching blog, subscribe below and join me on my journey to Ironman 70.3 NZ in Taupō in March!  I’d also love to hear your comments or thoughts on this series of blogs so please leave a comment or get in touch!

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Coach Tom's journey to Ironman 70.3, Mental conditioning, Training and nutrition, triathlon

Ironman 70.3 New Zealand, the FSA Way – Blog 1


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UntitledThose of you that saw my recent Instagram post will have seen that I’m going to be using the principles of the coaching method I’ve developed for FSA Coaching to train for the Ironman 70.3 NZ in March, blogging my progress on the way.  That’s five months to develop my endurance base, hone my 70.3 race skills, strengthen my core and develop my mental aptitude, all while striving to be the best father and husband I can be, working the day job and helping my fabulous FSA Coaching athletes achieve their triathlon goals.  Sounds pretty full on, but that’s where I’m hoping the principles of the FSA Coaching method will help me navigate through this potentially complex maze!

So, in this first blog post in the series, I thought I’d set out just what the principles of the FSA Coaching method are.  As the Instagram post said:

At FSA Coaching, we are all about #triathlon training being full of #fun, #spirit and #adventure. We also believe in maximising #trainingefficiency using #metrics, #tools and #trainingaidsExpect to see lots of #mtb, #TrainingPeaks metrics, #zwift workouts, #timetrial specific training, #openwaterswimming, #100m repeats, #intervaltraining, #trailrunning, build up #races and more.

Nice and simply, the FSA Coaching principles are:

  1. Training should be fun and purposeful;
  2. Athletes should understand their goals and the path to achieving them;
  3. Make the most of your time through intelligent and targeted training;
  4. Train to race through race simulation; and (most importantly)
  5. Enjoy the process!

Hopefully these principles are pretty self explanatory, but in future blog posts I’ll expand on each of these principles and explain how they guide my _IGP5940training and how they manifest themselves in the training week.  They’re a complementary bunch of principles that fit well together, help me get the most out of my sport.

If you want to make sure you never miss a post from the FSA Coaching blog, subscribe below and join me on my journey to Ironman 70.3 NZ in Taupō in March!  I’d also love to hear your comments or thoughts on this series of blogs so please leave a comment or get in touch!

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Mental conditioning, Running, Training and nutrition

Winter XC makes you run faster (whether you like it or not…)


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RG014183
Wet feet – par for the course!

In today’s post, I’m going to give a quick sermon on the benefits of running cross-country (XC) over the autumn and winter for run speed, anaerobic fitness, mental fortitude and a muddy good time (yep, you can get all this and more from XC running)!

Here’s what I mean:

  1. Run speed – you run fast in XC, and that make you faster.  You have to run fast, the distances are usually short, everyone else is trying to run fast.  Trust me, you’ll want to run fast!
  2. Anaerobic fitness – the type of intense high-speed surges and hill climbs you put in during an XC event will get you doing a fair amount of anaerobic metabolising pretty early in the event.  This is not a place you can very easily put yourself in a controlled training session (nor would you want to very often) but there are very really benefits of this type of session for distance running.
  3. Mental fortitude – this is really a product of points 1 & 2.  You’re running fast, you may have been redlining from the gun.  It hurts. But you’ve got to keep pushing.  That way mental strength is formed.  There are many events where it’s possible to think “I can’t keep this up!” but there aren’t too many quite like XC where you’re lungs are burning, your legs are burning, the mud is getting muddier and the hills are getting steeper.  It’s an honest sport.
  4. Muddy good time – you can probably work this out for yourself.  It’s running off road.  In winter.  It’s muddy.  But, as I’ve already mentioned, distances are usually short.  You can race, shower, and still be in the pub for a quick celebratory half before dinner.  It doesn’t get much more fun than that!

After an autumn and winter of this sort of running, you can’t fail to see improvements in your run split during your next triathlon.  If it’s good enough for the Brownlee brothers, it’s probably good enough for the rest of us!

IMG_2102
Under starter’s orders…

The good news is it’s not too late to join your local running or harriers club for the season (if you’re in NZ), chuck on a club singlet and some spikes, and start building that run speed, strength and power and mental fortitude to take with you into the next summer’s triathlon season!

If you’re a Kāpiti local, we’d love to see you running with the Kāpiti Running & Tri Club, in our awesome club colours, this XC season!

Indoor training, Training and nutrition

Get your (right) gear on


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Anyone that’s watched the Tour de France will have noticed that some cyclists turn their pedals much faster that others.  Scapegoat for a generation, Lance Armstrong, was notorious for spinning a low gear with lots of revolutions.  Chris Froome is the modern day spinner.  At the other end of the spectrum, Jan Ullrich, always pushed a big gear.  For our younger readers, Frenchman Damien Gaudin is the quintessential big gear pusher, with pretty good effect (just watch some footage from this year’s Tro-Bro Leon to see what we mean…)

So why do different riders favour different cadences, and does it matter to the everyday triathlete looking to maximise their performance in the local club race? (The answer’s yes).

What is cadence?

Quite simply, cycling cadence is the number of revolutions of the cranks per minute and is expressed as revolutions per minute (rpm).  Put your bike in a lower gear and you will need to spin the pedals more times to achieve the same distance than if you were riding a bigger gear.  In the higher gear, less revolutions will cover the same distance but more power will be required.

Pedaling dynamics

AA_Wattbike_Polar_View_(539x421)Of course, there’s a lot more to efficient pedaling than finding the right cadence.

We don’t really want to get in to the finer details of pedaling efficiency and technique here.  There are lots of studies and advice pages and forum posts and on and on and… that cover this subject and for now we’ll leave it at that.  If you’re interested, have a look  here or may be even here!

Finding the right gear for you

No two cyclists are made alike.  That’s why it’s important to find the right cadence for you rather than trying to emulate your personal hero (even if your hero is still Lance…)

There is no perfect cadence.  A cadence of 80-100rpm is usually quoted as the normal range.  And most cyclists will spend the majority of their ride time in that window.

In the example below, you’ll see that one of our FSA-coached athletes completing an over/under gear session was working 3-4bpm harder for the same normalised power at a cadence of 75-77rpm when compared to a cadence of 95rpm.  Keeping a lower heart rate to achieve the same power output is obviously the goal here so efficiency-wise this athlete is going to do better at the higher cadence.

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These are 4min reps alternating overgearing and undergearing (with 4min recovery). For the same normalised power (260 watts – 95% of threshold for this athlete), heart rate is consistently 3 or 4 bpm higher for the overgearing reps.

Experimenting in your training to see what works best for you is the best way to work out the cadence range that suits you best.  Having power, cadence and heart rate data can really help with this, but it’s also just as worthwhile recording how things feel at different cadences.

Having said all that, training at different cadences will benefit most triathletes by preparing you to cope with a range of terrains, conditions, road surfaces and race situations.  Big gear intervals will develop strength.  Small gear or single leg intervals can help to improve pedaling efficiency.

Other factors

There are a few physical factors, like getting the right bike fit and crank length for your body shape, that also influence pedaling cadence.  That’s a topic for another blog.

Is it different for triathletes?

Cyril-DesseThere is one big difference between cadence for triathletes and cyclists.  At the end of a bike ride, a cyclist will usually hit the cafe for an espresso.  A triathlete has to get off their bike and run anywhere between 5km and 42.2km as fast as they can.  Does this make any difference to what sort of cadence a triathlete should be riding?

You’ll get lots of advice to spin the last few kms of the bike leg to “flush the lactic acid out of you legs“.  I haven’t seen any studies that confirm this and, in all honesty, I have absolutely no idea whether you’re flushing anything by doing this, but I do know from years and years of practice that animating the legs through a higher, easier gear will get them turning over better at the start of the run.

For the majority of the bike leg, I’ve yet to see any real evidence that a higher or lower cadence is really any better for triathletes (when compared to cyclists).  Looking at pro triathletes, you see just the same range of cadence styles as you do in the pro peloton.

Suggested sessions

Here are a couple of sessions that will help you work on your cadence:

Session 1 – High cadence intervals (60 mins)

This session is designed to work on high cadence for an improved pedal efficiency

  1. 10 min easy warm up
  2. 15 minutes as 1 min right leg only; 1 min left leg only; 1 minute easy spin
  3. 2×10 minutes increasing cadence with 5 minute recovery (start at 75rpm and increase by 5rpm every 2 minutes)
  4. 10 minute easy spin cool down

Session 2 – Over and under gear intervals (90 mins)

This session is designed to work on a range of cadences to build strength and efficiency

  1. 15 min warm up – increase effort every 5 minutes
  2. 8x(4min hard; 4 min easy).  Alternate the hard efforts as  odds overgearing <80rpm; evens undergearing >90rpm)
  3. 12 minute cool down – decrease effort every 3 minutes

Get in touch if you want either of these workout as TrainingPeaks or Zwift workout files.  I can e-mail them to you.

Summary

Working on optimising your cadence may sound like something only the pros need to worry about, but any triathlete can get benefits from working on building pedal efficiency and strength at a range of cadences, whilst also experimenting with different cadences to work out what just feels right.  Here at FSA Coaching, we can help you with a range of sessions, skills and drills to build your pedaling strength and efficiency.  Get in touch if you’re keen to work with us!

And check out this video from the guys at GCN for some great insight…!

Indoor training

Go indoors for a power boost


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This Winter and Spring I’ve been spending a fair bit of time on Zwift.  I was a bit late to the Zwift party but have been playing catch up big time over the last few months.

For those that don’t know, Zwift is an online gaming platform that takes your dull indoor training session to the next level.  It’s social, customisable, competitive, fun and a whole heap more.  In my view, it’s a real game-changer for indoor training.  By gamifying the experience, it’s taken what was a dull necessity and jazzed it up into a fun, immersive experience.  And if you’re into this sort of thing, there are real performance benefits too.

IMG_1442Set-up is pretty straightforward.  With a basic turbo trainer, a laptop and an ANT+ dongle, you can get into it.  With a controllable smart trainer and the iOS or Android phone app, you can take things to a whole new level.

For $15 US a month ($10 if you’ve been on the platform for a while), you get a full experience IMG_1426that allows you to race some pretty strong riders (and let’s face it, a few cheats too…), complete structured workouts, group rides, hill climbs and on and on.

There are some great resources on the web to get you going.  Zwiftblog is an awesome source of information, ZwiftPower is where you’ll find all your race results, if that’s what you’re in to.  It’s not my intention to reproduce stuff others have already written about Zwift (there’s a lot out there).  From my perspective, here are a few things I’ve learnt from a Winter and Spring of riding around Watopia, London and Richmond that’s relevant to triathlon coaching and triathlon training:

  • I now want to ride my turbo trainer (I never enjoyed it much before).  I find myself looking for reasons to ride indoors (the kids are asleep, it’s a bit windy, the traffic is bad, blah blah blah…).
  • I’ve had to rein myself in from racing too much on Zwift.  It’s a really tough workout and you can find yourself poked for the next training session if you go too deep…  I tend to stick to structured workouts (either group workouts set up within Zwift or, even better and more Untitledpersonalised, I use FSA Coaching  workouts built in TrainingPeaks and import them directly into Zwift).  This is one area where FSA Coaching can really help you with your training – we develop our workouts in TrainingPeaks and they can then be imported directly into Zwift (or to your head unit if you’re heading outside for that matter) and you can get on with your session with clear, on screen instructions.  Get in touch to learn more.
  • I do race on Zwift every now and again, and it’s a fantastic way to do a maximum effort session.  We would always IMG_1381schedule a race with an easy day following.  You will go deep in a Zwift race…
  • I have seen significant FTP gains over a Winter and Spring of consistent indoor riding.  It really is a great performance tool.
  • And what’s the best thing about Zwift?  It’s the only time I’ll ever ride with a pair of Zipp 808s, or be able to change my bike every ride.  It’s the only time I’ll ever look good with a moustache. And it’s the only time I’ll ever wear the polka dot jersey.  Very compelling reasons to get on the Zwift bandwagon!

FSA Coaching can help integrate your training with a range of online tools and platforms – there are lots of others available (Sufferfest, TrainerRoad).  We are most familiar with Zwift but our training programmes can integrate with all of these platforms and we can help you get the most out of our indoor training.  The turbo session will be dull no more!

 

 

Mental conditioning

Outcome focus Vs Enjoying the process


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Here at FSA Coaching, we’re pretty big on understanding why our athletes do the sports they do.  We love to understand what motivates an athlete to get out of bed at 5.30am to swim laps of the pool, what drives them to push that little bit harder in a tough interval session and what they enjoy about the competitive nature of triathlon.

Triathlon is a tough sport often requiring huge personal, financial and emotional sacrifices.  A good understanding of why you take part and what you get out of your sport can go a huge way to ensuring a healthy and long lasting relationship with triathlon.

UntitledI often talk about the difference between an outcome focus and enjoying the process.  This blog post explains a little about what these terms mean to us; some of the pros and cons of them both; and how I believe the commitment to a positive attitude and mindset in our sport brings huge benefits to both longevity of participation and racing performance.

Outcome focus

Triathlon, like many endurance sports, is very easily defined by performance outcomes.  It’s an individual sport, primarily based around racing.  We don’t know many ‘non-competitive triathletes’ (i.e. people who identify as triathletes but don’t take part in triathlons).  Others in the sport are usually interested in what time you did for the Ironman, what place you came in the half-marathon, what your PB is and so on.

Couple that with the personality type most often attracted to the sport of triathlon and you end up with a serious focus on performance outcomes.  For many triathletes, both age group and pro, it can be easy to feel like your race results define who you are as a person.  That is the pinnacle of an outcome focus.

There’s so much that can go wrong in triathlon.  From an illness or injury that lays us up for a few days (or worse still, weeks) and affects our CTL score in the build up to an A race, to choppy water causing a slower that expected swim on race day or a puncture on the bike.  These things are often beyond our control.  But the outcome focus doesn’t care about this.

Like the feeling after you’ve summited a high mountain, any outcome achieved, even if you ticked off all your goals, can often be followed by a post-event low that carries many symptoms of depression.  That’s not to mention the feelings associated with not performing to your pre-event expectations.

The outcome focus approach is very easy to define: “I want to go under 5 hours for my half-ironman“; “I want to win my age-group“.  It can be good for short term motivation: you see your mate post a sweaty post-workout photo to Instagram so you go and push that next turbo-trainer session that little bit harder as a result.

Enjoying the process

Enjoying the process, in triathlon terms, means being present in the moment throughout your training and racing.  Essentially, we’re talking mindfulness.  There is an awful lot of information available on mindfulness in a range of settings, including in endurance sport (here’s a great article on incorporating mindfulness into your triathlon training).  To us, it boils down to one simple concept:

We all take part in triathlon for fun, so we’d better make bloody sure we’re enjoying it.

It’s really easy to get caught up in the outcome focus.  That’s OK to a point, but the problem arises when you get so caught up with what you’re watch is saying (or worse still, whether you’re as quick as someone else) that you miss the majesty of the sunset, or don’t notice that elusive feeling when you’re gliding through the pool and you’ve attained swim-stroke perfection, or you can’t go for a ride with your mate because you’ve got to do a 3 hour indoor session to hit your TSS points for the day.

Being present in the moment and enjoying the process allows an athlete to do the hard yards, whilst still immersing themselves in the wonder of physical exercise, nature’s beauty and the social and emotional benefits of training with your mates.  It improves our focus on good form, technique and mental conditioning.  It ensures we’re doing the things we enjoy for the reasons we enjoy them.

Pros and cons

This table sets out a few pros and cons of the outcome focus and enjoying the process.

Outcome focus Enjoy the process
Pros Easy to define goals Leads to intrinsic enjoyment of training and racing
Useful for short term motivation Longer term benefits
Bragging rights when you’ve got a tangible result Training is never (OK, almost never) a chore
Cons What next syndrome – never totally satisfied Can be a difficult mindset to get used to
Failure to achieve goals can result in negative feelings Harder to define short term performance goals
Can led to feelings of inadequacy and/or constant comparisons with other athletes

Practical example

Here’s a little practical example of how the two approaches can play out.

UntitledIt’s race day for your A race of the season.  The swim is in the ocean and training has been going well, but there is a decent chop on the water and some good waves hitting the beach.

  • Outcome focus – “I want to do the swim in 1.15.
  • Enjoy the process – “Woah, that’s some rough water.  Time to put my open water practice in to effect and give it my best effort.

Like everyone else, the swim takes you a while longer than expected.  You swam to the best of your ability, rode the waves coming back to the beach like a boss, but it still took you 1.25.

  • Outcome focus – “I’m 10 minutes down on my target time.  That’s too much to pull back on the bike.” OR “I need to work extra hard on the bike to pull back that 10 minutes.
  • Enjoy the process – “That was really tough, but I caught some good waves, used my open water skills and nailed it in really tough conditions.  Now time to focus on the next stage of the event.

The outcome focus will either have you fretting that you’re never going to make up the 10 minute deficit, or over-exerting at the start of the bike to try and make up the time.  Either way, your race plan has probably gone out the window.  Enjoying the process lets you put the swim conditions to one side and focus on the next part of the event, the bike, staying in the moment and unaffected by your swim time.

Enjoyment begets performance

Photo 014Don’t get us wrong, at FSA Coaching we strive for peak performance and helping our athletes get the best out of themselves.  We’re fully committed to the use of performance measures, training aids and all the functionality of a service like TrainingPeaks (we use TrainingPeaks heaps to set goals and track progress and we deliver our training plans through TrainingPeaks).

But this is only one part of the coaches role and all this data is only useful if you’re getting decent levels of enjoyment out of the training and racing process.  We work with our athletes to fully understand their motivation, their goals and how triathlon will enhance their lives.  To us, triathlon and other endurance sport is, and always should be, so much more than “what’s your PB?“, “what position did you come?“.

For athletes who want to spend more time working on this aspect of their sport, a really good exercise is to take 30 minutes to write down why you take part in triathlon.  Be honest with yourself.  What is it that makes you get up early or push that bit harder?  It may be confronting at first but it will help you to understand your motivation and hopefully increase your enjoyment of the sport.

I’ve spent many years fine tuning my own enjoyment of the process.  For a long time, I was under the impression that my athletic performance was somehow a proxy for who I was as a person.  But as I become an older and wiser(?!?) athlete, and as other pressures in life have required me to take a look at where my priorities lie, I’ve worked long and hard to make sure that training and racing enhances my life and doesn’t increase my stress levels.

Mindfulness may sound at times like you’re just pootling along enjoying the scenery.  But it actually has some huge performance benefits:

  • It allows you to focus on your form and technique right now;
  • It allows you to put any hiccups in your training and racing behind you, without affecting your approach to the next discipline/training session.  The mental benefits of this are huge.

And you can still enjoy the scenery as you go if you like!

Let’s face it, for most of us no one is ever going to pay us for our performance.  We’re here for the love of it and so enjoyment of the sport is paramount.  For me, the realisation of this has resulted in my race performances actually improving.  As I hit my (very) late 30s, I find I’m faster than I was in my 20s when results were everything.

FSA Coaching is here to help you achieve your triathlon goals, whatever they may be.  And we can help you work towards a clear understanding of why those goals are important to you.  Get in touch if you want to discuss your goals or feel free to comment below and start a conversation!

Uncategorized

Wellington Marathon


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Oh lordy! I finally did it.  11 years after my only other (non-Ironman) marathon finishes (a 1:20 first half; 1:50 second half capitulation at Rotorua and a 3:03 at Wellington) in 2006, I finally managed to run with my head and not some other part of my body and achieved a sub-3hr, negative split marathon.  Stoked, chuffed, made-up, all understatements.  I was beginning to think the marathon distance was my achillies heel; the thing I’ll never nail.

This year’s Wellington Marathon was a bit of an after thought.  I entered 3 weeks before the event, albeit with a bit of a plan in place beforehand and a decent level of endurance after the build up for Tarawera Ultra and Rarotonga Triathlon in the Summer and Autumn.  Kerry at Squadrun had given me an awesome 9 week marathon plan and I incorporated some of those sessions into my Rarotonga Triathlon build-up and then chucked in some specific work in the last 4 weeks to get myself marathon ready.

Race morning was a stunner.  Clear, light (for Wellington) winds and perfect temperatures.  I had a 3-stage plan – pace for 2:52, be happy with 2:55, but by god just get under that 3 hours!  With that I mind, I set off clocking a perfect 4:05/km pace.  I hit halfway bang on the money at 1:26.  For the first 25km I ran with two others, our pace was pretty much aligned.  I was waiting for the hurt to come.  But it was me that started to pull away from them.  At 28km my Garmin lost signal so I started my stopwatch at 30k and clicked the lap marker at every km marker.  I was getting faster!  A couple of 3:55s, some low 4s, and I was passing people with less than 5km to go.  What mythical feeling is this?!?  The negative split!  The hurt finally came with about 3km to go, but by then I was in a really happy place.  I gritted my teeth, dug it in and finished hard.  2:51:11!  Oh boy did that feel good.

In all honesty, I’ve never felt so comfortable in a long-distance run.  I ran within myself and stayed focused and strong for the duration.  At 37 years old, I think this was my coming of age performance for marathoning.  I’ve run a 1:15:20 half before, and a 3:03 marathon PB was not something I was particularly proud of.  Although the online calculators suggest, based on a 1:15 half, I should be capable of a 2:35-40ish marathon, for now I’m taking this 2:51 and I’m cherishing it.

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National Marathon Champs bronze medal!

As a bonus, this was the NZ Marathon Champs and I scored a bronze medal in the 35-39 age group!  Very cool.


Once again, massive thanks to Kerry at Squadrun for the awesome training programme, pep-talks when I’m ready to quit and general all-round amazing support.  This guy not only knows his stuff, he knows how to dose it out in a way that gets maximum effect.

As always, final (and biggest) thanks to Natasha and the kids for their endless encouragement and support and for keeping me grounded when I get home (“cool medal Dad, can you make me some toast?“).

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Autumn fun


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fullsizeoutput_43dAn awesome Autumn of training and racing has come to an end.  Here’s the recap:

May was all about the family trip to Rarotonga for the Rarotonga International Triathlon.  A couple of firsts for me with this one – first time to the Islands, first 18556761_1624698727572652_6385134888115328505_onon-wetsuit swim for an Olympic distance triathlon, first time I’ve been accompanied on the swim by rainbow coloured fish (bit different to the carp of the Cotswold Water Park…)!  We had an awesome holiday in Rarotonga, staying in Muri Beach and doing heaps of snorkelling, swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, eating, drinking and generally hanging out on Island Time.  The racing was cool too.

I finished 4th in the triathlon, 10th in the Boiler Swim (earning myself a scratched up torso in18527060_1624711307571394_211338164072045240_o the process by straying too close to the reef), and a DNF in the Tour de Raro bike race through a couple of punctures.  I was rescued by a good Samaritan who strapped my bike to their soft top convertible with an inner tube and drove waaay out of their way to drop me back.  Thanks Trish!

Finlay won the Beer Mile (partly through not having any beer and partly through just running really fast).  Very cool trip indeed!

Back in cold NZ, I took part in the In the Footsteps of the Marines trail race, looking tUntitledo reclaim my crown from 2015.  This is a great little 13km trail race in Whareroa Farm, Paekakariki, with 6.5km of uphill and 6.5km of down…  After 2km of sparring with Sean Eaton, I pulled away on the hill, running solo for the rest of the course and winning by about 6 minutes in the end.  Pretty happy to have the crown back.

Next up is Wellington Marathon next weekend.  Feeling pretty excited, although the marathon distance has always been my achillies heel so I’ll admit to a bit of trepidation about it too!

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Back in the tri-game


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Over a year since my last triathlon, I lined up in the wet and windy southerly at Scorching Bay on Saturday for the Wellington round of the National Triathlon Series.

Only 4 weeks after pulling out of the Tarawera Ultra with a bung achillies, and with very little swimming and biking under my belt, I opted to compete in the Sprint event (750m/20km/5km) to ease back into things.  The wild weather led to a change in the swim course (shorter but more laps) and we thrashed out through the surf three times to

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Beyond the surf, sea conditions were actually pretty good. Photo credit: AT Photo

complete a 250m triangle 3 times.  But once out beyond the surf, the sea conditions were pretty good and I found a reasonable rhythm and popped out of the water down in 4th or 5th place.

A quick transition saw me up into 3rd and I set about grinding out the two laps on the bike.  Tough one way, fast the other.  Back into transition, still in 3rd and out on to the run, I ticked off a 17.40ish run split to finish in 3rd.  Less than a minute behind 1st place and with the fastest bike and run splits of the day, I was pretty happy with the performance given my absence from the multisport game and how little swim and bike training I’ve squeezed in of late.  No pain in the achillies was an additional bonus.

I’m now about to embark on a reasonably intensive 8 week build up to Rarotonga Triathlon, in particular I’m slotting in a 4-week swim-focussed block to hopefully see some noticeable gains in my swim performance.