Training for IM Part 5 - The Elite Age Grouper
As you know I have not only been training but lately coaching - the past 3 years this group has grown from 8 to 18, but I keep a tight lid on my numbers since I only coach hands on and those with multiple IM races in them. I also tell all the athletes that sign up with me that it is a 3 year program, you will reach close to your potential under my type of training after 3 years. IM results are based on aerobic engines and the ability to efficiently run off the bike. Both these factors need to be carefully built up over time, for an enormous base and the ability to train a full season on high volume (early season) but remain healthy and without a big fatigue buildup.
I was reading your interaction with Bjorn and Jonas after Bjorn emailed me some older threads from a long time ago (G & the Doodes). I like your approach and Bjorn and I spent a good amount of time talking training when he is here - in his way - you know how sometimes we need to pull it out of him - but once we do he has a wealth of good information. There are a lot of factors in there that MANY AG's won't understand since I have found to often there is a lot of information behind what you are talking about with the boys - whether Molina or Bjorn or Jonas or Clas - there is the buildup of a general HEALTHY understanding of training, how to get to a certain fitness properly before talking watts, gearing, cadence etc. But that is just my own fear with AG's, that they jump on board a program without building the legs and engine for it (hence always injured and never reaching potential).
But - for some reason I thought I would add the AG Elite perspective of mine to your string - and add some personal thoughts and experiences.
On the first part with Bjorn work and cadence. I think something that might be overlooked is that Bjorn built an aerobic engine very similar to me and many of the Elites in the sport - swimming early. I feel that there is something to the fact that as swimmers early on we built a very efficient aerobic engine. Swimming as of four yrs. old (most as of 5-6 on the world class - elite level) the body is still growing and developing - which I feel swimming develops with amazing lung capacity and aerobic efficiency - why? Because controlled hypoxic breathing every day, for 10 years, mostly 2x a day, is an overlooked ability that swimmers possess. Processing and flushing lactic acid through breath control, even when swimming easy or pace breathing every second breath, builds capillary threads and a lung development that is suited VERY well for aerobic, ultra endurance sports. I think this also ties to our (Bjorn and I - but also Tim DeBoom) ability to be bigger guys but still process lactic acid and run the engine very efficiently. It also gives the body to intuitively recognize what is happening and switch over to the most efficient system we developed at a young age. I think that many athletes that join this sport late are always playing catch up. Yes, they might build a great aerobic engine but I don't think it is ever as efficient as someone that started as a child. This development takes years (Dave Scott - swimmer) and if catching up one must be incredibly patient and disciplined. Where do I notice this the most? HR zones of my athletes. My athletes that join later in life have a much higher AT in all three disciplines that Elites with a life-long base display. I see that Bjorn and I can be called diesel engines because we don't run so hot (not running but the engine at lower HR) but I feel that is aerobic efficiency. I see the same on Lieto, Tim, as well as Wingnut and Steve Hegg. We all work at lower HR's but still put out the same power relatively. Food for thought. I also think that ties into your thoughts and discussion on height (me 78/188 too). Aerobic efficiency to keep our engines going for a long time. Although we need to push a bigger frame & weight why is our HR still low?
Second part - It is very hard for the non Pro to tinker with aerobic vs. anaerobic. Yes, you do say this discussion is what elites really do. Most AG's do not spend enough time building their aerobic engine. They get incredibly impatient. I deal with it every spring. My athletes are itching/yearning for speed and quality. They want to test 'it'. But 2-3 months of aerobic base work for an athlete that is working 40+ hours a week is more valuable than any type of speed work to early. C'mon, let's be honest - as an AG time spent aerobic will result in a much better IM (time & experience) than with anaerobic/quality time worked in for personal satisfaction of knowing how fast you are vs. your training buddies. It's all about efficient use of time - is it better spent going aerobic, remaining fit, healthy and strong vs. anaerobic which increases fatigue, risk of injury and differs in specificity for every athlete? Most AG's do not have the mind to really suffer through the depths of fatigue and breakdown that good quality work results in. We know where that 'living hell' is, the chronic state of tiredness - not being hungry, sleeping immediately once stopping in our daily routine and feeling close to sick. Number one limiter for AG's? I agree with being able to sustain AeT but two thoughts - most AG's don't know where this is since they don't train it properly and secondly, AG's suffer from the one-speed syndrome. They do not know how to go easy, therefore their workouts are almost forcibly always aerobic. As I mention above - not a bad thing for the average AG, but if you want to get to the Elite level - you have to learn how to go easy. In my opinion the number one limiter for AG's is not having the ability (confidence in their training or lack of training plan?) to go easy. Going easy is an art - listening to your body and recovering is a skill. Elites go harder and faster because the know how to go easier too. Give me three great workouts a week and easy in between than any week of 5 workouts that are at one aerobic speed. Of course we can argue about aerobic one speed as above but once again - I consider myself Elite not AG.
On the correct order of aerobic overload - base - intensity and back. Once again a big difference for all of us who live this sport and have the aerobic base vs. those that are playing catch-up. I totally agree with the concept of aerobic base - then gradually buildup intensity over the weeks (adding one more intensity session every cycle) and then 'cleaning' it all up with an aerobic overload cycle 5-8 weeks before IM. It allows the intensity to settle in, it allows a re-awakening of the aerobic engine and the taper ties them all together. But all this ties into how the aerobic base was built. How many races? How much prep time? Did the body enter the aerobic base with previous fitness or was it starting from scratch? Your discussion clearly states you are talking about Elites and what they actually do but I get nervous reading this and thinking about AG's.
Running - interesting how you point out this ability. I have learned this over the years myself - A strong run dictates ANY Ironman performance. Whether Pro, Elite or AG. While I would like my bike to be faster and that has been my key focus for 2004 (focus of the entire off season) it is the run that I consider my bread & butter. How is this always forgotten in IM performances? Last year at IM Hawaii I was 9th out of the water, 282nd overall on the bike and 42nd on the run. I ran past 24 people in my age group to become the top US age group finisher in my AG. The two Germans ahead of me beat me by BALANCE - they swam ok, but bike smart and ran smarter. Is there a discipline factor here? Is it that we are too fascinated by cycling in this sport currently in the US? I always preach to all my athletes, as well as at camps and other functions: for Ironman the bike (sorry Bjorn) is only there to set up the run. The best result comes to that athlete that gets through the bike in the most efficient manner while still going fast (a relative value).... I spent the 2002 off-season running my brains out - 50k trail runs, 32 mile weekend aerobic ultra run, 6+ hours at a time. It had NO effect on my running that season, but it built a base that has carried me the past two years dropping my marathon to the 2:53-3:07 range in different IM's. What happened? I built a monster base in running and with that the confidence that the base work as well as the ability to run long is there. I then topped it off with a 2003 season of nothing more than 2 hour runs. Yes, as Bjorn knows, my group does an epic workout every Sunday for 8-10 weeks straight on the same course (boring!). This 2 hr swim, 2 hour bike and 2 hr run (measured 16 miles) sets up that last 2 hr. run for an effect of built up fatigue at the end of a long weekend of training. I remind all of my athletes that if done properly this 2 hr. run is all you need to have a great IM run. Running with good technique on tired legs on a Sunday afternoon after a week of training is immensely valuable. Add to that that over time I have them negative split the run and finally finish with a timed anaerobic mile this 2/2/2 has grown in legend in the Bay area. But, that is the running I think many overlook but as you say - we develop over time. Biomechanics and form are the key here.... My athletes do NOT build the base that I have - mainly because they are not willing to sacrifice a season for a running base but I think it can be tinkered with a bit - i.e a healthy, gradual base of running through the winter with a careful buildup of intensity on the 2 hr bike prior to the run has a similar effect. What I love about this workout is the the swim is a total body workout that fatigues to a deeper state, the bike is the wildcard on how you feel that particular weekend (easy if too tired, fast if you want to be aggressive) and the run is ALWAYS the focus of the day. Running off a 36 mile bike is of incredible value and a workout I seem to be missing. Never compromising that run is key. And lastly the mental training of riding/running the same course every Sunday in 80+ degree heat is of value too. Not only because the weekly measurement gives us great data points on our training, but also it teaches the ability to turn off the mind in a race and put ourselves onto this course for the last 8miles. Done soo many times, the run etches this repetitive course into our minds and takes over in a races with miles to go - putting us into a familiar place and allowing the mind to tell the body its just a Sunday training day....So, in closing of the running thought - there are two different camps: run often vs. run less. Kenyans as we know run often but not longer than 2 hrs. But I did have a great roll down effect of a monster base season with follow up of intensity over a 2 yr. time frame. I like aerobic base followed by quality, strength building (hill repeats) followed by tempo and ME work.
Bike cadence and Jonas's points are outstanding and too often overlooked. Is there something to the fact that we all have learned a lot over the years of triathlon and that the training methods of past star triathletes need to be modified? I don't know but just something I think that should be discussed - I see a big white elephant in the room and nobody ever debunking Dave Scott or Mark Allen. I love their input on the mental side of the sport - but some of the training methods were not only insane and they admit most of the time they were experimenting - BUT they also need to be modified/adapted to today's lessons and approaches. But all the literature and magazines live by their word - hmmmmm. Jonas's bike thoughts - as Bjorn and I started to discuss a bit this year in his visit - the value of slower rpm work is COMPLETELY overlooked in our sport today in my opinion. Steve Hegg reminds me of this monthly. Pushing bigger gears & watts in training has a variety of values: in a race we often get caught in a bigger gear - we feel fresh and think we can 'roll' that incline or that slight hill, but each time we do that we are taking away power we need later in the bike and especially in the run. Yet we never train this bigger gear and so the effect of draining power is multiplied. I have spent the winter and spring going back to pushing a bigger gear. My best bike split ever (relatively) was a 5:05 in IM Canada 2000. I was a masher back then and pushing a big gear. But Olaf Sabatchus, Shingo Tani, and Bryan Rhodes never left me all day. I spent 2001-2003 spinning, improving my pedal stroke, cleaning up my knee wobble and learning to ride high cadence - my bike splits suffered (yes, my running got a lot faster, by 20 minutes in the marathon but that is due to other factors). This year I returned to pushing a bigger gear, added a PowerTap and included one workout a week in my quality phases that were 60-65 cadence hard riding with a high HR (great race simulation HR by the way). While I have yet to race an IM on this approach, I feel much better about my bike. Hence - Big gear is used in a race, why not in training? Secondly - too many AG's ride to easy a gear in training. Lance's effect with spinning has gotten way too many triathletes confused. Riding too easy of a gear all the time is a limiter on developing power. Pushing a slightly bigger gear over time is the most effective way to build power. Once we taper we pull back into an easier gear but there needs to be a few training cycles that include bigger gear work - it raises AeT slightly, it simulates our ability to ride the proper power slightly below AeT, it builds confidence and lastly it fatigues the legs properly for a good run off the bike. BUT, I will say I have my athletes spend most of their aerobic base in the small chain ring to build their season base fitness. Gotta have a good pedal stroke and fitness before you can push a big gear.
Swimming - Could not agree more and I am still learning about the swim in an IM (!?). I spend a season not winning swims but coming in top 10, but I never swim more than 2x a week focused 3500 yrds and before IM I add a 2000 straight swim as a third swim a week. That means I swim less than 10k, less than 7500yrds most of the year. BUT I am the extreme example and I know for Hawaii this year I will swim more - build up to 3 x 4k a week minimum with some 4th sessions too. While I have always been a 49-50 swimmer in Hawaii, I want those minutes this year AND, like you write, I am concerned at the amount of glycogen I used in the swim and my HR the first 15 miles of the bike I would like to see settle in better. I do not have the back issue but the swim is something that swimmers overlook when racing a full Ironman (I say full because many don't race the full distance, the survive). Another aspect of the swim taking too much out of us is that when the lactic acid has been built up and the engine been run too hot, it takes us longer to get in our drink and calories in those first two hours on the bike - no need to say more on that. Why force down nutrition so early in our day when we will be forcing enough later on in the day...
Lastly - Dave/Mark at 177.5 and 180 respectively? Is that crank length? What are more thoughts around the crank length vs. pwer training vs. big gear work vs. cadence? AND the big question: for both of you: I have been riding with a PowerTap for the past 2 months and LOVE the input on my training. Bjorn saw first hand my excitement. My longer rides (125+ miles) have been turned into better quality and better runs off the bike with my ability to 'contain' my watts and being more efficient, i.e I hold 245-250 watts for 5- 6 hours rather than RPE tied into HR that earlier would have me pushing 280+ watts for the early part of the ride to falling off to 220 later in the ride. I am going to race IM Cor d'Alene in 10 days and plan on riding the PowerTap rear (HEAVY) wheel with an aero front...for learning and for 'discipline on the bike purposes. Good idea to experiment with? I do wonder though if my winter of bike riding focus will pay off on its own without the aid of watching my watts throughout the bike and I still build a good bike split....hmmm. Thoughts?
I like your style. You've got what Scott likes to call "the necessary obsession".
First up, if Bjorn _ever_ offers you advice after he's been training shoulder-to-shoulder with you. Then take it very seriously. With the key areas where I wanted/needed help, he's proven to be very helpful. More than he will ever give himself credit for. I had to drag the stuff out of him (and he forgot some of his best advice when I went back to review!) but he's been instrumental in assisting my swim and bike -- surprise, surprise. However, as you note, I did have to take myself to a certain level to be ready to hear (and apply) what he recommends.
First para -- I really respect that method of coaching. So many coaches and athletes are fooling themselves that they can achieve results in 12-16 weeks of focus. We are talking about years and years of year-round training to get decent. We all know that from our backgrounds. Had a great chat with Baron one day (hope he doesn't mind me sharing).
b -- you know, I can't figure that bike split out.
So the mind can trick us all the time. Scott pointed out to me the other day that my current run performance is the result of the last TWO years of focus that I've put in. While the next ten weeks leading into IMC are important. They are far less important that the three years of preparation that we've done. Consistency is so important at all levels -- long gaps must be avoided at all costs.
Second para -- you are right. There is a shitload of context that only a few folks will understand -- you'll know it from your elite swim background. There is a certain context that folks simple "know". The athletes and coaches that truly understand the protocols, I've found them to be very tolerant and understanding of differences -- because the basic structure is very similar. Even swimming -- folks think that swimmers do a heap of hammering -- what I see is a lot of max steady state (or whatever you want to call it) endurance work.
Bigger Guys -- Tim ain't big ever, Bjorn isn't big at race weight -- you'd need to tell me your height/weight for me to offer if you are big. Swimmers have great engines -- no doubt about that. Just read down 78kgs/188cms -- boyo, you are tall, you ain't "big" -- you are big in a Kona context due to the relationship between surface area and heat dissipation. However, you have a lot of advantages from those long limbs.
Something that might apply to you and Bjorn...
Big Guys Running -- going to be non-technical -- hope you understand -- many larger guys have great engines, these engines consume a lot of energy in the swim/bike (I do wish Mister A swam more but not if he'd run less). In other words, you are relying on horsepower, rather than aerobic economy to get you to T2. On the run, the massive 'swimmer" engine consumes a lot of energy to roll you along. In a Half IM or shorter, not an issue -- we've seen big guys that crush over that distance. Over an IM, the energy/CHO consumption of the V8 starts to matter a lot more -- especially after the seven hour mark. This is where things will swing towards the athletes that run fuel economy vehicles. So key concepts...
Low maximal HRs -- watch this in your athletes -- it can be a sign of great aerobic fitness, or, it can be a sign that they are smoked (no top end). I've shown both over my career. Tricky judgement call that needs context.
Aerobic vs Anaerobic engine -- what elites _really_ do. Oh boy, this is a topic that I avoid a lot because 99% of the folks that read my site are dying to rip their legs off with anaerobic work. They will feel great as they through away their entire season in the last four weeks of IM Training -- the nuked IMers will start posting shortly and continue through the summer. Yes, it's OK to rest... No, you don't need to do the sprint the weekend after the Half IM...
more... What elites really do? My honest opinion, most of them train just like AGers -- too much anaerobic work, not enough focus on the basics of strength, flexibility, nutrition and aerobic stamina. The few (and there are only a few) that train appropriately, they get better each year -- should I be able to start IMs at 30 and out-perform guys that have been training full-time for their entire adult lives? Most are hit and miss based on the level of consistency they are able to achieve. I've got training partners that know that if they are on the gPlan then they better be ready to get out of bed and front up every day. Not many people really want to do that -- I'd say that many pros are simply in it because it's a nice lifestyle. In all areas, very few people truly, deeply commit. You were a lucky man to be able to train with Dolan -- he had to have been one of those guys. Baron, Molina, Dave Scott -- I am always seeking to surround myself with people that understand what it takes and are willing to assist me with achieving my goals. I create training squads around myself. Been doing that for years. Lame people, I can only put up with people living inconsistently with their stated goals for a little while. Then I tend to shut myself off to them -- draining otherwise.
It's very difficult to do what it takes -- that's why I move around to the best places for training and surround myself with the best coaches and athletes I can. You are very, very lucky to have the crew in the Bay Area. They are stronger than most elite training groups that I know.
Out there on the gRAAM I wrote about some of what's next one day...
OK, so I have to get myself to be able to train 30-35 hours per week. How do I do that? Get myself to be able to train 35-45 hours per week (at any pace).
OK, so I need to build my ability to ride steady state for long periods of time. How do I do that? Insert blocks of 20-60 mins within my workouts. Piece by piece build it up. Don't force it when it's not there. Be patient.
OK, so I understand that it's all about stacking consistency across days, weeks, months, seasons, years. How do I do that? Avoid high risk training and racing situations -- anaerobic work, radical changes in volume, irrational intensity -- also (huge one!) increase recovery in line with training stress.
Athletes that get injured all the time -- don't stretch, don't get massage.
Athletes that get sick all the time -- don't back off, don't sleep, eat like crap.
There is a lot of self-sabotage in our sport. As well as people that are not realistic with their current ability and time availability. Another key one is to help your athletes build harmony between their tri goals and their life goals. Most decent athletes have very understanding partners, very sad partners or are single.
One other thing here -- monster training, going to the edge, going over the edge -- until IM is simply a big day -- until it is manageable -- who gives a toss about 400m times, 5K PBs or CP30s? You need the physical and mental stamina to simply keep it rolling all day -- that's the #1 ingredient. Hammering the first 40K of the bike will likely result in a physical breakdown on the run -- however -- what let the athlete down was mental skills.
It's all about being very patient and building the capacity to absorb (not simply survive) the training that is required to meet your goals -- classic swimming structure -- there's so much we can learn from that sport.
I think people across all levels also fail to have an honest discussion with themselves about the average intensity they will be able to hold across their entire IM. These Race Sim rides that I've been recommending more and more -- they are humbling and educational. I did my first one years ago on the LP course -- best thing I ever did for my IM running!
Get yourself a pair of wheel covers for your Power Tap -- makes a big difference -- Rich Strauss' wheel building contact can help.
Find AeT -- get them in the lab, train shoulder-to-shoulder, have them simply ride blocks of "steady" and note avg HR/watts -- have them read my tips page. It ain't rocket science and it doesn't have to be perfect every time. So long as they are close, they'll figure it out. If you get tired aerobically, you bounce back really quick. It's safe and exactly what most the field is lacking. Only a handful of people at race aren't lacking -- those are the characters that Bjorn and I are racing... ha ha // 2-4 at each IM race outside of Hawaii (maybe more at some of the high powered Euro races).
Find AeT -- your experience with the watts -- your realization -- that's the best part of the powermeter -- just to simply see what we are "actually" doing. People told me after IMNZ that I was "storming" over the last 60K -- errr, nope! Same avg watts (by hour) the whole way through. At the sharp end, there is legal drafting to factor in but you've got be to a sub-5 guy for that to be a consideration. The people chasing Mister A have a massive advantage that is rarely discussed. Some jokers saying that he's getting pulled in IMNZ by the vehicle -- sure he was 500m up the road making wrong turns for him. I think the guy that said that might have be Brazilian -- another story there (I don't talk about those things in public much because the House of Pain has a 'no excuses' policy when we race).
Use of Intensity -- you need to be very careful with this // it's the quickest way to lose a client and do serious health damage to an athlete. Just like you will have seen in swimming, there are highly different tolerances. Small women with long athletic ages -- dude, they can HAMMER and bounce back -- you should see the shelling that some of the top ITU and IM chicks can deal on themselves -- hitting it EVERY day! Large men with short athletic ages -- you can crush them very easily -- even a large dude with a long athletic age. Most of us fall somewhere in-between. The challenge for each of us that coach is that we will tend to expect the world to handle intensity similar to the way that we do. Molina probably though I was lame for years until he saw first hand how completely drilled I can get with the anaerobic stuff -- a comedy of self-pity at times! Body size, sex, athletic age, biomechanical stress of the exercise -- those seem to be the big ones. With AGers, I really believe that the benefit is so small that there's simply no point in doing the really hard stuff.
How much Base? Good Q. I think IMers can NEVER afford to leave base until they are within ten days of their event. Maintenance of endurance and sport specific strength needs to be the paramount concern throughout the year. When we deviate from the balanced, Basic Week, we need a clear strategy about how this is going to make us a better IMer. I do deviate (doing it right now, in fact) and when we decide to get a little imbalanced in the training -- we have clear reasons. I'm not all that imbalanced -- but you might get a kick out of checking out my last week (ending June 13th -- Phew, that's the real deal for the 8:30 IM program).
Run -- you've got a lot in there. I'll simply throw some comments out:
The run is slow across all levels today. The Canadian Ladies (god bless 'em) have forced the women to lift their run game -- as Natasha challenged the ladies to ride stronger. I don't see the same thing in the men's race. You've got massive underperformance out there. 31/32 min 10K guys struggling to crack 3 hours (OK, they say, Gordo you ride 4:40 and see how you go -- good point, I'm not really in a position to comment on the Top 20 guys, yet, but I do talk with a few guys that are in a position to comment).
So you don't need to be running 'fast' in a Dave & Mark sense of the word but you do need to be running efficiently and strongly. That comes back to what you will have read already in the other stuff on my page.
Running well -- you are right, there is discipline -- discipline to run 6x per week, discipline to run in an appropriate manner, discipline not to shell yourself bridging up to the front or in the first 60K. These are tough things. I did a series of short races following an IM taper -- it was an absolute blast. I was completely on fire with awesome tempo endurance -- to have that ability and NOT use it in a race -- that's really tough to do. We see folks riding off the front every year.
Hauth Strategy -- dude, you are soooo right to focus on the bike. You need to maximize your LT-10 to -20 bpm power and economy. You then swim smart, bridge to the front and sit -- you HAVE to train the swim, specifically the swim tactic that you'll need to employ in Kona. Once on the bike, you wait for the right bunch to bridge up to you. Your steady watts at 245-250 -- if that's what you can do on the flats then you are nearly "there". I figure that you need 260-280 steady state with a tolerance for some 300w as well as peaks of 350-400w over rollers to hang with a quick group in Kona. You also need the judgement to sit legally and know when you are outgunned (you don't want to be jumping on the Germans if they are on a suicide mission).
Run Base -- you went extreme, I respect that. For your crew, get them focused on year round frequency. Track runs per month -- stuff like that. Molina helped me with that metric when I needed it. Don't pressure pace, though. Almost everybody overestimates their training paces. Your crew probably need to "just run" -- that's where the upside lies. More on run structure on my page.
Bike -- remember that in training -- a guy like Lieto could ride hard tempo (well over IM effort) for a long while, throw in a couple of jumps for kicks -- so don't get discouraged if they drop the shit out of you sometimes (it sure happens to me!). The light guys will also punish us in the hills. Fact of life.
Measured courses -- just remember your swim background and your likely desire to PB all the time. Something I do with my measured courses is set a HR cap and see how fast that I can go without cracking X. That keeps me from turning it into a hammerfest. With your PT you could also aim for fastest time on lowest average watts and set a watt ceiling.
Type of running -- I'll sum up a bit -- long run in hills (very important for eccentric loading -- don't smoke yourself on the downs and stop 3.5 weeks out from key race); moderate duration run with steady-state chunk that includes some natural fartleks (say, 60 min steady within 90 mins). Other than that, I think the rest can be easy pace (steady if everything else is going great). Get tired on the bike. The tempo stuff can really whip folks and, for most, easy/steady pace is already faster than goal IM pace.
Bike training -- I think we need to train both ends of the rpm spectrum -- guys can crank throughout the rpm range. I think the keys appear to be volume, steady-state volume, strength and aerobic stamina. Remember that we want to maximize IM race intensity performance -- so we need to have a program that is geared towards that intensity mark as well as the demands of our course (IMLP is different from IMC, for example).
Big Gear -- another thing that most won't realize is that BRO riding results in lots and lots of power spikes throughout the endurance ride. These don't even appear in the HR profile. I think these might be useful.
AG Bike Training -- yes, you need to get your crew focused on the watts that they push when riding their steady chunks. With the information around from elite roadies as well as strong male IMers. You need to reassure your females and weaker men that they have nothing to be embarrassed about. Most folks are pushing very low powers -- some folks are going to get uncomfortable when the realize how little power they produce when riding steady. Upside!!! ...but we need to be sensitive. Even elite female roadies (that TT well) have low numbers compared to you and me.
Small Ring Riding -- I can put out 200-250w in my SCR, no worries -- that's over LT watts for 95% of the field. Nothing to be ashamed of in the SCR. I think that the publicity that we give our BRO work can be counterproductive for some -- but it is useful for us, especially on the flats and rollers.
Swim -- I see that you understand my points. It's a key one. You must maximize your swim and, at the same time, minimize the cost. A few minutes are very handy to have leaving T1 -- they give you the opportunity to ride a controlled 40-90K until others bridge up. My two training buddies, Macca and Baron, they didn't catch me until 90K on the bike -- my overall ride was far more comfortable and controlled being able to ride with them on the second half -- and not to have to hammer the first 40K (we caught most who did).
Mark & Dave --- yes crank length but I don't think that's a biggie. A guy your height, could go for a longer crank and see what happens. The fact that Mister A has 180s _and_ that position, we'll you need some flexibility to pull that off.
Ultimately, while all this is useful information. What really matters is that we have to get out there daily and out-train every athlete that we want to beat. The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare -- Japanese marathon coach's quote, I believe.
The guys up the road from me at IM, they have different protocols (not at IMNZ, though). There is no magic protocol, no right answer, no right number. There is simply a relentless drive to improve, to learn, to train. I see that in all the athletes that I respect -- I see it in you.
So I think getting the optimal protocol, that's not the biggest limiter -- most the top guys are probably training very similarly, at least my pals (and their pals) are. If they aren't then give me a few more years to ferret out the 'secrets' and post them on the 'net.
Our biggest physiological limiter is out training our competition across a 150 week block of training. Lots of folks can keep to together for 2-10 weeks but the athletes that improve every year, they keep together, pretty much, year round.
Our biggest mental challenge is the patience and maturity required to get the most out of our preparations. Rich Strauss has an excellent series of articles that discuss race day concepts. I read them from time-to-time to remind myself on these topics.
Additional comments added November 2004
Stumbled across this on your site. Really great stuff, and I wanted to share some thoughts:
1) Hauth comments on going easy -- this is something I should work into the gRAAM write-up. I was impressed with your patience running those first weeks after IMNZ (e.g. the first time we headed out in PS on the Xterra loop and you were taking your time, going your own pace). That is a skill most AGers and probably pros don't have.
2) Consistency -- we've talked about how key this is for me. Yet, I don't really have the 'long gaps' you mention to Hauth. I realize you don't want to freak out Type-A triathletes about every workout, but the short gaps are problematic as well. Given that one may one workout 3-4 times in each sport a week, missing one or two workouts can cause a half-week to a full week gap. This really seems to negate the benefits of keeping things 'rolling'.
3) Random thought I've had for a while -- why we go to hard -- our very evolution (to standing on two feet) has ingrained a certain 'resistance reflex' into us. Try this -- stand facing a person. Ask them to hold up their two hands to you. Place yours against them and then gently apply increasing pressure. They will push back with the same pressure. This is reflexive. That's why our natural instinct is to go harder up a hill, into the wind, etc. Part of IM training is unlearning that reflex -- to keep constant effort rather than constant speed, etc.