April 2008 Triathlon Training Chat with Coach AJ

author : Coach AJ
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Discussion on training and racing with power meters, differences between power meters, Kona preparation, Ironman pacing and nutrition and Ironman swim seeding.

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[Coach AJ] Hey folks! I'm ready to go!

[ejc999] I train mostly by HR but have been thinking about a power meter. What are your thoughts on the differences? Is it worth the money?

[Coach AJ] Absolutely. I have been using a PowerTap for 3 years and the investment paid off long ago. Watts are absolute, so 300 watts doing 30 MPH is equal to 300 watts uphill at 15 MPH. HR can fluctuate due to caffeine, sleep, diet, etc. All of the power meters do HR as well, so you can see how the 2 relate. With a power meter, you basically do a test, set your zones, and off you go. You can really dial in your training and monitor your bike effort to enhance your run.

[ejc999] Do you see much difference between the different types of power meters?

[Coach AJ] The PowerTap is hub based, so if you want to use it for training and racing (which I suggest) you either use 1 wheel or have 2 separate wheels. The SRM is crank based, and quite expensive, but you put it on the bike and off you go. The Ergomo is also crank based, but cheaper. They have had some issues with quality control and support though. The problem with these is if you have 2 bikes, then you either put it on 1, or spend BIG bucks. Personally I have been very happy with my PowerTap.


[ejc999] Yeah, that's what I've read about the different choices. Do you use one wheel with the PowerTap or do you have two?


[Coach AJ] I have 2 wheels, one for training and 1 for racing only. I can swap my training wheel between my road and tri bike in 2 minutes and I'm off.


[ejc999]  Thanks for the info on training using power.  Now I need to convince the wife

[Coach AJ] With the power meter, sometimes it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission! Believe me, a power meter will make every single pedal stroke productive. You won't finish a ride and wonder how productive you were. When you only have a limited amount of time, you have to make it all count!

[ejc999 J22]  Did I see that you got a Kona slot?

[jonathan22] Yes, I did.

[Coach AJ] Great news on the Kona slot. Have you been there before?

[jonathan22] No, I have not. Haven't even done a single IM yet. Last year was my first year doing tris. I have a running background but that was 14 years ago. In August I hired a coach.  I was going to do IMFL this year but got into Kona via the lottery.

[Coach AJ] Good start hiring a coach. You have a lot of time to prep, so take some time to relax now. My first year training for Kona I started way too early and got burnt out in August.

[jonathan22] That's probably the best advice I ever got: get a coach, get a coach, get a coach.

[ejc999] I'm doing Beach2Battleship in November and having a hard time controlling the urge to start IM training now.

[Coach AJ] Don't even think of an IM in November right now. Your training isn't linear, it's more of a stair step. Not that you should sit on the couch, but don't get in the rut of IM training right now. Mentally you will crack, and that's not good.

[jonathan22] I second that. I started training for a Oct marathon last year in March. Way dumb.

[ejc999] Thanks for the IM advice. This will be my second and I have a half in June. So I'm training for that then I'll take a couple of weeks off (family vacation) and then go into IM specific training.

[Coach AJ] That's the way to go. Focus on the 1/2, spend time w/ the family, then ramp up IM. Use the 1/2 to nail down your nutrition, equipment and pacing. It will be a great gauge of what you need to do for a successful IM.

[ejc999] I think this time I know more about pacing. I've come to believe that most problems in the IM come from pacing but seem to show themselves as a nutrition problem. What pacing advice do you give your athletes? I've read what Mike Ricci has written.

[Coach AJ] Mike and I are very much in agreement when it comes to IM pacing and nutrition. The key to a good IM is forming a plan through your training, sticking to your plan and making good decisions. The 1st part of the bike is where many athletes go wrong. Too fast, too soon. I have my athletes do some IM simulation days to make sure their nutrition is spot on. I constantly remind them that the bike is where you get in nutrition, and to stick to their HR or power zone. Focus on YOUR race. A good IM time comes down to proper bike nutrition, good pacing, and a strong run. IM's often come down to the run, not just the pro's, but hitting your own goal. Even if you wait until the last 1/2 of the run, that's still 13 miles to move through people.

[Coach AJ] I have seen too many athletes, Age Group and Pro, come to grief on the run. You can take a calculated risk on the bike, but ultimately if you make a mistake it becomes evident on the run, and by then it's too late to do anything. A power meter can really help with bike pacing. Everyone feels good at the start and some push the pace. With a PM you know the watt range you want to hold, and you just go by that. If guys go by you like madmen, you look at your power meter and if the watts are high, let them go. Most likely you will see them again at mile 100, or on the run.

[ejc999] Yep, I think that's why a "I just want to finish" plan doesn't work. People have a tendency to go by how they feel. Definitely a big mistake.

[Coach AJ] Absolutely, everyone feels good at mile 10. With a taper and feeling good your perceived exertion get thrown off. Add in the adrenaline of race day and it's a disaster waiting to happen, unless you have self discipline. I also think the swim/bike brick workout is highly under utilized. Part of the nutrition plan is to know what you can take after being horizontal in the water and not having nutrition for an hour, then getting on the bike.

[ejc999] What are your thoughts for swim pacing?

[Coach AJ] Swim pacing is hard due to the mass start. I do some TT's (time trials) with my clients so we have a projected swim time. A lot depends on the start. Good draft, not too much contact, good pacers. It can be a crap shoot. The one thing I stress is to draft. Even if you are a bit slower, you are saving so much energy that it's worth losing a bit of time. The swim is about coming out of the water and being ready to ride, not swimming as fast as you can and being gassed when you hit land.

[jonathan22] Actually, I just thought of a question AJ. I'm a 1:35 swimmer /100 yards in the pool. Where should I seed myself in Kona?  I thought about this all during my 10 miler today. (sick, I know).

[Coach AJ] Everyone will want to be up front at Kona! If you don't mind some contact, seed yourself upfront and get a good draft. The other option is to start in the middle and try to be steady. Again, lots of adrenaline and guys ready to go. I think it's not a bad idea to go out quick and try to hang with some faster guys. The caveat, as always, is don't blow up in the swim. It's too long of a day to nuke yourself early. With a non wetsuit swim, drafting is even more important. Find feet and stick with them!

[jonathan22] Thanks. Fun Killer is making me go to bed. Thanks for the thoughts AJ.

[Coach AJ] Absolutely. Train smart and train hard!


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date: May 7, 2008

Coach AJ

USAT Level 1 Coach
"My coaching philosophy can be summed up in two words: listening and balance. By combining these two elements I feel I can help each athlete achieve their full potential."

avatarCoach AJ

USAT Level 1 Coach
"My coaching philosophy can be summed up in two words: listening and balance. By combining these two elements I feel I can help each athlete achieve their full potential."

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