Going Slow

author : mikericci
comments : 0

Because I'm not that fast going slow is, well, really slow - especially when I'm trying to train by heart rate. It feels like I'm going backwards. Is this normal?

Member Question

"Don't get me wrong, by no means do I consider myself fast in any of the three disciplines in the sport of triathlon. But I do have a real hard time training slow (relative to me). Especially as slow as my coach tells me I need to go in my "long" days. 

Because I'm not that fast (a mid pack in each discipline) going slow is, well, really slow. Especially when I'm trying to train by heart rate. I find myself always pushing it. 

Example. Tomorrow I have a 3 hour ride and i'm supposed to keep my heart rate lower than 133 which for me is a low zone 2. That's a painfully slow 14 mph average when I factor in all of the long hills in the area. It's barely spinning. It feels like I'm going backwards. Is this normal?"

Answer by Mike Ricci, USAT Level III Triathlon Coach
Owner of D3 Multisport.com 

Hi MOP Racer,

My first question to you is:

How did you test for your threshold numbers? Did you follow this protocol:


Another great article: http://www.beginnertriathlete.com/discussion/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=25733&start=1

When is the last time you tested?

Recently, I received an email from an athlete, who swore his coach was making his training too easy and nothing was happening. We looked at his heart-rate numbers and his workouts and he was training right where his coach was telling him to. But the program had his ‘threshold number’ higher than he thought. He hadn’t tested for a number of months and he was taking the 20 minute number vs. multiplying by 95%.

In the end, his numbers were off and he wasn’t even close to training in the correct zones. Once we got the numbers corrected, his improvement was pretty quick!

So, my first recommendation would be to make sure your tests are up to date and that you are following a trusted protocol. Once you do that, look at where your zones are vs. what your new zones should be.

With regard to mph, I wouldn’t put a lot of stock into this – as mph is a terrible metric to measure yourself by. If you ride the same course over and over, then sure, if you know it’s slow for you, then I would look at the heart-rate zones and get that worked out first.

Are slower workouts important?

Building base endurance is important for any athlete, but after a number of years, it may not be necessary. I think as you age, going faster and harder is more important, because it’s speed and strength that we lose, not endurance. In order to improve you need discipline and that means following the plan. Not many people like to ride easy, but the truth is, that many people train too hard all the time and never get faster. I see people that run the same pace for 5k, 10k, HM and M races. How could that be? These people are usually training the same pace all the time, which is really too hard for them. In order to improve you need a mix of endurance, strength (hills and longer intervals on the track), and speed (60 seconds or less at a very fast pace). This applies to all 3 sports as well cycling.

Once you can determine what your weakness is, then you can apply your time to your exact weakness. For example, it may be strength on the hills or power in a short course race. This is the fun of training – learning to push yourself and improve whatever weaknesses you have. 


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Mike Ricci, the USAT National Coach of the Year, is the owner and founder of the D3 Multisport coaching group, through which he coaches all levels of athletes from beginner to elite. Mike is also the former head coach of the 2013 National Champion CU Triathlon Team, and has guided them to 4 consecutive collegiate National Champion titles from 2010-2013. Mike has written training plans for Team USA for the past several years, is a USAT Level III Elite coach, and has helped many athletes to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona.


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date: August 11, 2014