Ironman 70.3 rapperswil-jona

The bike was tough and climbs long, with some  lasting over a 7km and at places a 13% gradient.

 

Apologies for the delay in posting up this race report but work has been pretty hectic although that has not resulted in any reduction in the training. So back to race…

Switzerland…Always sounds beautiful but I had a shocker getting there. It was an very early flight out of the UK, so had to leave the house at about 3am – so everything packed and had airport parking at the terminal.

However, arrived in plenty of time but on route from the car park to the check-in desk, a few hundred meters I had dropped my wallet. PANICK stations. Its 5am surely no one would have picked it up and kept hold of it especially with only about £10 in there. But sure enough in the minutes of realising and going back to the car pack the wallet was gone and no one had handed one in. As you know the headache is the loss of all your cards.

I needed the wallet to pay for the bike check-in and of course no one was awake at that time to bail me out and I needed to cancel all my cards. That was the start of the day. Next one of the guys I was with was overweight for bike check-in so we had to try to sort his case and time was ticking.

Enough of the drama, we eventually made it to the hotel but could not check-in for a few hours so decided to put our bikes back together. One we checked in we would go for a ride to shake out the legs. Only 20mins out and there was a thunderstorm – it was so heavy we had hide under a garage from the lightening. Was someone trying to tell us something?

Next morning one of the guy’s bike was not right and an issue with the headset would mean no race start unless he could get it fixed. So needed to try and get the race mechanics to fix it. They could not so he was in search of another mechanic and that would mean wandering about in the 30oC sun for a few hours. Then just to add more insult later in the day for bike checking we had didn’t have all the bags we needed so had to do another 40mins round trip on the bikes to collect 2 empty bags from our hotel so we could rack the bikes. What crap race prep, lots of dehydration and stress all what you don’t need pre race day.

By the end of the day we had checked in and the bike was fixed, so we would all be racing the next morning. That left some panic re-hydration and not much time to sit with the feet up.

 

RACE MORNING

Race day was going to be hot peaking at >30+ oC, and as an old guy I would be going later in the day, but in our group we had age ranges from 21> up so we still needed to be at the race early. Race morning bike check and warm up all went great so a big relief.

The swim was wave starts and you self selected within your wave for time (I selected sub 30mins). My swim was just OK but again not fantastic at 31Mins. Not sure what’s going on with my open water swim in these early season races as not reflecting the improved pools times. But will keep at it and make the weekly outdoor session a regular thing from now until Kalmar.

Transition is longish but pretty straight forwards but I am typically sluggish on transitions and this one was no different where I was about 1min down from top age-groupers. Once onto the bike it was head down for what was going to be a tough race with climbs and the heat and also lots of early age groupers out on the course to get around.

 

CLIMBS & CRAMPS

The bike was tough and the climbs where long with some for sure lasting over a 7km stretch and at places 13% gradient. However, I paced it well and as planned just slightly under a NP of 240w with the aim of a strong low 1.20s half marathon run on the cards. My bike as a 2.33 and the T2 was also fine as usual.

bike

Off the bike felt pretty good then 1-2km at race pace (4min/km) in I got cramping in quads and hamstrings. This is very rare for me as pre-race prep and nutrition is normally on-point; so I can only put this down to all the time spent in the heat in the days leading up to race day. Unfortunately, the situation did not improve as the run progressed so it was a case of managing it by continuing with nutrition and keeping pace just under where the cramps would kick in.

 

Run

To be honest the run was brutal and ended up running the whole run with severe cramps. I knew if I stopped I would not be able to start again so just kept on at circa 4.25/4.30 pace. The only exceptions was at what is know as the ‘stairway to heaven’ a series of steps in the centre of town you have to climb twice during the run.

stairway

There are maybe 50/60 steps and when you have cramp that’s some painful shit. After the steps you have a slight downhill and that allowed me to force the legs to get going again and just grin and bare the pain.

70.3 SWISS

 

My run was a 1hr 32min, which was about 10mins short of where I should have been and would have given me around top 5 in the age group. But you have what you have on the day and I was proud of myself for pushing through when I could have so easily walked. I learned some good lessons from the race:

 

  1. Make the day before the race a true rest day
  2. Stay our of the heat
  3. Make sure you hydrate and fuel pre-race
  4. Always have another plan or 2 ready in case your day becomes a hard one.
  5. Never give up. You can be surprised what you can put up with if mentally your willing to go all in and visit some mental suffering.

 

My 4.44 was almost 20mins slower than a 70.3 just a few weeks before but I was still pretty happy with the result as I had given my all. The only downside was what had I done to myself regarding recovery time. In the end these 70.3s are only sharpeners for my Ironman races, and there is the choice of how hard to push and how quick you can get back to solid IM sessions.

 

bite the lip

This was a good few weeks ago now and I am fully back into IM training in the UK heat wave. At the time of writing I have 5-6 weeks before IM Kalmar one of the A races for the year. Although I hate that term as when you toe the line of any race you should be giving your all – I see A/B/C race categorisation more about what sore of form your in at that point in the season than the importance of the race.

I can recommend IM 70.3 Switzerland to anyone it’s a real honest race and tough – you earn you post race goodies for sure and no one get over those climbs easy.

For me it’s back into the final few weeks of long bikes, brick sessions and some final dieting for Kalmar. I am really looking forward to the race and enter it in best shape since getting into this sport.

Whatever, your plans for the season I wish you the best!

 

Outlaw Half 2018 – 1st triathlon of the year!

It was a great race for early season and reflective of the hard work and new coaching over the past few months.

 

Since my bike crash last year there have been ups and downs in the recovery process and lots of appointments to get a diagnosis and some treatment. But am on the mend despite some challenges remaining when I do tough swim sessions – but we push on.

Other news is that from December 2017 I took on a new coach (Mark Livesey, Xhale #bricksession podcast) to help me prep for my ‘A Race’ for 2018, which is Ironman Kalmar in August. Mark is a sub-9hr Kalmar Ironman so no one better to talk from experience in prep for this event.

Since the start of the coaching it’s been on a new level of difficulty and to begin with didn’t think I could stick with the intensity of some of the session. As a scientist sometimes you need to switch of the analytical brain and just run with the process. 

The last 5-6 months have been intense and I have had some of the best sessions ever in my triathlon training. The biggest challenges have been on the bike and sticking with it has been tough but the results speak for themselves in what you can push though in sessions. 

So as per usual the outlaw half is the pre-season warn up for me as other years and it was a case of lets see how far we have come and hoping for no mechanicals as I had in 2017. 

RACE DAY

A real early start was on the cards for Sunday morning as I managed to scrape into the elite wave so it was a 6.10am start. So I planned my time based on the other years to get to the event and to give about 45 mins warp-up. So up and rise at 4am for a pre-race breakfast then to make race for 5.10-5.15. However, we got stuck in queue of cars for over 10mins at the turn in to the national water sports centre so it was rush about time as there is a walk from parking to the event and bike racking. 

Just about managed to get bike set up and wetsuit on and it was time to rush over to the water with little time pre-race start and no warm-up. 

Figure 1. Not the best swim

Figure 1. Not the best swim

Swim was not great in-fact 3 mins slower (32min 42secs) than my 2017 time, despite some great pool work over the last few weeks. Maybe the lack of warm-up, not sure; but was pretty unhappy about the swim. Once out of the water and into transition the woes continued with my visor shooting of the helmet before I could exit transition loosing me a bit more time. All-in-all I think the swim plus T1 lost me a potential 5-6mins of what where my  pre-race goal times. 

I had to just stick this to the back of my mind, relax and just concentrate on the controllable (aka the bike and run). 

BIKE

I know the course quite well and was ready for a solid bike with new found strength from all the new bike session and was aiming at 240-250w over the course. I had no idea what this would give me time wise but that was the effort I was going to put in to leave me with some legs for a strong run. 

Figure 2. Pulling back time from the swim with a solid bike

Figure 2. Pulling back time from the swim with a solid bike

I took a few more risks in the race nutrition this year with less hydration during the bike but still a good intake of carbs. As anyone who knows the finish to the outlaw half is hideous with gravel, speed bumps and pothole track making for a bike accident waiting to happen. Luckily no casualty for me but it does impact your overall time. However, looking at the power file post race I managed to keep effort up over this section. 

The only downside of the bike was drafting. I had a guy hanging off the back of me and one other rider the whole way around the course. We where in TT position and I would look back and he was sitting up drafting the shit out of us. This is so frustrating as there was nothing you can do to really stop this – you can say “get the F*~k off me,” but if they keep at it and marshals won’t intervene then that’s the way it goes.

Figure 3. Data showing well paced bike power

Figure 3. Data showing well paced bike power

Despite this frustration I had a strong bike at 2hrs 26mins 45seconds and despite hitting 250w np (240w average) – I felt pretty strong and ready for the run. 

THE RUN

Quick T2 and out onto the run. I had 4 gels with me, and fluids are of easy access on the course. The aim was a Gel every 20Mins and fluids when I can.  The goal for the day was circa 3.55min/km and I would try to stick to that best I could. I was pretty much on track and felt good but by second lap a lot of AGs where now on the course and this slowed down passing as the pathways around the course other than the lap around the lake are pretty tight. 

Figure 4. Onto the run and holding onto a good pace

Figure 4. Onto the run and holding onto a good pace

One thing I noticed was my trisuit…I have always used a race number holder that I can Velcro onto the back of my trisuit for many years to reduce the drag you get from then if not flat against your body (i.e. resulting in lost time). I had placed the rough Velcro on the race number and soft on my suit and it should have been vice versa (brain fart).

Figure 5. An expensive mistake when you put the rough velcro on the wrong way around ;-)

Figure 5. An expensive mistake when you put the rough velcro on the wrong way around 😉

I looked down at end of 1st lap as my number had started to slip to the side of me and notice 2 big rips in the front of my suit. With running the Velcro had shredded my race suit and any second the old meat and 2 veg could have been waving to the crowd if the rips got any higher. You just got to laugh – I pushed the race number down a bit to proven that and importantly to hide any accidents ha.

Figure 6. Nice effort on the run

Figure 6. Nice effort on the run

 

Needless to say I survived the run with a 1hr 23min 21sec half marathon. 

SUMMARY

It was a great race for early season and reflective of the hard work and new coaching over the past few months. My overall time was 4hr 28min 49secs, which was a new PB on the course and given the poor swim I am getting closer to breaking the 4hr 20min mark, which is need to guarantee the AG win and get into the top 10. 

Figure 7. That finish line feeling (no mechanicals ye me)

Figure 7. That finish line feeling (no mechanicals ye me)

 

The swim for sure hurt my race and lost me the AG win by less than 2 mins but I was happy with the performance and a top 20 finish. 

Next stop in 3 weeks is IM 70.3 Switzerland so will be aiming to sort the swim out on route for the main race of the year in August. 

I hope you guys are having a great start to the season and remember consistency build results. 

Ironman Florida 2017: Take 2

It has been sometime since my last write up but it’s been a really tough few months…

 

End of September I was involved in a bike accident where some idiot decided it was ok to reverse around a blind bend at the bottom of a hill with no signs or warnings he was doing so. I was out for a 4-hour ride and was the one who was his victim…

The result of the crash was double compression fracture of my spine (something I didn’t fund out until 3 weeks after the crash) as well as all the usual niceness of whiplash and bruising. I guess it was on the cards given the arseholes on the road and never been involved in a ‘real’ accident;  but when you’re building for an Ironman, accidents are a true disaster. In addition to that as a stress I have just moved to the other end of the UK and unfortunately for the family I was as much use as a chocolate fireguard in helping move.

 

Figure 1. Enjoying the removal of neck brace before finding out I have a compression fracture of T4/T5

Figure 1. Enjoying the removal of neck brace before finding out I have a compression fracture of T4/T5

 

Needless to say I have been and continue to have lots of issues with my back and neck, which has not fully healed so next stop, will be a MRI. In the interim I have been trying to get back into some training (approved by the orthopaedic consultant) after almost no training for 3-4 weeks post-crash. As I write this part of the blog I am 4 weeks out from Florida and have been trying to regain some lost form and have put in a few good rides and painful runs and swims (I have issues taking a deep breath due to injuries).

I have 4 weeks and ideally squeeze in 2 big days over the next pre-taper 2 weeks. Tomorrow and the following weekend will be big days and got to say am nervous as anything over 90mins (and any swim) has been leading to sleepless nights due to back and neck pains. However, as we all know once you have signed up for an Ironman the lure is difficult for reasons of costs (flights, entry already all paid for) and in my case I wanted to make the season worth it as had not beat my IM best despite spending a big winter and early summer getting in very good shape pre-taper for my main race at IM Frankfurt. I know I’m not the only one who feels the pressure to validate a season of hard training but maybe not the best idea.

Sometimes I feel the whole thing is madness as if the event was low cost and in UK I would have dropped out, as health is more important. I would never advise my athletes to do what I am doing in continuing to train when I should be 100% focused on recovery and getting my injuries resolved. So with making that decisions let’s turn back to Ironman Florida.

 

FLORIDA – Turn that frown upside down

In 2014 on a road bike, on the early stages of my Ironman journey and on the heels of a major storm I completed IM Florida. Back then there was no swim (a first I think is 14 years of the events history) due to the very bad weather. The race from recall was OK as it was pretty flat and not too hot, and despite a few punctures I enjoyed the ride and the marathon.

Flat and fast is what I love and given this time I will be a stronger biker (my race pace was my FTP back in 2014) I hope to at least crank out a better bike than my 5hr 53min bike from 2014…

 

RACE READY? SORT OF…

In the run up to IM Florida I had my issues as above. However, in the 4 weeks prior to IM I managed to get in some good sessions although only 1 bike lasting 4hr 30mins I was ready to at a minimum get around the course.

In the run up to the race felt pretty calm and had a great shortened taper thanks to Dr Garry at SportsTest and made it through without any sign of a cold which has always been an issue. I was checked in and all prepped for race morning no problem. Come race morning I was up at 4.50am food in and then off to drop transition bags and make sure bike was in one piece and fully loaded and race ready.

Figure 2: Up and adam ready for the day ahead!

Figure 2: Up and adam ready for the day ahead!

 

Check in was fine and made it down into the swim start and slotted into the sub 1-hr group. Swim was always going to be a bit choppy and it’s a strange old swim as the level of the water remains shallow for a good 100-150m from entry so you have a few meters where you can dolphin and the rest your wading out. The 1st lab was fine and I was a little cautious on my effort as swimming had been causing the most issues in my back (t4/t5) where the fractures had happened from the crash. Although I had done bike to run brick work during training I had done no swim bike and was just hoping all would be OK. After getting in for lap 2 the orange markers had significantly shifted.

Figure 3: The start of the day and end of lap one.

Figure 3: The start of the day and end of lap one.

I don’t know if they had become untethered but a lot of people had began to swim out very wide away from the direct line to 1st turning buoy (was red). I asked a few others who where also lost wondering what was going on but no one knew so I decided just to head for the red buoy and if the wrong line the refs in the water would tell me. It was the right choice but the dicking abut burnt some time but as long as I got out and the back was in one piece it would be a thumbs up.

Swim [1hr 05mins].

 

TRANSITIONS

I don’t often talk about transitions but Florida is 100% on the ball – yes it’s a long transition from beach to change to bike and you cannot have your shoes on the bike but the staff are all over ready to make sure your get to your bike. In my situation I was very near the transition exit making finding the bike easy and when you get to the change tent the volunteers are waiting for you with your bike change bag. No mean feat with 3000 athletes. Similar, getting of the bike you had over your bike as you cross the line and the volunteers rack and also hand you your run bag making for a super smooth transition. Other IM events could learn a lot from Florida.

 

BIKE – TIME TO GET REAL. 

Following the weather it was forecast to peak at about 3 hours into the bike at 80of but very little wind so real feel of 90oF. For me I was not concerned but I knew if would be a factor on the run, so hydration pre and post swim as well as on the bike would be key. Got to say I felt good on the bike on the lead out and perhaps a bit to over eager with exceeding my race watts by 10-15watts. That would be fine in a cool European event but given the heat in Florida I wanted to ease off to make sure I was leaving some in the tank for the run. I also had done only one long bike in 12 weeks leading up to the race so what was in the legs I didn’t know.

Figure 3: Time to hold the aero and get head in the game.

Figure 4: Time to hold the aero and get head in the game.

After the 1st hour I had settled in and from where I was after the 1st hour I didn’t see any drafting, which is what Florida has had a reputation for. I don’t know if this was due to increased marshalling or some change in the way age groups are now approaching races but it was useful and allowed me just to think about my own performance without to much surging etc.

Out on the course my mind was on 2 things .1 holding aero position and 2. Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition. I try to get in at least 1000mls an hour although I know I will sweat more than this. I have been up to 1200mls/hr previously but just not had enough time to get in the sessions to adapt. However, as long as I can hold my aero position I can get away with lower watts for a better return in speed (note: my CDA for Florida was 0.223 m^2).

Over the last 30Mins I was beginning to feel the ride become a bit more of an effort than the ease the rest of the race so held back another 5watts, hoping it would leave me with some legs for the run.

Bike time [4hrs 53mins]

 

INTO THE FIRE…

Dam, Dam hot…That’s the summary for the Florida run. I jumped of the bike out of transition and have to say felt ok and tried to settle into a 4.40-4.45mi/kg pace of running and until about 14/15k (See Figure x.x) I was bang just under a 4.35average (to get me under a 3.15 marathon and circa 9hr 20Min IM based on the days swim/bike– p.s. that would have given me second or 3rd in age group and kona slot) then the heat (or maybe just the lack of training) started to kick in….

Figure 5: Feeling good on the run well at least to 14km ha

Figure 5: Feeling good on the run well at least to 14km ha

 

The rest of the run was ok high and lows but manageable but could not hold the speed and hard to keep body temp down despite lots of ice at aid stations and remaining hydrated. I had not done anywhere near enough the acclimatisation work I had done for Frankfurt and I could feel that on the day. Frankfurt’s peak heat was higher than Florida but I felt easier at Frankfurt heat wise so something I can cope with but need to do the right preparation.

Figure 6: Hot hot hot...even from the start.

Figure 6: Hot hot hot…even from the start.

So the run became a case of grinding it out but with no real walks of shame only walking the aid stations after about 15k I was pretty happy to make it through, given the last few months of not even knowing if I would make the start line.

So come the end of the run there was the lovely finish shoot and unlike in 2014 I finished in the sunlight and was great to see the family and my Mam who had come over for her 70th birthday. Despite nipping under the 4Hr mark for the run I was well away from the 3hr 27min run I did in 2014, which if I could have put together on the day would have given me my goal of a Kona slot. But these things are here to tease but a sign for me that I have it in me.

Figure 7: Not long after this one the shit hit the fan.

Figure 7: Not long after this one the shit hit the fan.

Post analysis I improved from 2014 but a poor run and lack of training let me down on the day and although I didn’t aim for Kona on this race but a finish holding together my run from 2014 would have got me to the island. There have been improvements since 2014 results but the only number that really matter are 1-4 i.e. the finishing slots guaranteed to get you to Kona and that’s got to be the goal again for 2018.

  • 16th Age group (Up from 52 in 2014)
  • 96th Overall (Up from 275 in 2014)

Overall IM Florida 2017 [10hr 6min]

Figure 8: On the way to ice-cream and beer

Figure 8: On the way to ice-cream and beer

 

SUMMARY – A Year to forget or remember!

I have had a great year of training but a crap year for results. I am sure everyone has them but you always are looking for validation of your efforts but you have to look to your long-term goals, evaluate and fix what maybe broken in your strategy. You will always get those looking to the failure in a result or you not achieving x but every season and indeed every race brings new insight. The application of that insight to you micro, macro cycles in training, your diet and recovery are all key.

The pro’s for this year for me is I have finally understood how to acclimatise for the heat that’s to Frankfurt. 3 weeks having a mix of steam/sauna and hot baths post training do the job. I am never going to be an optimal athlete in the heat as I carry too much muscle and simple thermodynamics come into play here. However, managing and still performing to ‘my’ best ability in hot conditions is key to a good performance if not the fastest race.

I also believe a shortened taper works best for me. I felt so much better going into Florida than any other IM, so despite the lack of long bikes I think I had a good race.

Negatives of the year have been my 1st real bike crash and I am writing this second part of my blog a week post IM Florida and another night of poor sleep due to continued back pain. I am in for my MRI and hopefully the issue is just muscular and I just need time post the fractures. I will keep up with the physio and osteopath sessions and the latter are a massive help.

Although the race times for various reasons of health have not been fantastic I have learned this season and become stronger on my bike. It’s the start of the off-season and I’ve had a week of very little post Florida so I guess its time to get back on it. It’s been a busy work year from the day job and setting up some other projects but some very exciting stuff in the pipeline for 2018.

“Wishing you guys a very happy xmas and all the best for your winter training!”

 

 

IRONMAN FRANKFURT: COLD’s, MED TENT & 32oC OF JOY!

Roll on July 9th

That was the thought process in the months leading up to Ironman Frankfurt. I felt ready and was shooting out some great training sessions as well as some long training hours, effort and coin on route to what I though would be a big PB.

Pre-race blues!

One thing that seems to be common across those involved in long course triathlon is the dreaded taper illness. In 2016 I was victim and ended up ill pre-Austria making me jump into Ironman Barcelona to validate my years efforts, which I did with a PB. However, I was hoping I would be able to avoid such issues this year but for those following me on twitter (@marktallonphd) a week out I ended up with a bacterial chest and throat infection – so out came the anti-biotics. It was a case of fingers crossed that I would be ready for race day!

T-Minus 48Hours

What a week…So a week out I picked up the illness and pretty much did nothing training wise other than try to recover for race day. Then day of flying out I was told my grandmother died – so some icing for the shit cake I was dealing with. There was also a load of work stuff to deal with for both wife, and myself but maybe go into that in another blog.

As you guys know you invest not only significant time but also cash into preparing for an Ironman. Physio, bike kit, nutrition, coaching, flights, hotel, entrance fees all add up to £1000’s of cash. So many of us go against what we know is right i.e. to pull out. I would never advise an athlete to race when ill other than head cold but once on the chest and green chunks there are some real health dangers to racing like that – so I must be a bit of a nob as still raced.

48hours out and I decided I would race and I needed to get my head into the right space. Before I get into the story of the race the goal was sub hr swim, 4hr 45min bike and a 3.10run – all on the cards based off my training leading up.

Bike Check

For those who don’t know the swim start and T1 are across the city from T2 for Ironman Frankfurt. So the day before the race you need to grab your bike to get checked in by taking your bike onto a bus with the other 3116 registered athletes. The bus journey was about 40mins and as you can see by the pick the queues are pretty big and at over 30oC you’re sweating your nuts off for about 30mins before getting on-board. I have to say the operation is slick and there are lots of busses so don’t stress about getting to racking in the 1st bus to go.

Figure 1. Bike queue for getting the ride to T1

Figure 1. Bike queue for getting the ride to T1 – All around the block…

What I would say is for those of you who are staying near the city and my not get an opportunity to try out the swim is to bring some swim kit so after racking your bike you can get on the swim course. Again getting back into Frankfurt is hassle free as lots of busses on for the return journey.

 

RACE DAY

One of my previous issues during Ironman was getting my ass out of bed in the Morning in enough time to make sure I was not rushing to race start and could get a warm-up in. This time set my clock early so we where out of the door 4.35am to get the bus (yes you can bring family) to Swim start (T1 opens at 5am). I got there in good time to check over the bike and load food and drink for the day and managed to get into the water for a good 10min warm-up. The lake is stunning, very flat and easy to see the markers, so I stuck my self into the sub hour group.

Swim [1hr 46seconds]

Prior to the start of the swim I felt pretty good. I was still coughing but didn’t feel to bad and had completed the antibiotics the day before the race and had a good sleep. Got into the swim which is a wave start and there seemed to be lots of space. In hindsight I wish I had been a bit more aggressive but was not sure how I would feel. In the end was an OK swim and felt pretty comfortable post swim.

The transition was a long run up to the bikes and changing area. I had already scoped it out pre race so I knew what was to come. I had no issues during transition and out on the bike in ok time (T1 = 6min 46seconds).

 

Bike [4hr 57min 18seconds]

The bike was short this year by a supposed 3km (My Garmin says 6k). Like all Ironman the bike is a make or brake for the rest of the event and I was looking forwards to it after some great rides in training. After the 1st 10k my power was down about 20watts from target effort and this was the concern – what impact of the illness. However, I had decided whatever happens I would finish the race and work as hard as was comfortable. Despite not being able to hold a higher power I enjoyed the bike. There was very few out on the course and that would mean I only saw one instance of drafting – so a real honest course – just how Ironman should be.

Figure 2. Out on the bike and into the fryer.

Figure 2. Out on the bike and into the fryer.

A few tips for those of you that might be interested in doing Frankfurt. There are a few places with cobbles and these are real boneshakers. I used 28c wheels for the race and 90psi to try to absorb some of the shakes but lost my chain over one of the sections. So key for the cobbles is to keep spinning the legs as your go over them as any slack in the chain when not pedalling can make the chain more likely to jump off.

Figure 3. Frankfurt cobbles, shake rattle and roll.

Figure 3. Frankfurt cobbles, shake rattle and roll.

Over the second half of the course I dropped another 6 watts but on the plus side did get in all my nutrition / fluid on the day, which was a concern as antibiotics can ruin gut function. This was key as mid bike the temp was already heating up to a toasty 32oC. I had done 10 days pre race heat acclimatisation work and got to say it worked a treat as even with a TT helmet on I did not feel fried.

Coming off the bike I was ready to get a quick transition and had feet out of the shoes ready to hand my bike to waiting staff. Once off the bike I ran to my bag (which I had market with black permanent marker to ensure it stood out from the other bags). On arriving at my race number the bag was gone from the hook (Yep fucked off is an understatement). I called a member of staff over to help out but they where as useful as a chocolate fireguard – after some running around I found it about 5 meters away under another rack. Clearly someone must have picked up the wrong bag realised it and dumped it (Thanks). Panic over but maybe 1-2mins lost resulting in a 4min transition when you could do this in 2mins.

Figure 5. Out of T2 ready to attack the sweltering run.

Figure 4. Out of T2 ready to attack the sweltering run.

Run [3hr 57min 21seconds]

Out onto the run a felt OK (As good as you can feel post bike leg) and tried to set off at pre planned 4.20/4.25 min.km pace. After 5km this felt tough and the cough was back in full effect so I slowed it down trying to hold around 4.45min/km. Despite averaging this up until 24/25km into the run the cough was constant and the next thing I was laid on the floor then being carried of to the med tent. After about 15mins in the med tent I was allowed to go (I had blacked out due to low blood pressure from the coughing).

Figure 6. Never quit no matter what!

Figure 5. Post med tent back to work – Never quit no matter what!

By the time I got running I had lost about 20mins (Stuck the run splits at the end of the blog for those interested). However, after dropping out at Austria in 2016 I promised I would never quit another Ironman, so on I went and pushed as much as I could holding around 5min/km pace over the rest of the course. I guess without the stop I would have been around the 3.30marathon time, which would have been all things considered and OK race and a PB.

Figure 7. The finishing shoot plays feels so good!

Figure 6. The finishing shoot feels so good!

Reflections!

Despite the failure in making my goal race effort, I learnt a massive amount about myself over this race.

  • 1st – I now know what I need to do to acclimatise for a hot race, which has been an issue for me in the past.
  • 2nd – Even when I am not in best form and have a disaster out on the course I can still push close to a sub 10hr Ironman.
  • 3rd – The experiences of hard races over the past few years and the failures have strengthen my mind so when the wheels come of I can find the motivation to carry on.

So despite not getting the race nor the outcome of the race I wanted I felt proud of the effort I had put in. After a few days reflection I have signed up to a race I did back in 2014 – ‘Ironman Florida’.

Figure 8. Amazing how quick you can forget the pain when you grab the gold.

Figure 7. Amazing how quick you can forget the pain when you grab the gold. Remember why we do this sport – for the love of it!

Writing this Race Blog is a bit delayed and it’s now 2 weeks post Frankfurt and still not 100% over the cough. So far I have only done a few easy sessions to keep the legs spinning. However, I have really needed the break with so much going on in personal life and being training solid for the last 7months have taken their toll.

I have loved the break both physically and mentally but I am ready to get back to it from 1st week of August and will use the next week as a run in pre training proper. So another 12 weeks of graft are ahead for me and I feel mentally recharged and ready to attack. Best of luck to all of you for the rest of the season and remember avoid the doubters as there are no limits other than those inside your mind! #believe

Best in training, Mark

splits

Outlaw Triathlon – A lesson in quick fixes!

Here we are for the 1st tri of the season and a 70.3 is always a great way to open the account for 2017…

The Outlaw is a bit of an institution in the UK and has a super loyal following due to its fantastic team of organisers and atmosphere on the day. However, May in Nottingham (UK) can get a bit Chilly and this year was one of those, not to mention the rain over the preceding days. So, coming into the race I expected a cold morning with wet roads and a muddy run. However, despite the cold swim the weather warmed up nicely so it was a day for a good race. I had taken a relatively easy week prior to the race so felt I was in good shape for a strong race.

Figure 1

Figure 1. Early mornings pack and ready for the OUTLAW

 

The Swim [29mins 9seconds]

One of the mistakes last year was too much of sleep in so was late for the start of the swim (well late as in didn’t get chance to get acclimatised to the cold pre race start). The day of the race I was up and at the race for 4.45am (15 mins pre-transition opening), this gave me time to get the bike into transition, wetsuit on and a good 5-7 mins in the water before the gun started.

The Outlaw swim is played out in 4 waves. Prior to my wave (M30-34, M40-44) the 1st wave included Relay, MU24, M25-29, M35-39, and M55-59 participants. This means you have a lot of bodies to pass after 950m of the swim. So you need to get out hard and then avoid the bodies. I felt pretty good on the swim and it was the first time to try out the new Maverick X wetsuit. The suit felt great (amazing actually) and despite getting a little chilly I was only just outside my 28min target.

Figure 2. Maverick X Wetsuit felt like a second skin.

Figure 2. Maverick X Wetsuit felt like a second skin.

 

The Bike [2hr 31min]

Only the day before the race I made the decision with my coach (Dr Garry from SportsTest) to take some risks on the bike and looked towards 235-240watt average over the half ironman distance bike leg. I was having a great race and felt very comfortable pushing the watts out but just after an hour into the race my front mech decided it was time to f*ck up and twist in on me (See red square on bike power profile below). I am still not 100% sure what happened but the result was a twisted and damaged front mech and slightly twisted set of chain links. Its took a week to get the bike fixed with a new chain and front mech.

Figure 3. Power profile from Outlaw bike

Figure 3. Power profile from Outlaw bike.

 

I tried to pedal for a bit whilst looking down to see what had happened but once I realised this was not a quick fix I pulled over. After a bit of self-talk not to throw in the towel I managed to get the mech in a position to allow me to keep into the big chain ring and some movement across 4 gears of the rear cassette. This would get me to the finish if the bike would stay in one piece, which it did.

Despite the loss of 7 minutes I was 6 minutes quicker than 2016 bike leg. Without the mechanical I would have been have ridden 2hr 24Min. I had thought pre-race a 2hr 20min to 2hr 25min was on the cards and it was frustrating not to be able to achieve that, but I had to take home the positives and the main breakdowns over the ride was:

  • 54mins (204-243)
  • 40mins (244-283)
  • 10mins (284-323)
  • 7mins (>324)
Figure 4. Out on the bike.

Figure 4. Out on the bike feeling strong.

 

The final power value was 233w and I cannot post any heart rate data because I also made the decision not to race with a heart rate monitor. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, I have been training at a much greater volume this year which I know can impact my heart rate, secondly I have been trying to move more towards training on feel as the constant looking at Heart Rate can be a stress in itself.

Figure 5. Shortly after the mechanical back on the road playing catch up.

Figure 5. Shortly after the mechanical back on the road playing catch up.

 

The Run [1hr 26mins]

In 2016 the run was a strength for me with a 1hr 24min half marathon off the bike (including a toilet break), so I was hoping for something similar. I was not sure how the harder bike effort would impact (never mind being about 2kg heavier) my goals but as a ‘B race’ had nothing to loose. Initially, the run felt good and over 13km I was averaging about 4min/km. I then faded to about 4.10-4.15min/km coming out with a 4.08min/km average (respectable but could be better). I have to admit I died over the last 2km, which was either the higher intensity from the bike or still some fatigue in the legs from recent training or a mix of both.

However, I guess the best test of any race effort is if you could do it again what would you change? Well I would not change much other than the mechanical and also some of the decisions made in the transitions.

Figure 6. Into the run and feeling good.

Figure 6. Into the run and feeling good.

 

Transitions

I have to be honest I have never really paid a massive amount of attention over transitions because my focus is Ironman and at my level make little impact unless you really mess up. However, I made some major mistakes on the day especially for a half ironman. I made the decision to place on shoe covers and gloves as in 2016 my feet and fingers where freezing. I never practiced this in training in relation to how much time this would burn, not only getting them on but also off. This was a mistake and one not to be repeated if I ever make another stab at a 70.3.

The effect of my faffing about was about 2 minutes added to my 2016 transition time. In the future unless it’s going to be very cold I will not be putting on such items in the transition zone but may perhaps bring some gloves onto the course and putting on while out on the bike if needed.

 

Conclusions

The mechanical and poor transition lost me 9 mins and a potential time of 4hr 26mins, which would have gained me a podium place rather than 6th in my age group and top 20 overall rather than 33rd. The Outlaw continues to go from strength to strength and the total finishers where 1221 athletes from the 1500+ registered this year.

Figure 8. You are and Outlaw [Just not the fastest one ;-)]

Figure 7. You are and Outlaw [Just not the fastest one ;-)]

Despite the poor overall time from what I expected it gave me some great data on where my performance is after a tough winter of training to further boost the bike. Next up is the ‘A race’ for the season ‘Ironman Frankfurt’ in July and I have a real good couple of weeks of brutal training and some additional dietary control to implement. Fingers crossed no more mechanicals and I am really looking forwards to a fun race.

Until next time all the best in training!

Mark

 

 

 

The Myth of Functional Threshold Power (FTP)

“If you repeat something long enough people will begin to believe it’s the truth.”

 

 

How can I set training zones based on power? Are they accurate? Are they based on evidence? These are just some of the basic questions those looking to base their training on power. One of the most widely used and accepted methods of setting up training zones are based on what is know as the “Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test”. We see it used by coaches, listed in the magazines, and now it’s proliferated into online virtual training platforms and virtual reality training platforms such as Zwift and TrainerRoad.

However, what is the scientific basis of the FTP test? Does it measure / reflect lactate threshold? What are its limitations? Are there better options? In this blog and want to take a real look into the limitations of this suggested method of setting up a training program and why I believe it’s not all its suggest to be.

*In advance there is a little bit of physiology and some discussion of studies in the following blog. This sometimes breaks up the flow of a discussion but try to stick with it as it should help explain my views on FTP.

**November 2017 BLOG UPDATE: Please see comments and clarification following the publication with Dr Coggan, regarding FTP tests. 

FTP or Critical Power

The basis of FTP and other measures of so-called ‘threshold testing’ is defining that point between energy being primarily supplied by the aerobic system (i.e. sustainable over a long time) and the anaerobic system (sustainable over a short period of time).

According to one of the main academics behind the FTP test; Dr Andrew Coggan[1] states, “FTP is the highest power that a rider can maintain in a quasi-steady state without fatiguing for approximately one hour.” In addition it is suggested that the best predictor of performance is performance itself – so a 60-minute time trial is just that a great predictor of 60 minute time trial. Because 60minutes is often very difficult (especially the relatively untrained) its suggest by Coggan that a 20minute test can be used, which is described as underestimating the 60minute test by 5%. Knowing this the 20minute test is suggested as a means of determining FTP.[2] This is interesting as a description of the test but what is the scientific basis? Why should we use it (or not) to develop training zones?

The underlying basis of the FTP test is touted as being 1. Being representative of lactate threshold (See Figure 1) and, 2. The mathematical concept of critical power (CP). So lets take a look at both of these with reference to the FTP test.

 

Figure 1

Figure 1. Here we see a test of lactate threshold with a subject working and increasing power and lactate levels rising at a relatively low rate until a threshold (LT) is reached where any additional increase in power output results in an almost exponential increase in lactate.[From Coggan AR. Training and racing using a power meter: an introduction. 2003. Accessed online at: www.ipmultisport.com/ref_lib/Coggan_Power_Meter.pdf].

 

Lactate threshold and FTP

One of the main studies cited as supportive of the 60minute FTP test as being reflective of lactate threshold and a pragmatic approach to non-lab based testing is that by Coyle et al. [3] In this study 14 male endurance athletes where used. The cycling lactate threshold test was based on testing at 5 different intensities and looked for a 1mmol (a blood measure of lactate) change on blood lactate above baseline as representing the balance between lactate production and use.

The performance test was cycling until fatigue at 88% of maximum (Vo2max). The study split the group into 2. One group (HL) that could work at a higher % of the maximum at lactate threshold (72-86%) and one at lower level (LL) (59-71%). The results in terms of time to fatigue for the LL group (working at 34% above threshold) and the HL (3% below threshold) was as follows.

Time to fatigue in the HL group was 60mins and the LL was 29mins.

Therefore, how can was state that a 60 minute FTP performance test can be related to this study and lactate threshold when the LL group did not work at lactate threshold but 34% above it. Similarly, the HL group although lasting on average 60mins, when we look at individual subjects we have one lasting 75minutes and another only 51minutes be fatigue. That’s a possible variation of 24Minutes between subjects? As such we cannot base any type of assumption that the FTP test is reflective of any type of late threshold based on the results of this study.

Given that subjects during the test where not aware of the elapsed time this perhaps speaks of the inherent variability and weakness of the FTP test i.e. how motivated are you to perform? When the real question is when does lactate threshold occur.

Therefore, I am not convinced that a 60minute test can predict accurately where the lactate threshold is or power at lactate threshold (or at least not without possible significant variability). Although there is no doubt a relationship between Lactate threshold and time to exhaustion that does not mean that time to exhaustion or max power produced over 60 minutes is an accurate value to determine training zones.

 

The concept of critical power (CP)

The critical power (CP) test was the mathematical basis of FTP in many ways but it when we look at what the CP test involves it not merely a 20 or 60minute performance test.

The relationship between power output and fatigue was initially introduced by Hill (1927).[4] However, it was Monod and Scherrer (1965)[5] that coined the term ‘Critical power’. These researchers investigated the relationship between power output and time to exhaustion during multiple bouts of exercise on specific, isolated muscle groups. They then derived a mathematical equation that defined the relationship between power output and time to fatigue. This test involved 4 -5 bouts over a time period of 2 – 24 minutes and the data then entered into the equation to define CP.

We can already see limitations to this work – as they say ‘no muscle is an island’ as such testing a single muscle group would not be reflective of the physiological stress brought about during cycling where we see modern day application of FTP. So what about looking at a more relevant studies.

One of the primary papers referenced as underpinning the suggestion that CP is representative of maximum lactate steady state (MLSS)(i.e. just below lactate threshold where there is a balance between the rate of lactate production and the rate of lactate removal primarily representing aerobic system) or just above it is that by Poole et al.[6] In this trial a cycling test was used to assess the relationship between power and MLSS. Similarly, we see other studies referenced to demonstrate a relationship.[7]

 However, although there maybe a relationship that does not mean accurate. For example I might say driving when the group is icy may result in a 60% chance of a crash but 60% although significant does not predict it will happen. In assessing the accuracy of such a relationship last year Maturana and collegues[8] demonstrate that CP (calculated in tests over 1-20mins) over-estimated MLSS by 20w (based on subjects with a threshold of about 255w). That’s an 8% overestimation and although it may not sound like much if you cycle 20w above MLSS it will result in a continual rise in blood lactate ending in subjects fatiguing before the end of the test.[9] These results have been further repeated by studies from the likes of Bull et al, which demonstrated that CP overestimates the power output that can be maintained over 60minutes. [10]

Finally, the calculation of CP is highly impacted by the mathematics employed to identify CP, as is training status of subjects and pedalling frequency (higher cadence resulting in lower CP and FTP).[11]

As such this general view amongst people that CP and FTP are representative of lactate threshold is clearly flawed and at best controversial among scientists. Therefore, care should be taken to base any type of training program on the basis that FTP or CP is an accurate representation of an athlete’s true threshold.

 

What else does FTP testing not tell us as athletes?

An important factor in developing an effective training program is to know what our physiological strengths and weakness are. As part of determining where there are weaknesses we need to look at factors such as aerobic or anaerobic capacity, or economic an athlete maybe (the oxygen cost of cycling at certain intensities). What we get from FTP testing is one value, ‘a performance measure over one hour’. We do not get a measure of oxygen cost (or oxygen cost per watt – economy), lactate threshold, or similar measures that are independent of psychological motivation to complete a test to full exhaustion. In fact in most lab-based test of aerobic capacity most can generate a value well before physical exhaustion.

Another important factor is the assessment of fuel use across a given range of exercise intensities. What I mean by this is how much fat (grams/min) and carbs (grams/min) are you burning to maintain a given effort (say 200w vs. 250w). You may ask why is this important?

Well for any event exceeding 2.5-3hours in duration it can be massively important as the results from sub-maximal and max testing can give and indication of how much carbs we would need to take on board (based on stored carbs or circa 400-500g) to get us through an event. For Ironman based events such information can be vital to effectively determine pacing and nutritional (Carb) intake requirements.

So what about the practicalities of getting testing carried out in a lab (no I don’t do such testing)? A submax (check of bodies response to aerobic up to threshold work), max (anaerobic capacity and maximum oxygen uptake), and LT test carried out for cycling and running may cost in the region of £300-400 in the UK. For cyclists only needed a bike test or runners needing a run test its going to be half this cost. When you think about the money spent on a new wheel, helmet or the latest watch such costs spread over the course of a year should not break the bank for most. The data from such testing should not be under estimated and can be massively important in tracking fitness but more importantly identifying how a training program should be structured and how much time dedicated to base, build and comp specific periods.

 

Conclusions

So whilst testing FTP are great as a performance measure and I do believe performance is the best measure of performance its limited as a tool for accurately setting up training zones. However, few of us compete in only 20minute time trials or even 60-minute time trial. As such I would rather base my performance on a performance trial that is closer to what I would experience in a race. The problem is I do Ironman and other than jumping into a half Ironman I don’t thing any performance test would be appropriate.

FTP repeated over time can help be a measure of improvement in fitness/ performance once any learning effects are overcome (i.e. the first time you do an FTP test you may go out to hard and burn out, the next time you will pace better, spreading the effort over the 20mins). However, what I am discussing in the blog is the data in the scientific literature. Maybe tomorrow a new study will find some other reason why the FTP 20 Min test is accurate as a measure of threshold, however, until I see that evidence I can only base my views of what I have read so far.

For setting training zones I want to know how my body is reacting internally – so how much oxygen, carbs, fat am I using at given intensity (heart rate, power, or velocity) and how much lactate I am producing. Psychologically, I cannot significantly control my lactate response of the amount of oxygen my muscle consume for a given power, yet I can control how hard I feel I am pushing for the FTP test.

I am sure many coaches would swear that FTP is a great way to monitor athletes and set up training zones but is this because they don’t have access to other forms of testing? Is it because FTP is quick and easy, needing limited equipment? Have they actually looked at the other options? The bro-science response well my athlete did x or qualified for Y using FTP is not a response to the limitations discussed above. Maybe if they used other ways to set up training their athletes would have achieved their goals earlier, or perhaps many of their athletes don’t achieve but they just pull out those that have as a defence.

In conclusion FTP has its limitations and if it works for you as a coach or athlete and you improving year on year then keep on using it. However, don’t do it blindly, always consider why you are doing something what are the limitations? Is it based on real evidence? I will in later blogs look at the other measure I mention above such as lactate threshold, Vo2max etc but for now I hope you find this blog useful.

Keep training and best of luck for 2017!

Ps. I asked some of the key authors behind the FTP test for comment on what I feel are the limitation before writing this blog but received no response.

 

References

  1. Hunter A, Coggan A. (2006) Training and racing with a power meter. VeloPress, Colorado USA.
  2. Ibid, pg.51
  3. Coyle EF, Coggan AR, Hopper MK, Walters TJ. Determinants of endurance in well-trained cyclists. J. Appl. Physiol. 64:2622-2630, 1988.
  4. Hill AV (1927). Speed and energy requirement. In Muscular Movement in Man, pp. 41–44. McGraw-Hill, New York.
  5. Monod H & Scherrer J (1965). The work capacity of a synergic muscular group. Ergonomics 8, 329–338.
  6. Poole DC, Ward SA, Whipp BJ. The effects of training on the metabolic and respiratory profile of high-intensity cycle ergometer exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol. 1990;59:421–9.
  7. Pringle JSM, Jones AM. Maximal lactate steady state, critical power and EMG during cycling. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2002;88:214–26.
  8. Maturana FM, Keir DA, McLay KM, Maurias JM. Can measures of critical power precisely estimate the maximal metabolic steady-state? Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016; 41: 1197–1203
  9. Ibid n8, pg 218, 222
  10. Bull AJ, Housh TJ, Johnson GO, Perry SR. Effect of mathematical modeling on the estimation of critical power. Med Sci Sport & Ex. 2000; 32 (2), 526–530
  11. Barker T, Poole DC, Nobel ML, Barstow TJ. Human critical power – oxygen uptake relationship at different pedaling frequencies. Exp Physiol 91 (3), 621-632.

Barcelona Marathon 2017 – 1st race of the Season

It was looking like it was going to be a cool day, which in my book is a good day.

 

I had ran the Barcelona marathon a few times before, with the last being in 2014 so knew it can always be a challenging event due to the heat. However, it’s the luck of the draw on how hot the event could be. It was looking like it was going to be a cool day, which in my book is a good day.

Pre-Race

We stayed about 1.5km away from the race start (Hotel Universal Barcelona), which is a great position as it means race morning you get a sleep in – if you can sleep. It also means if you have a bad race not to far to hobble into bed!

I set the alarm for a 6.30am race morning wake up to get in some carbs and giving me to get ready, walk up to race start and warm-up. I also always get my kit fully ready the night before (see Fig.1) as this allows me to not have to worry about anything on the morning other than getting food in and getting to start line fully warmed up.

kit out

Figure 1. Everything I need for race day.

I had a few issues over the months pre-race such as a calf strain, which kept me out for a week and another chest infection (antibiotics again). However, come race day I was injury and sickness free. My only concern was the lack of distance runs (30-33km) at race pace but given I am training for triathlon and there is only so much running you can do without destroying your bike and swim session.

Pre-race warm up done… I felt great and ready to attack the course (See Fig.2). I made no new changes to the pre-race diet and looked to take on 60-70g/Hr carbs, a gram Sodium and 100-150mg caffeine (I take also 3-4mg/kg 45-60mins pre-race). Simple but works for me.

pre-reace wam up

Figure 2. Ready to attack post warm up.

The Race

After getting a little panic on because I could not initially find the race entrance to the section containing the sub-3 runners, I eventually managed to get into position.

I had done a few fitness (form) tests a 2 weeks out and after a chat with the coach Garry (SportsTest.co.uk) the target range was 2.45 – 2.52. I decided pre-race to take the risk and go out hard over the 1st 20k and try to hold on. This was always going to be a do or die effort but its early season and not much to loose.

The course profile is in general undulating but as Figure 2 shows the first half has some gnarly little climbs with a few lasting 1-1.5km. But given much of the rest of the course (other than last 2km) are a lot flatter and the early morning (its 8.30am race start) temp is cooler I wanted to work a little harder early on.

TP analysis

Figure 3. Training Peaks view of HR pace and cadence over the marathon.

 

I managed to position myself at the race start about 12 deep away from the 2hr 45min pace runner. There was a lot of bunching over the 1ST km resulting in a fare few acceleration and decelerations to keep the pace maker in site. If I was to run again I would have made it into the start pen maybe 10mins (rather than 5) pre-start so I could get a lot closer to the front of the race – would have made the race start a lot less stressful.

My heart rate (post race analysis) was no doubt to high and for most of the 1st half of the race it was above 160bpm. I should not of let it get above 158bpm (my max for marathon) but I was laying it all out to try to get a 2.45. By the half marathon point I was at 1hr 23mins, so pretty good and felt quite strong feeling like I would be able to lift it a little or at least maintain in the second half. However, 1.45-55mins in I started to feel the pace and come 30k (I hit 30k in 2hrs ‘2.48 marathon pace’) in I knew I would have to start to ease off if I wanted to make it to the end with a respectable if not a PB. So I pulled back on the pace to get hr down to 157bpm, but was unsure how much damage had been done or what shape I would be in come the end. Whatever was to happen I had to keep on top of the nutrition (fluids, gels, sodium) and keep the cadence going.

during race

Figure 4. Hitting 30k into the race.

I tried to maintain my pace the best I could and like us all there comes a point in the marathon where the mental games kick in. Thoughts like ‘I could just walk now,’ ‘I am not going to break 2.45 why not take it easy,’ – All of these you just have to try to push to the back of your mind and convince yourself its good training, its early season, it’s a c-race but I want to finish strong.

By the time the up-hill drag of the last 2k came I was already hanging on but not 100% dying. The clock was ticking but I was reduced to a little over 5.05min/km pace and was happy to see the finish line in sight.

Finish

Figure 5. The finish line – Just a few 100m!

I crossed the line and finished in 2hr 55min 47s. Not my best marathon but for early season and focus on Ironman and knowing the risk of a too hard effort at the start of the race I was ok with the time. Out of the 16,346 runners I placed 317th, with an average pace of 4.10min/km (6.40is min/mile). That gets me in the top 2% of all runners.

medal and number

Figure 6. The spoils of war another medal and used race number.

 

POST-Race

I believe post race nutrition and recovery are very important and its something many almost forget about post-race other than having a shower, a slice of pizza and a beer. That’s great, but for me I want to be back to Ironman training ASAP. That means correct nutrition (quality protein and carbs post race, hydration 1.5lts/kg of bodyweight loss), ice bath, Stretching and compression tights. Of course on top of that a beer and pizza 😉

The next morning after a great nights sleep and a 20min recovery spin on the hotel stationary bike we (wife and I) went to a great place called “Brunch & Cake” near the seafront in Barcelona. They do some fantastic meals and I picked up some protein porridge + treats for breakfast (See Figure 7).

post race Brunch & Cake

Figure 6. Brunch & Cake…yum yum!

I would recommend this place to anyone if they are in Barcelona and looking for a great healthy lunch or early breakfast. Another recovery meal in the bag and the path to recovery has started.

Here is to a great 2017!

Stryd® – Running with power!

There is great potential for power as a running metric but a number of issues to consider before applying it in everyday training.

 

Price: $199 (circa £159.90)

Purpose: Power monitor for running

Website: www.stryd.com [Stry Gen II ‘FOOT POD’]

Summary –      Pros:    Accurate, repeatable, syncs with training peaks /    Cons:  Lack of ability to select specific metrics in IQ stryd watch app / No effective integration of run-power into WKO4

The use of power as a metric for measuring the impact of training and as a tool for optimising performance has revolutionised cycling. However, beyond real time GPS little has changed beyond measuring heart rate from the late 70s and early 80s. This may just have changed with the introduction of power measurement for runners. One version of power meters for running making the headlines has been ‘Stryd®’. I have being playing about with the Stryd over the past few weeks and thought I would share a few findings thus far.

Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 13.53.20

Figure 1. Photos of the Stryd. Super small & light-weight!

 

Benefits of power for running

Many of you will already be using power for cycling but the application to running has some significant differences –  for example in cycling the more power you put through the pedals the faster you go. However, in running you could theoretically have increases in power but no increase in speed, but why? The simple reason is you’re locked into a certain position on a bike and the measurement of power simply represents what goes into the power meter via the pedals. This is very different during running as we use power ideally fwd motion, but as you know when we run we move up and down and side to side. All of this non forward movement could result in a loss of forward propulsion from our power production. The take-home not all power results in fwd movement.

Therefore, the Stryd could be a great tool in  assessing the point at which power peaks in faster running and at what point any additional power does not further increase speed.

 

This type of data can provide guidance in technique development by helping modify our form so that any wasted power (excessive up and down and side to side) can be corrected to result in better fwds movement.

So from a personal point of view I have used cadence on Garmin’s to be more economical in my running. However,  I did not know how to ‘effectively’ apply form changes to impact other metrics such as ground contact time (GCT), vertical oscillation (VO), stride length (SL), vertical ratio (VR) that then show up as faster running or faster running for less effort (thats the goal right!).

Sometime to much information can be damaging if you cannot find a practical home for it. I am all about practical application rather than just measuring something because we can. To that end lets have a look at the Stryd and how we can use it at a practical level.

 

How Stryd Works?

In essence the Stryd works using 3-dimensional accelerometer and some clever algorithms to estimate power production. According to the Stryd team the product and its data has then been then validated against force plate embedded treadmill in a lab (gold standard of directly measuring force/power).

As such Stryd can measure force production in 3 dimensions (up and down, sided to side and forwards and backwards). This is at a theoretical level is superb as with the right software to extract the data you could not only look at the metrics we see currently on the likes of Garmin 920xt but also some other metrics such as ‘breaking’ during running (something you get if you’re a heal toe runner). Therefore, the Stryd could be an affordable micro-biomechanics lab that could be used not only to measure power (next section) but also to monitor and manipulate in real time, running economy and form (#Free Speed).

 

Power measurement and running

I have to say this blog has been a bit delayed because I have had in my possession the Stryd for a few months. However, I wanted to have a play about with the stryd in multiple conditions and paces (Intervals vs long runs etc etc) to see what it can and cannot do. Being from a wet and windy part of the UK this has made for a challenge when it comes to finding a dry and non-windy day.

There are a few metrics that are a must have for me when running – pace, heart rate, distance and time. As a new bonus power is now a possible ‘new’ metric to add to that list.

 

The Stryd App

At present there are 2 apps available for Stryd when using watches such as Garmins 920xt or similar. These can be accessed by the IQ connect and include:

  • Stryd IQ (official app)
  • Stryd 10s power (non-official / unsupported app)

Then we have additional ways to see the data when using and for post analysis:

  • The stryd app for your phone (during running on a treadmill)
  • The stryd online power centre (post run data analysis)

I have had a play with all of these and the phone is nice if you want to see a big screen whilst in the gym, but on the road is not practical. So I will focus on those ‘other’ apps and the data given from the watch displays and via Stryd’s own website ‘the power centre’.

Before that I want to just give a quick overview of some metrics you can get from the Stryd outside of those typically available with a Garmin such as cadence, hr, vertical oscillation, ground contact time etc.

  • Power: The stryd records real-time (instantaneous power) however, there is a workaround app to give 10s average as discussed below.
  • Leg Spring Stiffness: Based on variance in ground contact times (typically less ground contact means running faster and to a point more economically). In general we see swimmers having very flexible ankle (not stiff) and as such transitioning from swimmer to runner is harder.
  • Form Power: This is the power to raise one’s centre of mass against gravity with each step and is independent of speed and gradient. The application of this is when your form (body position etc) is altered to decrease this number is associated with improved economy and reduced vertical oscillation.

 

My testing of the Stryd

To look at the way the Sytrd works I wanted to check out a few different types of sessions that are typical for most runner and triathlete training sessions. These are the long run (outside) and intervals (treadmill). These are a nice mix of sessions on different surfaces and should be able to highlight the pros and cons from using the Stryd and its related software.

Before we start using the Styd we need to find out our training zones. For me these are carried out during a lactate threshold test (see previous blog on BSx). From that test set training zones are based on Hr, Pace and Power.

 

The Power Centre: Analysis (Pro’s and Cons)

The 1st session was intervals (warm up, then 3 x 11Min reps at 3.45/3.45 min/km or 6.15min/mile if you like imperial). As you can see below (Figure 2) we get some nice square wave power level shapes (orange line) for each fo the 3 intervals. When doing bike intervals and using a power meter these shapes are very similar, and like using power on a bike we can see a lag in the heart rate (purple line) getting up to 160bpm (the goal pace for mid to upper Level 3 work).

pc 1

Figure 2: Stryd’s online power centre – Data analysis from Interval training on a treadmill.

 

The lag in Heart Rate for me was about 5-6 mins before hitting what would be level-3, therefore power allows us to instantly work in the right zone rather than consistently upping or lowering pace until you hit the right the heart rate. However, it could be said why not just set our training zones off pace as that’s a way to cut out the delay (lag) in heart rate rising to the hight level?

Well again we have external issues than can increase or decrease the physiological demand (effort) of maintaining a specific pace. Pace does not take into consideration the effort it might take to get up or down a hill or running into a head wind. What’s great is that (theoretically) using power would make issues as weather (wind) and terrain (hills) irrelevant to a large degree – resulting in consistently hitting the right training zone in every session.

pc 2

Figure 2: Stryd’s online power centre – Data analysis from easy long run!

 

The figure above shows some metrics from a very easy zone 2 run and from it you can see the blue line showing pace (min/km) and its nice and steady and tracks closely with orange line (power) below.

At present what I don’t like from using the Stryd is the variability. The power measurement (see the orange line above) is taken in real time. As such its readings of power jumps quite often (unlike the trace we get on a treadmill – see orange line on Figure x) as power can fluctuate from second to second. The result is constantly checking your watch to try and stay in the right power zone. This is not great and a distraction when it comes to pacing a workout on the road.

The solution to this would be to have the ability to see and average of power measurements over say 5-10 seconds as we can do with power as measured using a Garmin on our bikes or like average pace on a watch. The averaging effect would smooth the values (variability) you see on your watch, making running at a constant power more achievable and less stressful. I will discuss the possibility of a workaround for this in the ‘Watch App’ section below.

PC3

Figure 3: Stryd’s power centre – Lots of metrics available on the power centre for data freaks.

 

When you use the power centre there are a whole host of data fields that can be looked at (See Figure 3 above). But for my own view there are only a few that seem of interest at this time. ‘Form power’ (see the ‘Stryd app’ section above for what this metric means) and ‘cadence’ are the main 2 beyond power.

When you run (On a treadmill) is easier to keep a check on ‘form power’ during the session. My view is that keeping form power low is typically due to leg turnover (cadence) and also how you toe-off when running. It provides some pretty quick feedback and typically as form power drops you will also see the power to maintain a set speed falls (more efficient?).

What I cannot say is how this metric is useful across a range of abilities. For myself whilst I don’t have a very high VO2max, my running economy is very good as is my cadence. Therefore, I do not see a huge benefit for an economic runner. However, in others I see run cadence a major issue in them becoming more economic. Many can achieve high (>180) cadence figures when running at 5-10k pace but this drops of significantly as the distance increases and pace drops. I believe that truly economic runners with good form will hold a cadence of circa 180 almost irrespective of run pace (recovery vs. marathon).

As such I see some nice options from the metrics but outside of ‘form powder’ and ‘cadence’ I think they are just nice metrics to perhaps compare overtime (something you can do in the power centre i.e. compare metrics from one workout against the same workout a few weeks later).

 

 The watch app

The biggest downfall of the Stryd is the watch app. The primary App is available from the GARMIN connect store (Stryd IQ). The app allows you to download the data post run to the power centre and also to training peaks. the issue is that there is no ability to decide what metrics you can see on each data field. You simply have to accept the data fields the app allows you to see with power.

watch app

Figure 4: Watch metrics – well at least the useful ones!

 

You also cannot alter the sampling rate for power i.e. per 3, 10, 30 Seconds etc. As above this causes some issues. There is a workaround for those wanting average power and that’s in the form of an app from the Garmin Connect IQ store called ‘Avg Power 10s’. This is the metric I now use on my runs but unfortunately it does not record the power data from that session – so although you can see the data field during the run (average 10s power) and your other chosen metrics such as heart rate and pace etc its not downloadable. It’s also not supported by Stryd.

https://apps.garmin.com/en-IE/apps/ae28e863-89d6-408c-b4a6-94a1683aec7e;jsessionid=A8BF8154DDBF09E083FF08EEB10F970A

 

Is it fit for purpose: Future proofing?

There is great potential for using power for run training and racing but there are still some significant issues to be resolved. I live in the north of the UK and we can get some real windy days and the effort to run in side winds are not fully transferred into the Stryds power measurements in my experience. As such to measure physiological effort in such conditions you need to fall back to heart rate.

However, in days where wind is below 10mph the Styrd is spot on in its accuracy and reproducibility. You can set you training zones using the stryd but take care on what surface. You will get different readings depending on the surface you run on. In my own testing the harder the surface the higher the power recorded. From one treadmill to another despite the same gradient and speed there is circa a 10w difference. Therefore, you will need to build in this when considering your training zones and perhaps power to use if for a race on the road vs. off-road / x-county.

The app needs a major makeover – its very ridged and at this time its not very intuitive in setting it up. What you want is the ability to connect to Stryd as you would a heart rate monitor and for your Garmin to know that and then you have in the field data options all the potential metrics available. Metrics such as those in the power centre plus and ability to look at average power for laps, 5, 10, 30 seconds etc. This will no doubt require more co-operation between Stryd and Garmin and other watch makers.

 

Downloading Data

The final issues relate to training peaks. The only data that gets downloaded is power but no ‘form power’ or ‘LSS’ or similar metrics seen in the Stryd power centre. The other major issue for me personally is the data that shows up as power on training peaks does not sync with WKO4. As such when you want to do some in-depth analysis your cannot use power i.e. the whole point of using the Stryd.

There is also I am sure some other great metrics that you could get from the Stryd but just not accessible ‘yet’. Because it measures 3d power with the right software we could get values related to heal striking (breaking). This would be a valuable metric for helping alter run form and from what I hear from Stryd its something possible for the future.

I know from following the Stryd forums and asking staff about the issues of setting up the app etc that they are trying to resolve these early adopter issues. Similarly, the WKO4 team are working on an update for Stryd but as of yet not timelines have been released.