Preparing an Athlete for a Long- Distance Triathlon
As an experienced triathlete, your client has raced 3-5 seasons, has at least eight months to train for his or her half-iron race, is familiar with pacing and knows how to use a power meter or heart rate monitor. This athlete has the desire and stamina to manage a host of variables related to training. He or she either places well at sprint and Olympic-distance events and wants to move up or is working to improve his current half-iron performance.
My Basics Some will ask how I test, what charts/
programs I use, how I organize my training blocks and why &#x2014; so I&#x2019;ve made a brief list. The key, however, is not to use my tests or zones, but to figure out how the ones you choose translate from training to half-iron racing. Multiple events over many months will test and retest your plans. I use 3- and 20-minute tests in all sports, extrapolate to get 1-hour critical power or pace, then set training zones from there. Shorter tests are easy to repeat and recover from &#x2014; and they are very accurate. I base each race plan on these zones, and the results give another confirmation. In the end you&#x2019;ll have a spectrum in each sport, from very short to very long. You can quickly tell at which end of the curve they are weak/strong and go to work on the weakness. I use: &#x2022; Sweetenham&#x2019;s time trial formulas for swim training zones.
&#x2022; Skiba and Allen/Coggan programs/ tables to set cycling power zones.
&#x2022; Daniels&#x2019; V-Dot tables to set run pacing zones.
I recommend having your clients build speed in the winter or spring so that their endurance zone/half-iron power/pacing will start out at a high level. This is not to say that they&#x2019;ll be able to hold these endurance efforts for long distances early on &#x2014; extending ability here is what spring and summer training blocks are for. I have found it easier to build speed first and then extend time spent there than it is to start with distance and then speed up.
Look at body mass early in the season. It is obvious by looking at the podium that winner&#x2019;s BMIs are low. This can be touchy but in almost every case my clients have brought it up first thing &#x2014; they know it&#x2019;s an issue for them and want help. Get started on a food log and coaching from a certified dietitian who specializes in programs for athletes.
The Sports Swim
Highly form-dependent, coaching of some type is required. Advanced athletes will benefit from the variety, intensity, strength and skill involved in a masters swim program. Threshold pace sets that add up to race distance are great training. Get them to open water with a group to focus on drafting practice. Work on swimming with eyes closed to identify how far they can go before veering off &#x2014; make corrections (an easy one is changing hand entry points) until they can swim 30-50 strokes and still be on target.
Power is the best measure on the bike and a power meter provides immediate feedback &#x2014; advanced triathletes should have one. It allows the coach to set maximum and average limits that ensure the athlete has the energy left for their best run. Why is this critical? Testing done by Banister and Coggan showed that metabolic stress increases exponentially in response to increased exercise intensity; a minute of very hard effort on a steep climb can ruin a half- iron run. Power output cannot usually climb more than 10 percent above planned race average before a red flag goes up.
Run On the run, a GPS watch is beneficial for
the same reason: limiting excursions above planned pacing. The first mile must be on pace or slightly slower. Practice running the first mile of long bricks at race pace or below. Lower leg strength is vital for running, especially at distance. Limiting time on the ground and being &#x201C;light on the feet&#x201D; vs. &#x201C;landing hard&#x201D; can be trained. Drills involving light plyometrics are a good entry and may be followed in time by a full plyometric routine during strength training.
Remember: Power, GPS and HR equipment can fail at any point and the RPE experience gained from perfect practice can be race-saving.
Race Schedule and Evaluation Help your client choose an &#x201C;A&#x201D; level half- event properly and you&#x2019;ll give him
or her the best chance at a good finish. Obviously, a fast 200-pound athlete will struggle on a hilly course against an equally matched (by power and pace) 150-pounder. Perhaps they want the challenge of improving on that type course, but if they&#x2019;re
8 MONTHS OUT: Complete three or four 5k or 10k races to set/confirm run pacing zones.
6 MONTHS OUT: After 2-3 months of work, this is a good time for a half marathon. Try for a PR.
5 MONTHS OUT:
A sprint tri/duathlon, doing the bike as a max effort to confirm/reset training zones. First swim/run is a warm-up; hang on for the second run.
4 MONTHS OUT: An Olympic-distance race at best effort to check current zones, fueling and endurance. Reevaluate strengths and weaknesses and plan accordingly for the final training blocks. Some athletes (with a number of halves already under their belt) will benefit from a half-iron race at this time to test bike fitness and fueling. Keep the run to iron-distance pace or below.
3 MONTHS OUT:
Perhaps another Olympic or sprint triathlon and a 10k.
3 WEEKS OUT: Begin taper, no racing.
RACE WEEK: Active rest.
Break down and evaluate each race from start to finish. Begin with meals and sleep a couple days out. You&#x2019;ll find places where speed was literally left on the course like a dropped water bottle via variability in caloric intake, power and pace. If great hunger is experienced at any point, immediately go to
PERFORMANCECOACHING | page 11 (continued on next page)
By John Stewart USA Triathlon Level II Certified Coach
trying for a podium, pick a course that suits their strengths. This is also important if they want a pro card and need to finish within a certain percentage of the leaders. And finally, help them choose their competition wisely since some races attract more/faster pros than others &#x2014; it makes a difference when a minute or two will eliminate them. Racing frequently will improve power and pace management and comfort level/ tolerance with higher intensity.
10 MONTHS OUT: Offseason
workouts to maintain basic abilities and build a low intensity base.
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