Coaching Update #5

Weekly Updates:

2011-03-21 to 2011-03-27

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 85 km 2:50:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 85.08 km 7:22:25 5:34 5:12 4:27 min per km
Swim 7350 m 2:55:00 2:26 2:23 2:20 min per 100 meters
Yoga 0 mi 0:50:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 13 hrs 57min One Day Off

2011-03-28 to 2011-04-03

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 90 km 3:00:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 85.41 km 7:04:32 6:00 4:58 4:04 min per km
Swim 7000 m 2:40:00 2:30 2:17 2:06 min per 100 meters
Yoga 0 mi 0:40:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 13 hrs 24min One Day Off

2011-04-04 to 2011-04-10

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 90 km 3:00:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 75.49 km 6:35:22 8:48 5:14 4:08 min per km
Swim 1500 m 0:25:00 1:40 1:40 1:40 min per 100 meters
Yoga 0 mi 0:50:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 10 hrs 50min One Day Off

2011-04-11 to 2011-04-17

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 128 km 4:20:00 24 29.54 30 kph
Run 50.71 km 3:58:41 6:07 4:42 4:01 min per km
Swim 1000 m 0:20:00 2:00 2:00 2:00 min per 100 meters
Yoga 0 mi 0:10:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 8 hrs 48min One Day Off

This was a big run training block. In fact it was huge. Together, these four weeks represent 25 hours spent running and 184 miles covered. They brought my run fitness from nothing special in early March after a few disrupted weeks of very poor training (no excuses, but also no regrets about that – details were in Update #4). I put together a series of workouts with great focus, good nutrition, and rather careful attention to not overdo anything. A big help to motivation was that everything had a purpose. I was clear on why I had added everything to my plate regarding training and so when I was out there running I knew what kind of training stimulus I was hoping to apply to my body. Sometimes it was simple, “another 40 minutes of forefoot running in the ecco biom shoes”, which I’m confident has been contributing to greater efficiency and much stronger lower legs. Other times workouts were race specific, training my ability to run marathon pace at the point in my long run where my stored glycogen was on the edge of being depleted. This knowledge of why I was doing things helped get me out the door. And getting out the door and training is an absolute prerequisite to getting to the start line and being ready to race.

The body has responded. In discussion with my coach after that inopportune gap in my training he encouraged me to not completely rule out the option of an aggressive return to training. If you listen to how you feel and are careful not to stretch yourself to the point of destruction, it’s possible not to start from square one. It wasn’t reckless advice, it was actually exactly the opposite. It was a reminder to be careful about both what I was asking myself to do and how I was responding to it on a daily basis, not just on a week-by-week time horizon. I jumped back into training, and my training stress balance (TSB) on the run went negative (green line at left). Last season when focused on progressing my running but also doing a lot of cycling and swimming I was able to handle with no problems a TSB of -2. I could handle without any extended recovery, dips to -3 during the early season, but later in the year found that I was limited by general fatigue from doing enough to reach those deep depths of TSB. So, I figured that -3 would be a good general target and that I’d see if I could handle dips to -4.

I’ve mentioned before that I like to use different units than the conventional TSS, if you want to compare, one of my units is 1 hour of aerobic activity per week, at mid to high zone 2, which amounts to around 50 TSS, and one hour at threshold amounts to two units, or 100 TSS.

That’s generally how things went, I maintained a stress balance with my running of a bit below -3 for a whole month and I’d stretch it past -4 with my key sessions of the week. There were a couple occasions where I just ignored the extra interval-section of my shorter runs, but I did strides frequently and never compromised on the plans around the long run sessions of the week. Overall, for this period of time, my weekly hours were nothing spectacularly high, in fact they trailed off a bit, as I chopped a bit of swimming out to make sure I could do the running. I was also running a bit faster as the weeks progressed during aerobic conditioning runs and so the total time it took to get the weekly mileage targets was reduced. As a whole, my net TSB was never more than -1 below my run TSB alone. That’s the benefit of doing a lot of aerobic development on the skis over the course of the winter. I was capable of training the run harder by shifting focus without having to add a whole bunch of focus. That strategy was a good one.

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts

The current chronic load at 6.4 hours/week is the same as a CTL of 46 TSS/day. I’ll try to taper my TSB to about 12-18 TSS/day which amounts to getting around 1.5-2.0 on my scale. That’s where I was when I ran well at Ironman, when I ran well at Great White North, and when I ran well at Chinook in 2011. It’s also the same runTSB from Calgary 70.3 in 2009 when I had a dismal performance, but I’ll attribute that to heat and over-reaching rather than poor prep. I can get into that range without much difficulty in the next two weeks, which is exactly what a taper should be:

Expected metrics for race-day:
CTL=6.0hrs and TSB=+2.0hrs
(CTL=43TSS/day and TSB=14TSS/day)

This week:
Photo from gallery: Spring 2011
Next Week:
Photo from gallery: Spring 2011

So, what are the markers of progression?

First, I got my chronic training stress from running higher than it has ever been in my life. That’s the red line above, it’s not ahead of last June by much, only a half percentage, but it’s ahead none the less. That stat is a tough one to move, and it’s not a random fluctuation that I’m at last season’s run fitness. I’ll go back to the beginning of this post: 184 miles in four weeks – that’s why I’m back in ready-to-race fitness.

Secondly and more in depth: Back in mid-February I had my VO2max tested as a part of a research study and found I scored 61.2 L/kg/min. That was alright, I thought it was pretty good for early season actually. That same week I tested my MAF fitness with a 5km TT at 160 bpm which I botched up a bit and ran it with an average HR of 164. In any case, the tested pace of 4:28/km resulted in an estimate of my VO2score of 61.29 on the run. (The formulae for calculating these scores is from Alan Couzens of Endurance corner and the details are here: That nicely matched the recorded actual VO2max and so I’m working directly with an unmodified formulation of the measurements. This weekend at the St Albert 10 Miler, I averaged a HR of 167 and thus scored a VO2score of 66.3 which indicates I’ve made a fitness improvement of a bit more than 8% over the course of the past two months. That’s indicative of real progress!

One of the things that I think is a bit hokey about trying to measure these things quantitatively is that if you train with a lot of specificity for your testing protocol, then your performance at the testing protocol is going to be skewed in favour of showing that you are better than you might be in reality. There are studies out there that show that your performance in power output over a 1 hour max effort is a good guide for what your performance could be over an ultra-distance triathlon. There’s also studies that show you can estimate your 1 hour max effort quite well by doing only a 20 minute max effort and then adjusting the result slightly. Well, if you start training specifically to perform well at the 20min TT, you might improve your result, but by doing so you are probably also reducing the effectiveness of the estimation that it is for your performance at the much longer race. If you can improve 11% at your 20min speed, 8% of that could be attributed to fitness, and 3% could be attributed to the skill of performing the 20 min test. Only the 8% is going to translate to other measures of athletic capability, your skill for 20min TTing is good if your race is a 20min test.

I made the long explanation as a round-about way of saying. I was doing everything in training that I know how to do that will get me specificity at the marathon test (which is the race). Meaning that when on the weekend I measure that I think I’m in 8% better shape at the moment based on a few numbers, maybe I have also got 3% of marathon skills improvement that doesn’t show up in the fitness testing protocol because I wasn’t practicing to be tested at anything other than the marathon. We’ll see how this works out. I can’t say that I know what my marathon readiness was like in February because I couldn’t test it, and so I can’t tell you after the race in two weeks if I was 7% better or 10 % better, or even 25% better. I do think there’s something to that though. We watched Ryan Hall run a crazy fast marathon in Boston yesterday, but a few weeks ago he wasn’t ready to put together a fast half marathon. Why’s that? He’s got the fitness plus the skills for marathoning. He might have more skills than anyone on the planet, because he coached himself to do it. He attributed it to being strong, and in the post race interview I heard someone asking if he was going to get fast at some short distance stuff so he could be faster in the marathon. His response was a round-about way of saying “no”, maybe he’ll do some faster stuff because he’s interested in seeing how fast he can run 5000m on the track, but to be fast at the marathon he said he needed to be strong. That was encouraging. I wasn’t “fast enough” to be “fast” at the 10 miler this past weekend, that was my limiter on the flats and on the descents. But I was definitely strong enough to keep going, I have power in my legs even when they’re tired. I think that means I’m even more ready for a marathon than I am for 10 miles, that’s my 3%.

In two weeks we will see!

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