Strava and your relationship with speed

For those of you with a Strava account, what have you noticed about your behaviour in relation to the app? Have you noticed anything? Have you ever stopped to consider it?

What if I told you that if you don’t consider your relationship with Strava it could kill you. Have I got your attention now? I’m not going to apologise, I nearly witnessed a friend go over a car bonnet because of his relationship with Strava.

What happened? He wanted to look good to others. He thought that other people looking at his ride would see a high average speed for a ride, which would somehow indicate that he was a good rider.

He wanted to maintain a high average speed for the ride he uploaded to Strava. For him to do so meant not stopping at a junction. I stopped for a car. He didn’t. He looked, saw the car and ignored it. In that moment, his Strava average speed was more important. He was nearly killed. Fortunately, he was quick enough through the junction and the car driver braked sufficiently to avoid smearing him across the tarmac. Lucky! That time.

If this is you then please spare some time and thought to your ego, your relationship with such apps and comparing yourself to others. Raising your self awareness can really help change your behaviours for the better.

I’m glad to report the guy is still alive. I really like him but was afraid to have the conversation with him at the coffee stop. At this moment in time, I’ve still not said anything to him. Maybe he got the message from the near miss? Maybe not.

Maybe someone can chip in with some helpful suggestions to overcome my fear of having the difficult conversations.

 

Is riding ‘easy’ hard for you?

In order to examine this issue and for you to answer the question for yourself, let’s define what I mean by easy.

An easy ride in this sense is the amount of effort you apply to the pedals while riding your bike.

Think in terms of every second of the ride. That’s every second. Not just when you’re going downhill or on the flats. I mean every second. Yes, that includes the inclines.

But, that’s impossible, you reply. You can’t go uphill at an easy effort.

This might be true but here lies the challenge…can you? The challenge is to go easy or maintain your easy effort up your particular incline.

It is this that makes the ride hard for some people.

Can you maintain an easy effort whilst riding uphill?

Coached Events…

I have had the pleasure of coaching athletes that have taken part in the following events:

140.6/Ironman/Challenge/long course triathlon
World Championships (Kona)
Lanzarote
Embrunman
Norseman
Deca/quintuple
UK
Roth
Port Macquarie
Barcelona
Coeur D’Alene
St George
Melbourne
Western Australia
Lake Tahoe
Arizona
Nice
Zurich

ETU/ITU long course triathlon
Long Distance Triathlon World Championships (GB age group team)
Long Distance Triathlon European Championships (GB age group team)

70.3 triathlon
Vineman
Geelong
Big Kahuna
Zell am See
St Polten
Lisboa
Outlaw
Swashbuckler
Vitruvian
Mallorca
Henley
Oceanside
Day in the Lakes
New Forest Middle
Lake Stevens
Wildflower
Hellvelyn
Wales
Hever Castle

Standard Distance triathlon
World Championships (GB age group team)
European Championships (GB age group team)
Escape from Alcatraz
Wildflower
Little Beaver
London
Silicon Valley
Donner Lake
Dambuster
Stowe
Shropshire
Deva
Bedford
Strathclyde
Marlow
Eton Dorney
Worthing

Sprint triathlon
Blenheim
Schongau (Germany)
Morgan Hill
Moraga
UC Davis
Hever Castle
Eton
Thames Turbo series

Ultra Running
UTMB
Western States 100
Winter 100
Fellsman
Lakeland 50 & 100
10 Peaks (Wales)
Lakes in a Day
Rock ‘n’ River 50
London 50K

Marathon
Boston
Chicago
Tokyo
London
Barcelona
San Francisco
Milton Keynes
Marathon (Greece)
Brighton

Half Marathon
San Francisco
Marrakesh
Barns Green
Kaiser
Walnut Creek
San Ramon
Richmond
Wokingham

10 miler
Tadworth
Cabbage Patch

10K
Chevin Chase
Richmond
Bromley
Abbey Dash

Cycling Sportives
Paris Roubaix
Tour of Flanders
Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Etape (TdF)
Marmotte
Nove Colli
New Forest 100
Surrey Rumble
Ride 100 London
Around the Bay (Australia)
Three Peaks (Australia)
Mt Taranaki (New Zealand)
Lake Taupo Challenge (New Zealand)
America’s Most Beautiful
Hell of Ashdown
Fred Whitton
Etape du Dales
Dartmoor Classic
New Forest Rattler
Etape Pennines
Exmoor Beast
Etape Caledonian
Dragon Ride
Soth Downs Way (MTB, two days)
Etape Cymru

TT
Mt Diablo Summit

Open Water Swims
Hampton Court

Thinking fit world qualifier

“Forget gym membership, get a coach” is the view of 36 year-old, Dr Rachael Addicott who has just qualified for the 2013 ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships (4km swim, 120km bike, 30km run), 1-2 June Belfort, France.

Rachael, originally from Melbourne, Australia has dual citizenship and has been living in the UK for eleven years. She was keen to race on an international stage, but qualifying for the Australian national team meant competing in her home country, something that Great Britain doesn’t insist on for the long distance team.

She said: “I just want to see how far I can take this. It’s a shame I can’t wear the green and gold of Australia. With the success of the Olympics and the popularity of triathlon in England at the moment, getting in to the GB team is a real achievement.”

Like many city workers, Rachael used to suffer running to try to shed the pounds and was very image conscious.

“Now I’m more interested in how my body works rather than how it looks to others. I still feel like my legs are quite big, but I am more concerned about whether they can get me up hills rather than into a pair of jeans”.

Rachael qualifies for the GB Long Distance Triathlon Team - Big Kahuna, California 2012

Rachael qualifies for the GB Long Distance Triathlon Team – Big Kahuna, California 2012

“When you work with a coach and have a plan then you are training with purpose not just jogging around a park at the same speed, frustrated at not getting any faster”.

“I used to enter events like ‘Run to the Beat’ and the ‘Nike 10k’, which are great, don’t get me wrong. But now I have a plan I’m more race focused rather than just turning up and surviving it along with thousands of others”.

Like many age-group triathletes, Rachael fits her triathlon training around a busy working life as Senior Research Fellow at The Kings Fund, a health policy think tank.

“I used to dream about being able to do a triathlon but the swimming held me back. So, when someone pointed me in the direction of city-based swim coach, Stephanie Ellis from Stroke Works, I decided to learn to swim (properly!). That was three years ago and now I’m competing on a world stage. No-one’s more surprised than me”.

“These days I’m 10 kilos lighter just from following my weekly training plan not by counting calories like I used to. I now look at the skinny girls in the city who I used to compare myself to, and just smile. As a woman, I feel very liberated by sport and as a bonus…I know that I’d kick their arse..!”

Welcome back to the norm

Welcome back 37 year-old assistant orthopaedic surgeon and father of four (!) Norman Yamada, who this year will be racing sprint, Olympic and half iron distance triathlons.

Based in San Ramon, California, 2012 was Norm’s first season of coached triathlon training in which he targeted Vineman 70.3 as his key race.

This year, as well as returning to Vineman 70.3, he will tackle the infamous choppy Bay swells during the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.

As with many athletes Norm is a family man and juggles commitments at home with a busy working life.

Norm took some time out towards the end of last season to support his wife in welcoming their fourth child.

The Yamada Family with new arrival Hana Miyoko Yamada

The Yamada Family with new arrival Hana Miyoko Yamada

Norm said: “My wife was really supportive of my training last year but once things at home had settled down I was keen to build on the fitness I achieved in 2012.

“Toby has helped a lot by modifying my training sessions so I can train more at home and spend as much time as possible with my family.”

Coach Toby said: “Norm is lucky, he has a very supportive family. With such pressures on his time, building peak fitness is a challenge and like many athletes with busy schedules we go for a quality rather than quantity approach.”

Time to Plan

Coming to the end of a calendar year can be an ideal time to take stock, look back on what you have achieved, celebrate your successes and plan for next year.

The media is full of stories about more and more people taking up sport and leading a healthier lifestyle. This is particularly evident in the UK at the moment, where the success of the British Olympic team, especially in cycling and triathlon, has meant an increased interest in these sports with events selling out faster than ever before.

Don’t miss out

Last year, Ironman Melbourne sold out in record time, many of the legendary trail runs have decade long waiting lists, sportives have huge waiting lists.

From personal experience, I just missed out on registering for next year’s Vitruvian triathlon, by two days, which now means the earliest I can do this event is 2014..!

Create a wish list of events

Since 2008, I’ve had a list of events/races/courses that I would like to do and have fortunately been able to tick a number of these off every year. The list continues to grow and event priorities change due to my circumstances.

The main point being, start a list and capture every event you’ve ever wanted to do. Research the sports that you like and pick out events that appeal to you, your budget, family, travel, etc.

Chart your events

The next step is to write all the events down by month, day on a page of A4 or next year’s calendar if you have one. Depending on your sport and race season(s) you’ll soon notice popular months.

Categorize

When I’ve put everything down I then assign an A, B or C category to events based on my desire to do the race, travel, family commitments and a whole host of other personal circumstances. If you have a coach talk to them at this stage and together agree the objectives for these A races and what the training implications are.

Working backwards from my A events (I usually pick two or three per year), I can start eliminating events that will interfere with the necessary training plan. For example, if you want to be competitive at Ironman Wales then you won’t be doing Challenge Henley, which is on the same day, but The Dragon Ride could be an option if worked in to your training plan.

Talk to your partner

Before I start paying for events, travel and accommodation, I always ask those around me that might be impacted by my decision to do a race. This should be your partner but may also include your wider family and friends if you’re planning to stay with them because they are close to the start line.

Get help from your coach

When creating your plan get input from your coach who will be able to give you ideas about training implications and what other events might fit around your A races.

Register as soon as possible

Once I have all my races down on paper, decided which ones I really want to do and got agreements from my support crew then I set about registering.

This may not always work out, as you may find you’re too late, in which case go back and re-assess your priority races, Challenge Henley might now be possible.

Once you’ve registered your A races the next thing to do is book accommodation (or make sure there is availability at the same time as this may decide whether you do a race or not). Being close to the start line will ensure you get as much sleep as possible. Being close to the finish line will mean less faff and a quick getaway if this is important to you.

Find out when registration opens

It’s a good idea to research your desired events years in advance and find out when they open for registration. My calendar is populated with events I’ve registered for or the date registration opens with calendar alerts to make sure I don’t miss opening times, which can be midnight, 4am, 9am, etc. the day after the event finished that year.

In the UK, for cycling, triathlon and ultras my current thinking is to start trying to register for next years’ events on 1st October the year before.

I was a little late this year and paid the price but having now drawn up my plan for 2013 I’m looking forward to the exciting challenges ahead. I just hope it keeps me motivated through the British winter.

Watts Happened

Price being the main hurdle, it has taken me years to commit to buying a power meter and like so many riders before me, I wish I’d done it earlier. Since the beginning of this year I’ve been training and racing with a power meter.

If you are ever looking to buy a pair of race wheels, buy a power meter instead. Instead of a new bike, buy a power meter. In fact, I would go so far as to say, if you are considering a Time Trial bike/frame buy a power meter for your road bike and convert it with clip on aero bars.

That is if you want to be a better cyclist.

A power meter will improve your riding more than a new bike could. You will go faster on your current bike with a power meter than you ever will on the latest Pinarello. A power meter won’t necessarily make you look good but it will make you look smart.

A power meter isn’t magic, you still have to do the training. But, training with power is like being on the inside, being more grown up, there is a certain ‘Ahhhhhhhhh…I get it now’ and that is a great feeling to have.

There’s some essential reading to get to grips with to ensure you understand what you are doing and to help you improve.

Cutting-Edge Cycling
Training and Racing with a Power Meter
The Power Meter Handbook

Reading the books and completing some of the simple tests will give you an understanding of the rider you are (strengths and weaknesses), how to become the rider you want to be, whether that’s a climber, sprinter, time trialist, etc. and they provide plenty of training sessions to improve specific areas of your fitness.

In less than a season I am already a better cyclist and triathlete. Over the coming months I’ll write more about training and racing with watts to convince you it’s the best investment you can make.

To whet your appetite though, how about…

– Why training with power is better than training with heart rate.
– Why power beats RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) as a scale.
– How a power meter helped me know that I HAD returned to fitness.
– Beating the weather using power.
– Using power in a triathlon.
– Testing with power.
– Better pacing, climbing.
– Better coaching.

Test: Running

Every month during my recovery week I test myself in each sport to set my training zones for power, heart rate and pace for the coming month.

This is an overview of this month’s running test.

Without an assistant, the test I often use is Joe Friel’s CP30 Test. Once I have my average heart rate for the last 20 minutes of the test I drop it in to Training Peaks (the web-based planning application I use with all my athletes), which calculates the zones for me. Then whenever I upload my data from a run the program logs and calculates the time I spent in each of my heart rate zones so that I can manage my training load over time.

It’s important to replicate the conditions for each test as closely as possible. Trying to get the same amount of sleep beforehand, eat the same foods prior, test at the same time of day, same weather conditions, wear the same kit, use the same course, etc. Of course some of this is in, and some of this is out, of your control. The closer you can replicate each test the more accurate and comparable the results.

The results (using my Garmin 310XT):

Garmin File: CP30 Test, Running

CP30 Test Data in Garmin Connect

CP30 Test Data in Garmin Connect

ITU Long Course Recce

I recently spent a week in Vegas on a friend’s stag/bachelor party. Knowing that I was returning a month later for the ITU Long Course World Championships and to get out in the fresh air (smoking is allowed in the casinos!), I took my bike so that I could recce the course.

There is a lot of information (some more useful than others) about the course and what to expect, here:

2011 ITU Long Course World Championship website

The 2011 Ironman 70.3 World Championship was held on most of the course and useful info can be found here:

Ironman 70.3 World Championship, Lake Las Vegas

Also, YouTube has a collection of useful videos:

Ironman 70.3 World Championships YouTube clips

In addition to this I thought I would upload my own thoughts on the course having done a recce last week.

Swim:

This is a straightforward out and back course, entering from T1 and swimming under the arches to the start line. Keeping to the left of the bouys, it’s about 1.8km to the first right turn, 225m to the final right turn, then return to the Novella, under the arches and exit on the left with a run around the bottom of the lake in to T1. Flat, non-tidal but could get some wind chop depending on the strength of the wind.

T1:

Not that much to say on top of doing your own walkthrough of entry to your bike station, exit, etc. Quite a sizeable, flat run into transition and a good flat section to get your feet in after the mount line.

Bike:

A small loop around Lake Las Vegas, a climb from the roundabout near T1 all the way up to Lake Mead Parkway. We turn right initially and it would be worth doing a recce of the layout of the tunnel that will take us under the road to avoid making a left hand turn back towards the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Watch out for sand and rocks if it rains

Watch out for sand and rocks if it rains
Underpass to get on to Lake Mead Parkway

Underpass to get on to Lake Mead Parkway

At about 10km you’re at the highest point (about 2500ft) of the Lake Mead section, which is a thunderous descent for about 7kms.

Note: The whole lake section is very exposed and susceptible to gusting winds. When I recce’d I was into a head wind (and from the left) going along Lakeshore Road to the first turn point managing about 25km/h in some sections. Then after turn one, with the wind behind me, I was sat up and travelling at 70km/h+. Think Ironman Lanzarote and be prepared to change your kit on race day (make sure you can control that deep section front wheel!). Northshore Road is also exposed, helpful on the way out but after turn point two it was a grind in places.

Wind aside, the two sections around the lake are a time trialer’s delight, rolling hills, nothing steep, fast smooth tarmac surface…enjoy. The main drag (which is steady) comes from the bottom of Northshore Road, right back on to East lake Mead Drive and back to Lake Mead Parkway.

Northshore Road descent, climb up to Lake Mead Parkway, Lake Las Vegas (left)

Northshore Road descent, climb up to Lake Mead Parkway, Lake Las Vegas (left)

Now for the interesting bit. We have to join the River Mountains Loop Trail (seriously worth recce-ing this section), something Alexander et al did not have to do during the 70.3 World Championships.

This is a very narrow eight-mile desert section taking us towards Henderson and T2. It has about three or four short sharp climbs early on, some fast descents with sharp corners worth noting, then mainly open and wind exposed long false flat sections. The field should be strung out by this time but bunches could form and passing will be interesting (pick your moments and be vocal, Brits remember that it is ‘on your left’ over here). Also, if it has rained or rains on race day, sand and stones do get washed on to the course.

These should give you an idea…

Sand on course, first short/steep ascent

Sand on course, first short/steep ascent
Sand on course, fast descent in to sharp left.

Sand on course, fast descent in to sharp left.
Tyre selection...some deep tarmac cracks in places

Tyre selection…some deep tarmac cracks in places
Second short/steep uphill section

Second short/steep uphill section
Fast decent, chicane then third short/steep uphill

Fast decent, chicane then third short/steep uphill
Third short/sharp uphill

Third short/sharp uphill
Steep descent with short/sharp hill

Steep descent with short/sharp hill
Fast descent with chicane, caution: sand on bend

Fast descent with chicane, caution: sand on bend
Very fast descent with sharp left

Very fast descent with sharp left
Pylon alley: Not my idea of a beautiful course

Pylon alley: Not my idea of a beautiful course
Long, long, long straight. If it's windy this will be very slow.

Long, long, long straight. If it’s windy this will be very slow.
Take a right off the trail

Take a right off the trail
Trail exit

Trail exit

After the desert section, we join the main roads, which get more and more suburban as we get closer to T2 (the only part that will attract the public’s attention).

The course goes along another trail for a short period, roll out the blue matting…

Let's hope they finish the course..! Left on to another trail before a railway crossing

Let’s hope they finish the course..! Left on to another trail before a railway crossing

The final section is made up of flats, some gradual inclines/declines, with a notable fast descent at 109kms for about 3.5kms before steadily rising again to the bike finish with plenty of time to get your feet out and spin.

T2 is a 21km drive away from the start and T1, map. Nothing much to add other than to recce as usual.

T2, Henderson Pavilion

T2, Henderson Pavilion

Run:

The most notable thing about the run course is that there is very little flat. We will be running either up or down on about a 2% grade. There is little to no breeze and when I ran it in 36-degree heat, I found it very draining. Don’t go out too fast, pace well as the incline and decline will add up over four laps. It doesn’t look much at first but it will be interesting to see how it takes its toll on athletes.

First turn out of T2 area on to Paseo Verde Parkway (downhill)

First turn out of T2 area on to Paseo Verde Parkway (downhill)
Paseo Verde Parkway (downhill)

Paseo Verde Parkway (downhill)
Paseo Verde Parkway (downhill)

Paseo Verde Parkway (downhill)
First turn point...it's all uphill back to T2 and towards turn point 2

First turn point…it’s all uphill back to T2 and towards turn point 2
Back up Paseo Verde Parkway

Back up Paseo Verde Parkway
Up Green Valley Parkway (as far as you can see and then some) towards turn point 2

Up Green Valley Parkway (as far as you can see and then some) towards turn point 2
Down Green Valley Parkway

Down Green Valley Parkway

Running around a new neighbourhood – it’s not going to be the most memorable of run courses, but may attract some spectators other than those you brought with you.

Overall:

A spectacular desert course that will be especially striking to European competitors.

An unusual eight-mile narrow track that will make things interesting.

The weather will be a massive factor on race day (wind and heat) and you will need to choose kit wisely (difficult with excess baggage charges these days).

You will not need a compact on this course. I’m not a strong cyclist and recce’d the course in a large compact chain ring easily. So, 53/39/25 but stronger riders may want to go bigger.

Wheels: If there is high wind, deep dish rear only. No wind, deep dish wheels or disc rear.

Time trial setup, aero helmet, etc. All the wind cheating accessories you own, you will need it on this course.

Plan how you will get to and from T1, T2 and team hotels. Swap mobile numbers with someone staying at the team hotel or the team manager so you don’t miss any notices going up on team noticeboards. I once turned up to race and the start time was put back an hour, I wasn’t staying in the team hotel so no one told me..!!!

I’m looking forward to the event, have a great race. If you have any questions drop me a line.

Tarantula Trail Training

With the move to San Francisco comes the welcome opportunity to train in a new environment with a better climate, challenging terrain and a variety of different wildlife.

Having settled inland from the City in the East Bay regional town of Walnut Creek, I’ve been exploring the 20,000-acre Mt Diablo State Park on the bike, with its 10.8 mile summit climb and on foot with various trails going up and around the summit.

Mt Diablo

It was out running on the trails when I stopped to read a local noticeboard.

A sign on a local trail noticeboard

A sign on a local trail noticeboard

Having read this I thought it wise to read up on anything else that I might encounter whilst running around the mountain. Errrrrr…coyotes now seem rather tame when compared to rattle snakes, tarantulas and mountain lions..!

Camera on full zoom...

Camera on full zoom…

Aware that I was losing the light whilst out running the other night, I decided that instead of running the trails back home and risking getting lost, I’d opt for the road. A longer route but easier to navigate home. I thought this was a smart move only to realise that when the park cools down the wildlife seeks the last remaining heat of the day by crawling, creeping and sliding on to the warm tarmac.

Thankfully, I only came across one snake, cuddling a cats-eye in the middle of the road and didn’t feel any significantly large crunches under foot thank goodness. I’ll set off earlier next time.