Sunday, November 6, 2011

Collserola Trail Running - Playing with Fire!

So darn - the autumn finally came to Barcelona and we´re having some hyggelig days here with rain, which kept us from hitting the bikes as planned. Instead I hooked up with Toni, Albert and Guillermo for running in the mountains above Barcelona - excellent company- screw the rain!  As Albert explains in the video below we played with fire, which made it a long day with 24 km, 2 hours 15 min and 1100 meter of climbing. I feel like much, much more trail running this winter - will try to look out for roots on the track ....

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Barcelona Boiler - Testing on the Rollers

So time was up for a first test on the bike and the command was 30 minutes warm-up on the turbo trainer and then 20 minutes full throttle in what is known as the Functional Threshold Power Test (FTP). FTP is the highest mean average power or pace you can maintain for one hour. So basically this test is giving you an estimate of your maximal output during one hour at full gas, but for testing purposes you can estimate the same during 20 minutes and then subtract 5% of the power produces. Based on this test you can set your training zones and even estimate the power you optimally need to deliver for a successful Ironman Bike leg.

Have to admit I was still a bit tired after the London trip - not so much all the pints, but walking and standing up a lot made the legs feel heavy on Sunday & Monday. Further, testing with the power meter and uploading this to Trainingpeaks means full transparency on each darned little move you make on the bike. No way you can hide anything for Coach Aleks, even though he is 2000km away.This is intimidating in a nice way and works as motivation of course!  Will write a bit on (TP) one of these days.

Barcelona is still experiencing a warm Indian summer and I set the AC to blow cold wind onto the bike and my back. Off we go with some isotonic and a gel. Last time I tested around 290W on an uphill, so thought this must be around the level where I should start out. My heartrate quickly blew up to 175bpm and it was boiling hot. Kept the average around 280 for first 7-8 minutes and then ran into a crisis and had to lower expectations and power somewhat. Final averages were 254W and then 175bpm - check the graphs from TP below.

Testing on the trainer is definitely something you have to learn - managing and timing power over the test period. It is very precise and you can keep the output very stable as there are no external factors (wind, hills, etc). I need more ventilation - big blower to be purchased today. I am no big fan of indoor training, but once you actually have strong purpose, things get easier and time flies. Definitely room for improvements on the bike test here - will test again with a 2 weeks frequency and this is a great way to measure progress.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Your Sister Wants her Shorts Back!!!!

Just what a real Ironman thinks while training on Diagonal. WARP SPEED - ENGAGE !!!!

Argon 18 on Tourmalet

Argon 18 boys on 3 peaks in the Pyreness - good, sunny and tough day at the office.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Happier, Healthier, Stronger... Sir, Yes Sir!

So -  promised you an update on much of the dope shit going down in Barcelona currently:

Many things are keeping me over-average happy these days. One key thing (though currently not nearly the most important) is the new collaboration signed in blood with Out Of Bubblegum and Aleksander Markovic, already a dear friend, by far the most serious & competent triathlon coach I have ever met - and who shares many of my own viewpoints in life!  This is certainly very exciting and I can´t express how much I want this thing to get going. Aleks have a quite different view on training, opposing the traditional oldskool methods (most including loooong, slooow, base, core...blablabla...) that kept me going and constantly tired for the last 36 months. Hence, after this upcoming weekend and a much-anticipated trip to London with the Alsing brother we will kick this off: 

Initial changes will include:
  • Initiating trainings towards Ironman Frankfurt already now, based on a more Kaizen (small steps) training philosophy.
  • Constantly measuring improvements - if you don´t get stronger week by week, change the way you train. On the opposite, if you DO improve - keep it up. Don´t fix it if it aint broken.
  • Power-based training and feedback - The SRM and my old HRM will come in handy here, providing truths (and lies I am sure) to each step along the way.
  • Collaboration and monitoring based on which initially make the physical 2000km between me and my coach feel much shorter - will write a post on this tool, once I have it under my skin. 
  • Learn to swimming faster and train more focused - what the fuck is a Metronome?
  • Running faster - initial goal is 10km in sub36 minutes ... that´s around 3 minutes from my PR.
  • Eating more Mayonnaise - according to Aleks this is the juice of Gods, that makes an Ironman clockwork tick!  No seriously - I have to find out, what has made 4 out of 6 Ironman races a nightmare for my stomach, before and during the races. Powerbar Gels Adios!

The photo above shows Graeme Stewart running to an 11th place (congrats again mate) in Challenge Barcelona and Aleksander running next to him while shouting splits. To me, this is truly a great image of engagement from both sides - thanks for showing me this chaps!

Quoting the motto for Aleksander´s Coaching Regime somehow sets the mood, looking at Ironman Frankfurt which is still almost 10 months away:
"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass...and I'm all out of bubblegum."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Toni, Ferran and Josef in Marathon des Sables ...

Some of my best friends and training partners running this tough stage race in Sahara. Loads of respect and certainly a dream to join these boys in the desert one day! VAMOS!


Monday, October 10, 2011

Season Ending - Season Starting

Sooooo - welcome back, bit news on all fronts here. New blog and got rid of a bunch of noise - so NOT A TEA PARTY is just low-key, no bullshit stuff - same crap as always.

Initially the season ended with a blast race-wise:  2 Half Ironman and the Full Ironman Distance Challenge Barcelona. Coming of a summer full of trainings, travels, festivals and being in Copenhagen for 2 months was potentially not the best preparation, but I feel like racing and there is always something new to learn.

Long story short, ICAN Mallorca was great, but extremely hot on the run. Berga Sailfish just an awesome organization with a killer run with loads of climbing and hot again - and then good old Challenge Barcelona;  Finally got to race on real home turf and and flat course. Good swim and PR on the bike (4h55m) and then ran into some stomach troubles (again??) on the run - legs felt fantastic after pacing OK on the bike, helped by the SRM Power Meter (though it cheated me a bit), felt quite hungry on the last 25km on the bike, which is always a bad sign. Then already 5km into the run I felt a bit dizzy and walked through and aid station and almost lost my footing - poured liters of cold water over me, fueled madly on coke, gels and energy-drinks, but never really came our of the dark before the sun went down and temperatures dropped below 30. All in all a good lesson learned again and having Aleksander here the whole weekend was a huge inspiration - loads of take-aways whichs I will share here over the next couple of months as we start kicking of trainings again.

Next big one is Ironman Frankfurt in July next year. Most people would go "dude - take a few months off and focus on something else, like getting hammered, go lazy & fat, go back to climbing and skateboarding - then come back to triathlon". This year will be different however - I will keep it right up and will soon share some new plans on how I will be working towards Frankfurt.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ironman St. George - Mormon Waterloo?

So, after 3 weeks of tapering (yuk I hate tapering), a big trip through San Francisco, & Las Vegas we finally arrived in our mega SUV to our mega condo in St. George Wednesday before the race. Mood was high, we rested and hydrated well. Got kinda scared when we drove the race course and checked-in - got numbers painted on the arms.

I had good really sensations, and it appears that I finally got rid of the pains in the achilles & calves, so was anxious to get started on Saturday morning, though temperatures where rising towards 35 degrees in the blazing desert-sun!

The swim was in a big and beautiful water reservoir - water temp. 17 degrees, blue skies and 2000 athletes in the water. I actually like the water start and I must say that the Americans was amazing - some people even stopped to say "sorry" if they hit you during the swim. So quickly found a good rhythm just outside of the main front pack. Already after around 500m I started to feel a bit too exhausted, which was strange... my breath and stroke was controlled, though I was kinda cold. Shortly after the first cramps kicked in, but I discarded it, kept swimming. More exhaustion and much more cramps had me stop to stretch a few times - got a bit off track and felt very tired and unmotivated. Exited the water and got shocked realizing that I had spend a record 1h18m swimming, more than 15 minutes more than expected - got the mood a bit further down!

Good transition and nice start on the bike... for around 20km. Hurling down one of the first hills at around 80km/h I realize that my handlebar is loose!! But the support and organization around the race was amazing so quickyl found a allen-key and continued. Hydrated well in the extremely warm & dry conditions, but really felt no power coming from my legs. Kept around 35km/h for the first 50km and then more cramps entered before the first climbs. Had nausea all the way through the bike, with no appetite and couldn´t take any gels or bars, so stuck to bananas. Loads of people passing me on the hills of the scenic route - I couldn't even maintain the aero-position on the flat parts on the course. It was honestly a tough struggle to even get through the first 100km, where I met Anders & Monica(cheering), who let me know that Guillermo was as bad as myself. The last round was a joke - I had elderly, overweight women (sorry, no pun intended) overtaking me on even smaller climbs - almost throwing up when I hydrated or ate and cramped the most weird places (hips, lower arms). Tried to enjoy the show, but coming down the last hill I could see the runners and the thought of a marathon in 40 degrees and 700m climbs was unbearable. Anders told me that Guillermo had decided to drop out, which was somewhat a relief. Coming into T2 he greeted me with a smile and we brought the refs the bad news and picked up our bags.

Of course a huge disappointment, but one that I can live with. Today I am still as exhausted as after a full e.g. IM Lanzarote, so feel I did what I could. We trained well and rested and tapered, following the same recipes as any other IM. I can´t find one good explanation of the lack of power and really prefer to leave it behind as an experience and lesson learned! Could be the dry climate, the heat, maybe jetlag... who knows.

The race was won at a new male record 8h32m and my age group improved its Kona qualifying time by almost 30 minutes, which will probably be around 10h05m.

Now another week of vacation in Las Vegas & California road trip awaits, so the mood is all good! IM Zurich awaits the 10th of July. Take care and enjoy this weekend!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Always something new to learn - bike fit with Fit4bike

As you may know, I have been riding the E114 with more of less the same bike fit or riding position since November 2010. I cut a few spacers out and lowered the handlebar to a pretty aggressive position, which initially caused me some pain in my shoulders. All change takes some time to get used to, so I have been doing many kilometers, training for IM St. George in this position and now finally find that I am almost there. Sunday I was 2.5 hours in aero position in the ICAN Marbella race with no pain and feeling really good, but you can always learn more.

Inspired by Louise, I found out that the Danish branch of Fit4bike was an ex-colleague from my years studying as an Engineer, Kim Visby - former professional triathlete and now co-owner of Fit4bike.

By exchanging a few videos with Kim, I quickly learned that a few changes was required:
  1. My left leg is longer than my right leg - compensate by putting spacers under right cycle shoe ... I am now riding with 6mm under that shoe. Also I made sure that the shoes are now as far apart as possible.
  2. My elbows needs to be further out in front - Kim suggested 1-2 cm, but will try 3cm as this is the next option the Argon18 E114 bike gives me. This is is somewhat a small weakness on this bike, as it has no stem - frame, handlebar and fork is fully integrated.
So with only 4 weeks to go to Ironman St. George it is of course a calculated risk to play with these settings, but I have full confidence, that the advice will help me. Worst case, I can change it back before race day.

It is truly a pleasure to work with such a competent person as Kim. As we´re both engineers educated from the same institute, its easy to understand and adapt to the Fit4bike-way of seeing the body as a machine, which can work optimally, given the right conditions on the bike!

I can strongly recommend working with Fit4bike which has office in Denmark and Spain (Madrid and Canary Islands) - find all contact details on their web, right here:

Check new comtemporary fit here:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Half Ironman ICAN Marbella - Not a Jedi yet

Finally time for first race in 2011 - important as preparation for Ironman St. George the 7th of May. The company could not be better & jolly, traveling with Monica & Guillermo, arriving to Marbella late Friday night.

Saturday meeting and greeting friends from Denmark, Barcelona and earlier races, some race-thoughts re-established themselves:
  1. I have frankly never really given a shit about time. Being serious about the sports in which I have competed, be it: golf, football, climbing or even skateboarding - it has always been more a quality thing over a pressure to push time, race against the clock and the field. This is all new to me, but a crucial necessity to learn and master, if we wanna make it through to the 7 or 8 (i.e. finishing in 7th or 8th place in my age group) slots that will give us a ticket to Ironman Hawaii, Kona. Guillermo is WAY more competitive (with some 300 tri-races completed) than myself on this aspect and I still have a lot to learn.

  2. Triathlon is a fantastic sport when it comes down to meet amazing people. There´s an almost-family-like feeling about the lunches and dinners or even to the "can-i-borrow-your-pump" on race morning. Great to meet Danish pros Jens & Aleksandar- admirable down-to earth attitude and making us proud on Sunday, finishing 5th & 7th respectively! Good work guys - keep it up!
Sun hasn´t even gotten up, so its still fairly twilight-ish when we (400 participants) jump onto the 1900m swim. Can´t see much yet, arms and legs everywhere - have to stop a few times, recover my goggles and cap that gets torn off at the 3rd buoy. Honestly feel pretty bad (panic may be the best word) in the water and I never find a good rhythm or fast pair of feet to draft behind, so I guess I can´t complain much about the 32 mins.

On the bike the heavy clouds are lurking over us and we reach a 4 lane highway with rolling hills after about 10km. with only one (1) day of tapering, I am sure I am still fairly tired, but my legs feel like on fire and I easily chase down a big bunch of people, both on the climbs and down-hill. It´s truly a great joy to be on top of the E-114 and just pounding past strong bikers. I fuel well and feel awesome, even after swallowing at least a gallon of seawater in the swim! It´s starts raining, but its all OK, just be more careful in the slippery round-abouts. Uncertain about the total climb, but probably around 800-900m. Off the bike after 2h35m - only 2.50m slower than Guille (aka Obi-Wan), who around this time was in 11th place - amazing, taking the pro-field (of some 25 pros) into consideration.

Pacing pretty hard on the run with a friendly German called Stephan - we make it to around the 12km mark at a pace around 4:10 km/km - faster than I would have imagined, after not running for 3-4 weeks (injury) and pounding so hard on the bike. My hope (of course) was to catch Guille, but with 9 km to go, he was still around 4 mins. in front of me - mission impossible. There´s always a bill to be paid and I dropped the pace to around 4:50 for the last 5km, finding the great excuse that it was "probably the best for my achilles" (which of course is bullshit). The tendon is a bit sore this morning, but I feel OK and I hope I am now fully recovered for last 2-3 weeks of training before tapering for St. George. Finishing in 4h48m!

All in all a great race and experience - and a few news lessons learned:
  • Training open water swim before the race would have helped me in the water. Definitely swimming Barceloneta these next few weeks - anybody in?
  • Pacing better on the run would have given me a slightly better position, but not as much fun (and fear on Guillermo´s face, when we met the first time :-)
  • I have learned a lot on the bike - thanks to all the good people who have been bearing with me and waiting on every hill top for the last few years!
  • ICAN Triathlon again proves to be amongst the best-in-class, when it comes down to organizing and executing races! Thanks!
See all results here:
Photos and videos to be posted soon...
Love - T

Monday, February 28, 2011

Just a heap of crap carbon

Photo from yesterday´s time trial training. 4 hours with two 20km pushes at full throttle.
Must admit I was pretty burned on the second interval - after 7 hours on the bike the day before.

8 beautiful Argon 18 bikes. Mostly E114 but also a few E112

Sunday, February 27, 2011

My 8 steps to faster recovery:

As the trainings are getting longer and harder, the need for faster and more efficient recovery becomes more important. Here´s my take on better recovery, which I (more or less consciously) do after long trainings:

  1. Stretch - My good Swedish friend Haakon Weibull once said "Warm-Up and Stretching is gay"... very precise with a good Swedish accent. Some say "nay" and some say "yay", but most people still recognize the benefits of stretching. I spend 15-20 minutes after long trainings, working with some pretty straight forward exercises. Girls digs boys who stretches ;)

  2. Shower - may sound pretty obvious, but hit the cold water over the legs for 5-7 minutes, which has some (still unexplained) magic effect. It´s painful and it sucks - but it works.

  3. Drink - I have learned that I drop 3-5 kg of liquid during long rides, even when hydrating well during the day. So drink well, isotonics, coca cola or whatever works for you. Until your pee goes transparent again!

  4. Eat - as soon as possible, preferable within 20 minutes after the training 40% proteins (tuna, chicken and what not) and 60% carbs (pasta or rice works for me)

  5. Supplement - I take Amino Acids (BCAA) and a mix of salts sold on the pharmacies here, sodium, magnesium, etc. It´s called "RecuperatION" (great name for a Spanish product, huh?) - works wonders.

  6. Compex - this electronic muscle simulator works wonders on sore muscles. It´s fairly expensive and hurts a bit - but gets your legs back in shape in 25-60 minutes. Takes out the feeling of "heavy legs" which means a lot, especially if you do back-to-back quality (short and fast) trainings!

  7. Massage - do it yourself or find a serious sports pro (like my homie Roberto Ortiz) - hands of magic on the legs every 8-12 days. Works deeper than the compex (THAT actually came out a bit gay) and can work on specific areas, which needs special attention!

  8. Rest - even though my room mate still laugh at me when I pass out on the couch, this is the best moment of the day. Spanish people got it right with the "Siesta" - it´s next best thing after sliced bread! Hit Mythbusters or whatever on the old telly and sleep until some foolish soul wakes you up.
Hope it´ll work for ya too! Enjoy... I´m taking a nap. Besos - T

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Accumulated Volumens

Below my accumulated volumens since October 2008, when we ran the Berlin Marathon

Swim Bike Run

km Hours km Hours km Hours
IM France Totals 133 60 3949 178 1233 102
IM Lanzarote Totals 233 89 4893 203 1478 126
IM CopenhagenTotals 30 14 1900 67 466 34
IM St. George 97.8 37 5425 206 714 60
IM Zurich
Summarized Totals 493 200 16167 654 3891 322

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Quality Training

So - as we´re getting closer to Ironman St. George race day on the 7th of May, it´s time to start getting more quality training in the legs. That means more hours running and biking close to, or over the lactate- or functional threshold (max pace or power you can maintain for 30 minutes). This hurts, but it´s also fun and definitely more my kind of training; Shorter & tougher, preferably until you feel the taste of blood or metal in the mouth.

This weekend the order from Master Lladó was Road bike Saturday and time trial test for Sunday. With two long trail runs (19km and 22km with around 500m+ altitude) on Tuesday & Thursday, my legs we´re already pretty much worn out, but here we go:

With a pretty large group (15-20) of experienced riders we headed straight over the mountains and towards the national park around the Montserrat mountain, which always means long and hefty climbs. There was a whole lot of battling going on between the strongest riders, who kept attacking and defending the whole day. It´s really stressful with tempo-changes and bikes moving all the time, but the training is excellent as you need to push hard all the time to keep up.

Big, big respect to at least two gentlemen in their mid-fifties (Javier & El Moracho) who both dropped me and several other young riders on every climb. I will never stop admiring people who keep themselves in this kind of shape through-out the whole life - a great inspiration!
Summarizing 110km with 1800m+ of climbing in 4h15m

Sunday - TT test:
After a good warm-up we hit the industrial area just before Martorell, a 6km flat stretch through smelly metal-factories which ends up in a 100m hill-climb, which was the scenery for today´s time-trial test. A lot of fun between the 6 A18-Mafia riders on their E-112 and E-114 - and straws we´re drawn to determine the order of the day. I went first with the disadvantage of having no reference in front of me (no complaints, as I am by far the slowest in this pack) and the remainders came after me with 90 seconds intervals.

My aim was to keep my HR steady on the flat (160 BPM) and also on the small, but tough climb (170 BPM). You can see the result on my HR and altitude below, so I stuck pretty well to the strategy, but lost around 2 mins to e.g. Guillermo - I still have much to learn on this kind of test.

This was very close to a Functional Threshold test and my HR was 165 over the 47.5 minutes, avg. speed was 34.7 km/h, which is OK with 200m climb over the 30km course. Total volume was 90km in around 3hours.

After the test I continued straight into a brick-run of 12km with a bit of climbing. I was surprised that I fairly easy maintained 4:20 min/km, which is much faster that the bricks I did before Challenge Copenhagen (around 5:00 min/km), so hey - maybe all this training and celibacy is actually working ;)
Cheers - Thomas

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Badly Overworked - But that´´s OK!

So - as you´ve seen from my latest posts - we have really stepped it up since New Years. With 3 months to go to Ironman St. George we´re hitting a period of long and hard work, under the regime of Guillermo and his mighty team of tough and experienced bikers. Every Saturday and Sunday during January we have been going harder and harder - and longer and longer. Putting this on top of the long trainings we did in Lanzarote quickly left my body in a state of shock. Compare it to try to jump on a carousel in motion - head first. You just gotta hold on really hard, or you´ll be kicked off. Apart from a bit over normal leg soreness, I have experienced nauseousness, tunnel-vision (seriously), almost vomited and just the feel of being in the back of the pack ALL the fucking time is just another mental test. To the level where Guillermo said "Eres una niña" ... you´re a little girl - and he was right!!!

Mondays and Tuesdays I have been walking like an old man, eating like a maniac (totally carb overload) - to be honest, I have never been pushed so hard. People ask "but you must feel you are getting stronger" - yeah maybe, but that´s really hard to spot through the feeling of pain, just walking down a 3-step staircase.

So definitely a bit over-trained and that´s good. Yesterday was a great day - we had 18 degrees, blazing sun and was bound for 160 km through Catalan Wine country - and almost 1500m of climbing - only Guillermo, myself and our trusted steeds - the Argon18 E114s.

Check below today's training with the whole crew - a video made to demonstrate how training without drafting is just a bit tougher, both physically and mentally:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pedaling Techniques

I thought everyone could ride a bike....
The other day I talked to a friend of mine and he told me that I need to pull my leg backwards when the leg is in its "resting" position in order to become more efficient.

I got a little scared because I have never done that and the mere thought of activating the back of my leg when pushing down on the other side would feel really strange.

Last night I started to investigate and quickly became aware of new ground braking biking technical terms like – Scraping of the mud…..

Don´t know if this is of any relevance to any of you at all but the avi gave me some new things to train when hitting the roads very soon…

Wonder how this affects the FTP J

HRM part II and a tough day at the office...

So - following up on our HRM discussion, here's a practical example from last Sunday's 140km ride through Catalan Wine Country, Penedes:

As you can see, we encountered a few hills, especially Ordal is pretty tough. Logging 900m of climbs in total:

And hence, you can see my HR during the 3h15m of key training (total ride was close to 4 hours):

So I am clocking 144 BPM on average, which I guess is OK for now. Must say I maxed out on some climbs, and also during the last flat home to BCN, where Guillermo pushed close to 52-53 km/h and I had tunnel vision. For a comparison, Guillermo posted 128 BPM for the same training - that's scary ;)

Map and Elevation using:
HRM is my Garmin FR405.

Cheers - T

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Stay healthy, doing weights and this week´s trainings - Thomas

Started out still a bit sick after recovering from the many hours of training in Lanzarote. Remember that every training of 2+ hours leaves your immune system 50% weaker for a period of up to 48 hours. That basically means our defenses are constantly under pressure and we´re so much more in risk of catching illness. Be extra careful with bacteria and virus, wash your hands a few extra times a day, which has shown to be one of the best way to avoid spreading virus or bacteria. Also never drink from co-athletes sweaty drinking bottle, etc.

It´s strange how the mind also starts adapting to many hours of training. Before, a 4 hour bike ride was like "oh-man-that-sooo-long-and-tough" and now it feels short compared to the 6-7 hour rides we did in Lanzarote. Consider how to train your mind to better digest these long days on the bike - it all starts in your head.

Barcelona weather is at its best for January - we´re experiencing 20-22 degrees since New Years and hence taking advantage to get some hours done on the bike.

Monday: 1h run - 14km, 45min weights
Tuesday: 2h bike, 2.8km swim
Wednesday: 1h40m trail run - 20km, 30 mins compex
Thursday: 2h20m bike, 30 mins compex
Friday: 1h run, 3km swim
Saturday: 4h bike, 30 mins compex
Sunday: 4h bike (TT specific) and 60 mins compex

Summarizing some 21 hours.

I have changed my strategy on weights sessions. Before I did fewer reps (8-12) with more weight, resulting in a fast bulk-up. Last January I gained 3-4 kg of muscle mass in one month, which were looking great, but not really helping me to be light for IM Lanzarote. Good news is that I lost these kilograms during the long trainings during spring-time. And I guess it had a good impact on the improvements I experienced on the bike last year.

Since December I have been doing 2-3 weight sessions a week with 8-10 exercises, both legs (leg press and calves), swim-related weights (triceps, shoulders and back) and core-strength (lower back, abs and hips) - now with 15-20 reps. Hence, I expected no or low bulk-up. I guess I was wrong, as I am now back to around 75 kg (3 kg above racing weight) and my fat% is definitely at an all-time low (after quitting wine and beers - gotta admit, that works).

To be frank, I am again a bit clue-less on what to do - to avoid this bulk-up or just leave it be, hope for the best. I know my fast-twitch muscle fibers would make me a great body-builder or 100m runner, but that´s not really what I am after right now. Any comments or advice is most appreciated - thanks and enjoy your Sunday!

Cheers - T

Friday, January 14, 2011

Heart Rate Monitoring for Ironman Training & Racing

You can find 1000s of articles on HRM, so I won´t bother you with the wonders of the ability to listen to your heart. Just a few words on my experiences and some pros and cons.

No doubt, a HRM gives you an overview of the effort at which you body is delivering in a training or a race. After all, the reason the heart is beating, is to pump blood and then oxygen and fuel to your muscle cells to perform. The more fuel and O2 needed - the higher your pulse. There´s a nice close-to-linear relationship between effort delivered and your pulse. However, it´s not (as many think) perfect, but for the novice athlete its a great tool to measure and plan your effort in trainings. Below some pros and cons from my side - let me hear some of your experiences as comments here, thanks:

  • Gives you the ability to express your effort as a % of a max pulse. As mentioned, testing Max pulse is not too healthy - instead use Functional Threshold pulse (explained in "Going Long" and here on the blog)
  • Works as an early indicator "life saver" in case you are having (1 out of 50000 rookies in marathons do have) a heart attack during training or racing. Stop if your pulse suddenly max out with no obvious reason.
  • Gives you a good indication of when you are working out and when you are training. Stop working out - start training.

  • HRM can be deceiving, since it IS not very precise. E.g. I can do a 40mins 10K run at 81% of max HR one day. And a week later do the same test, only to find that my HR was 89%. Nobody can (still) explain this deviation - but certainly it has to do with sleep, food, stress and we all know that substances like cigarettes and coffee put the heart under an extra stress. Don´t make HRM an exact science - it´s NOT!
  • "Optimal Fat Burning Rate" is a myth invented by producers of Treadmills - forget it, it´s too low to be a good training anyway.

Get a good HRM:
Nowadays the producers of HRM are struggling to win this huge market, introducing Oh-so-great features in many colors and facets. A HRM can be a cheap tool, that (by the end of the day) must only support the ability to measure:
  1. your HR here and now
  2. express it as a % of your max pulse (or Functional Threshold Pulse)
  3. average pulse over the course of a training
Good brands are Suunto (e.g T3 or T6), Polar and also Garmin, who make the FR405 and FR305 which has a GPS to precisely add distance to your trainings.

It can be nice to have a water proof HRM and timing for swimming - Garmin is NOT!

Personally, I don´t use HRM. I dropped it after various conversations with my coach Marcel Zamora (5 times winner of IM France), who is very explicit on the downsides of HRM. Also I push myself a bit harder if I can, without looking at my wrist every now and then. And finally time seems to fly by faster in my trainings.

Please comment - let me know what you think about HRM - Cheers T

Monday, January 10, 2011

Functional Threshold Power

So addressing Peter´s request on Max HR test, which I´d initially advice not to do. Instead (as per "Going Long" - find your Functional Threshold Heart Rate and calculate your levels from here. It is not exactly rocket science, but big books has been written on this subject. Read below article on a primer on Threshold HR and advice on training - this is pretty advanced, but really useful to get a hold on:

Now we're in to the big scary world of smoke and mirrors! Whether you know it or not, Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is one of the key factors of your cycling armoury. But don't worry if you don't know what it is or why it should be important to you, you're not alone.

Functional Threshold Power is a phrase that has as many perceived meanings as there are gears on a bike. In this article we'll try to explain, what it is, why you should be interested in it and how you can go about understanding, measuring and improving it, to enable you to be a fitter, faster, stronger cyclist.

Before we start, a reality check. Whole books have been written on this subject, so we're not going to cover every nuance, or better still overcomplicate things, in a simple, one page article. I'll try to make this factsheet deep enough to portray a meaningful representation of the subject but not that deep as we end up drowning in science and psycho-babble. So here goes...

The General Consensus
It's generally agreed that your Functional Threshold Power is the maximal power output you can sustain for the duration of one hour. It's NOT your "average" power. As average has a different meaning in a power context to "sustained".

There are many ways to compute, extrapolate or test for Functional Threshold Power and Dr Andrew Coggan seems to be the man with a plan when it comes to this area of cycling science. So who am I to contradict. Most of this article will be a reflection of the work of himself and others, with punditry and anecdotal insight from myself!

Your Starter for Ten...
Calculating your FTP is quite straightforward. If you've got power meter analysis software (WKO+ see sidebar on the right) you can use your race and training data to accurately estimate your FTP through the Normalised Power function at the 60 minutes axis point. If you're unsure just email me and I'll send you a link.

Ramp Test, MAP Test or Conconi Test.You could do a Ramp Test, a profile of which is seen here, and extrapolate the figures you need from its results. The final 60 seconds of sustained power are computed and approximately 75% of that gives you your FTP.

An alternative is to carry out a six minute wVO2max Test and extrapolate your figures, from that. There is also a 20 minute test for slightly more accurate results or you could go the whole hog and do a one hour test (a 25 mile/40k TT) and get pretty much 100% accurate results from that.

You can also compute your FTP from your lactate threshold as the two are very closely related. They're not the same but they are near neighbours in the world of FTP figures.

So loads of ways to calculate it so there's no excuses for not having a ball park figure! You can even do it with heart rate alone, you don't need a power meter, although strictly speaking you obviously won't actually have your functional threshold power figures!

If you're anything like me (an accomplished slacker) you'll find it very difficult to concentrate for a full 60 minutes, especially when it starts hurting and there's no one to talk to. So a 20 minute test (shown above) is a good a way as any of getting some scores on the doors.

Crack out a full on 20 minute ride (a 10 mile TT), grab your normalised power figure, and you've got 105% of your functional threshold. It's not as accurate as a full hour test, but it's less stressful, easier to fit in to a busy schedule, and as close as we need to be for the level of racing and training we undertake. Remember, this site is written for people who live in the real world!

Realising your potential
Okay, now we've got a figure for our functional threshold what do we do with it? Functional threshold development is all about making our athletic engine more efficient.

As a competitive cyclist, raising FTP should be your primary objective. We need to become more efficient at making use of our overall effectiveness. Here I'll explain why.

Two riders can have exactly the same relative VO2max, but it will be the one with a higher Functional Threshold Power that prevails come judgement day; or the Island Championships as they're known in Jersey.

Two club riders may turn out exactly the same power over the course of an hour. They're physical attributes, heart volume and lung capacity, may differ so their heart rates could be miles apart. The power outputs and the lines on the wattage graph may be the same but their physiological response, sensations and emotions most definitely won't!

There's more to this game than just high power figures.

Not big and not clever
Power meter users often try to hit the big maximal power numbers to reflect the measure of their prowess on the bike. Mines bigger than yours type of thing.

I'm sorry to have to disappoint our macho men, but it's the biggest FTP that's going to do the damage when it matters not maximal power output. You may have a 1000 watt sprint but if you've only got a 200 watt FTP then you ain't going to be around at the end of the race to show everyone what a sprint god you are.

I've tested some phenomenally strong riders in the lab that would be dropped before they got to the first hill in the 25 mph "race to the base". As with all things at our level, moderation in everything is the key to success. It's the lactic threshold, aerobic/anaerobic boundary that determines who'll be around for the sprint. It isn't necessarily the strongest sprinter in the race that takes home the medals.

You're more likely to be "in for a win" with a 900 watt sprint and a 300 watt FTP. Just redirect your focus to the less glamorous side of the training spectrum and reap the rewards.

Functional threshold power gives you a baseline from which which you can design your future training levels. Once you have enough power data to draw a conclusion, changing your FTP is pretty straightforward, it's hardly easy to do but is easy to target; if you get my meaning.

First you need to establish your FTP baseline. Re-read the General Consensus text above and decide how you are going to evaluate your current fitness level and determine your functional threshold power.

Once you have an accurate baseline figure we can now go to town on improving it and transforming your season, your results and quite possibly your sexual prowess. The final conclusion is from highly anecdotal evidence that has little chance of being peer reviewed; but at least I've now got your interest!

In the table above we've taken a rider with a a Functional Threshold Power of 300 watts. If you can knock out a 25 mile TT in or around an hour you're in this region.

The table describes Coggan's Power Levels that have become the benchmark for many power meter users over recent years. Don't be misled in to thinking the levels are compartmentalised in to "black and white" discrete bins of power and physiological response. There is a sliding line continuum that blends from one level to the next. It just fits our mindset better if we put it in to pretty coloured boxes.

For instance you don't go from below 74% of FTP being wholly Endurance pace and 76% of FTP being wholly Tempo pace. There is no physiological switch from one level to the next, just a sliding scale of effort that eases across the identified training responses. However the levels do give us a framework for understanding, developing and structuring, sustained improvement.

To summarize
So there it is. Get tested, by doing it yourself or in a lab; get your Functional Power Threshold numbers, do some really easy maths, train at the right level twice a week for three weeks. Take a recovery week, measure yourself again and recalculate the figures for your next batch of three weeks' sessions.

It really is that simple and that quick. And it's a 100% sure fire hit of increasing your threshold, your performance and your enjoyment on the bike. Other than a race win, there is little more satisfying experience on a bike than knowing the training your doing is bringing results. It's such a gratifying feeling, as an athlete and a coach, to see immediate, sustained, measurable progression.

If the rewards aren't enough to accept the lack of variety, then don't feel there isn't an alternative. These intervals don't have to be carried out as an exclusive session. Why not do a one hour turbo session in the week based on this work out. Then include the other 20 minute sessions as part of a road ride. I try to get my big distance sportive riders and Iron Man athletes to include a 20 minute controlled burn up in every hour of their long weekend rides as part of their Pre-Competition build up. The results they bring, as you can see, are spectacular.

The Message
Hopefully this factsheet has provided the information to help you take your threshold power to the next level. You don't advance your power output by riding around for three hours on a club run at whatever speed the leaders choose; or knocking out 1000 watt intervals for 5 seconds at a time. There is a sweet spot or, as you'll find when banging it out on the turbo, a sweat spot, that brings returns that far exceed the perceived effort. And I'll vote for that any day.

These intervals should not be a bare all, gritted teeth, hang on for grim death, type effort. They should be a controlled effort on the edge of aerobicity (my new word from last month!). You are not Einstein, you can't redefine the laws of physics. The maths, the workout and the results are simple;

85% of FTP for 20 mins = continuous improvement

So stay at that intensity and reap the rewards. If you want to make the interval harder, cut the rest interval by one minute per week. Then after your recovery week, increase the effort and reinstate the 4 minute recovery period. DON'T increase the wattage because you think you can. Of course you can pedal as hard as you want you just won't get the results you were expecting. Reign it in and wait for the gains to arrive; show restraint and save your pent up energy for the race.

Functional Threshold Power can be described to a layman as "how fast you can cruise." Cruising plays a major part in endurance sports such as cycling and being efficient at high cruising speeds is our ultimate aim. The fresher you are when you get to the finish the better position you'll be in physically and mentally for the finale of the end game and the race winning sprint. Enjoy the rewards of your 85% efforts because they bring 100% results.

Read full article here: