More Ideas on Triathlon Pacing

paces, power, and energy

 

Again on the topic of pacing and energy/fatigue management in 70.3 or other long-course triathlons, I wanted to come up with a way of visualizing different pacing strategies and their relation to each other, and to roughly calculate how pacing might work in an abstract way. Clearly, I don’t think that the numbers I’ve come up with are going to be exactly the same as what will happen in the real world, but at the same time, I think the numbers I’ve crunched or estimated are very reasonable and shed some light on what an optimal strategy might be.

So, I have some good experience from training with a power meter for years what kind of energy expenditure is reasonable for me over the course of 2 hours (roughly the length of the bike leg), or 4 hours (roughly the length of a whole 70.3), and more and less than those durations. Even though endurance has been a strength of mine in cycling, I’ve never specifically trained to produce the most power that I can for 4 hours at a time, because that would be pretty irrelevant to the demands of bike racing. To that end, I think that there will be some room for improvement there, and I have ideas for how I want to try to accomplish that. In the meantime, we can just speculate about what I might shoot for on the bike and on the run in 70.3 races, though I do have the benefit of doing the Miami 70.3 on two occasions already, so I’m not totally in the dark about this, ha.

Anyway, you can see above the result of my consultation with some running calorie calculators and my estimation of time-trial speeds correlated with power. For running, the relationship between speed and energy expenditure is not linear, but close to it for the speeds in question. Cycling, on the other hand,  has a hugely exponential increase in power requirements as cycling speed goes up. Namely, running 8 mph (7:30/mile) requires about 80% the energy expenditure as running 10 mph (6:00/mile). Cycling 25 mph (~280w) requires only about 2/3 the power of cycling 30 mph (~400w)!!! That’s not fair!

So what does that mean? Where is it easier to save time in a 70.3 event?

Well, let’s say you have a 75kg/165lb athlete. That’s about how much I’ve weighed during most of my cycling career (about 74-75kg/163-165lb). For me, that’s going to mean that riding a 70.3 bike leg at 320-330w is a bit of a challenge, but quite do-able. Let’s say this will equate to about 2:08 for a flat 70.3 bike leg (just an estimate, but quite reasonable). It also means that if I expend energy at the same rate on the run, I’ll cover the 70.3 run leg in maybe 1:25 or so.

If we have a 70kg/154lb athlete, then it may be very challenging to ride at 325w, but maybe 300w is reasonable. This may equate to about 2:14 on the bike leg. On the other hand, the same energy expenditure on the run will probably yield a 1:20 run leg, give or take.

Just for kicks, I’ve also included below some rough estimates I entered into a spreadsheet as I’ve been thinking about these issues and my goals in training for 70.3.

Anyway, I’m thinking about it, but really, only time and experience will tell. I still like to have an idea of what I’m shooting for, and perhaps some of this is interesting or useful to some of my readers. I hope so. :)

paces

Triathlon Body Mass and Pacing

Thoughts on Triathlon continued from the last article…

Body Composition: As a cyclist, I know that I perform well when I weigh about 163-165 lbs/74-75kg. I’m 6’2″, and that puts me at about a BMI of about 21. That’s great for cycling, but for triathlon, I’m not sure yet what’s ideal. So the question is: what do I want to weigh? Swimming may benefit from having more power, having thicker arms, and extra body mass won’t really hurt. Cycling generally would also benefit from having extra muscle mass and the power that would come with it. Most events are flat enough that extra watts would yield faster times even if accompanied by extra body mass. But, the big problem is that running is much more efficient at a lower body weight and is also going to reduce the stress on your body in training and racing. As long as you’re healthy, weighing less will usually make you a better, more injury free runner.

So, what’s the sweet-spot that’s going to allow you to swim effectively, bike quickly, and run efficiently? Well, that’s a tough one. I’m tend to think that the optimal triathlete body mass for me will end up being less than it has been for cycling, but I’ll have to feel it out and see how my training and racing goes as I experiment with trying to lose a few pounds. Without going into too much detail right now, I suspect that 155-160 lbs/70-72kg (or a BMI of about 20) will be my personal ideal body mass for triathlon. Hopefully I can preserve most of my cycling power but improve my running speed and reduce my chances of injury enough that it makes the total finish times lower.

Ultimately, any big changes in body composition will be due largely to dietary changes. I think it’s clear from research and personal experience for millions of people that “going on a diet” isn’t a long term or enjoyable strategy to change body mass. Rather, I think it’ll be key to always focus on getting good nutritious food with plenty of plant matter, healthy fats, maybe some meats, and mostly slowly digested/high-nutrient carbohydrate for more intense training, except perhaps for some hard training sessions and for recovery immediately following training sessions. I want to focus on changing eating habits in such a way that I’m still getting plenty of nutrition, but hopefully work with my body to have a less anabolic (muscle building and fat storing) hormonal state, largely through limiting insulin. This would be done primarily through limiting or eliminating sugars and refined carbohydrates in favor of slowly digested carbohydrates a times, like sweet potatoes, legumes, some fruit, maybe oats. And at other times, that will mean increased fat consumption and a reduction in carbohydrate intake generally, which should reduce insulin production and also encourage your body to rely more on fat for fuel because of a lower availability of carbohydrate for exercise. Basically, I’ve come to think that cycling macronutrients in the diet has promise as a training technique to allow for intense workouts with higher carbohydrate intake and increased adaptation to fat burning with a higher fat diet, done in alternating blocks of training.

Pacing:

paces, power, and energy

Calculating energy expenditure swimming is not easily done with any accuracy, so for all intents and purposes I’m going to leave that out of the equation. But, figuring out an optimal pacing strategy for the cycling and running legs of a triathlon is an interesting and potentially very useful academic exercise. In order to finish with the fastest time, you might assume that you want to have even pacing. Or, in other words, you might assume that you should aim for the highest average and most consistent energy expenditure per unit of time throughout the duration of the event. So, that’s going to mean that per hour you’d be burning the same number of calories in the water, on the bike, and on the run. Again, swimming it’s hard to measure energy expenditure, but cycling and running is a little bit more so. If you have a power meter, then you can know exactly what your energy expenditure is and there is zero guesswork about it. For running, you can estimate within a small margin of error what your energy expenditure is at different paces given certain assumptions like body mass. So, then it’s all set, you just figure out what wattage you want to push on the bike and what pace you want to run that’s going to be the highest average you can sustain for those two legs, right? Well, maybe not.

Triathlon isn’t a calorie measuring contest, it’s a race. So, time matters and not power or pacing, per se. So, with this in mind, it’s good to remember that as you increase your speed on the bike (and running, but to a much lesser extent) your power/calorie expenditure goes up exponentially. So, if you want to increase your speed by 10%, then you need to increase your power output by about 20%. Likewise, if you reduce your speed by 10%, then you save about 20% of the energy (per hour) that you’re using to cover that ground. Running, however, is much more linear, and if you increase your speed by 10% then your energy expenditure may go up, say, 11%. So, it seems like saving a little energy on the bike may lose some time but make up for it in saved energy that you can use to run faster. But, the bike leg is the longest, and is generally about 40-45% longer than the run leg. So, what do we end up thinking is the best pacing strategy? Again, I’m sure I will learn more from personal experience what is best for me, but it seems you may want a 95% effort on the bike in order to save just a little extra for the run. That might mean that I sacrifice 2m on the bike in order to try to gain 3-4m on the run. We’ll see how that plays out.

Above is a chart that I made up using a few pace/calorie calculators for running that I found online and some estimates based on personal experience for cycling speed at different powers. We won’t assume all of the numbers are right on, but they’re close enough to be considered very reasonable and more importantly show important trends… Basically, if you want to run faster, then you can have better aerobic fitness or you can weigh less or both. If you want to ride faster bike legs, then 90% of that will be determined wholly by your power output, with minimal impact coming from body mass. The problem is that more power on the bike may be easier with more body mass (and therefore more muscle), but running will be hindered by that extra mass. I think at the end of the day, I’ll be aiming to keep a power level in the low-to-mid 300w range (say 320-350) and a pacing that will put me in the low 1:20s for the run (~4min/km pace). I’m really looking forward to learning how to best approach the body mass and pacing questions. As important as these issues may be, it’s important to always remember that health and fitness comes first. No matter how much you weigh and how well or poorly you pace the event, fitness is key no matter what.

Thoughts on Triathlon

As I work on transitioning into triathlon, I’m clearly approaching a different set of challenges and have to orient my training very differently than I’ve been doing for road cycling the last several years. The obvious questions I face, along with any athlete, is how do I best train for my goal events? Well, here are some of the main topics I’ve been thinking about, which I’ll post a few articles about:

- positives and challenges as I move to triathlon

- training structure and periodization (and how it will differ from past training)

- body composition/body mass

- pacing (bike versus running, even pacing versus not)

To get things started, I thought I would address two of these issues. The first two and last two listed above seem highly related to me, so I’ll do two at a time.

Positives: I’m happy with all of my cycling experience and hope that I can sustain a lot of the bike fitness that I have from road cycling as I try to enhance my swimming and running fitness. With the cycling fitness that I have, I will probably lean on that training more than the others as I transition into running and swimming more and more. This is largely because my workout quality and risk for injury will probably be better on the bike than running, but the aerobic fitness will carry over well to running. Swimming, on the other hand, seems like its own thing to a certain extent and relies on its own training and technique development.

That being said, I’m also pleased to look back on my running background and derive some level of confidence about my previous ability to train at a relatively high mileage and my previous running performances. Already, I know from the feel of things that I am basically as fit of a runner as I ever was in past years, because my training paces and faster running paces in workouts feel very much the same. But, I do have a little extra body mass that helps with cycling, but just hinders efficiency running and increases the stress on my bones and joints. (Not that it matters, but I used to weigh about 138-142lb/63-64kg as a runner through high-school and early college, whereas as a cyclist I have been more like 162-165lb/73-75kg.)

Concerns/Challenges: My biggest two concerns or challenges are swimming and injury prevention, primarily with running. More specifically, swimming is an event driven largely by technique, and I know that I will need to work on improving that in order to be competitive. I’m confident that I can, but at the same time, it’s not like running and cycling where you generally will get better by just doing the sport. Swimming requires learning and practicing good technique. Ultimately, it’s the sport in which I have the least experience and the most room for improvement.

In order to try to move forward and keep a good outlook on things, I’ve proactively tried to focus on improving technique and taking positive lessons or experiences out of every swim practice. Rather than be concerned about how I might not be a good swimmer now, I can try to identify things (or use other people to help identify things) that I can work on and improve. And, just as a general observation and experience that I’ve had so far, it seems like swimming should probably look easy. If you look like you’re trying hard, you’re probably not working very efficiently and are wasting energy, so if you can make it look easy, that is likely to be a very efficient technique… Clearly that won’t necessarily teach you anything about what good technique is or what’s going to be fast, but it’s something to keep in mind.

As far as injury prevention is concerned, I’ve never had any serious running injuries in the past and have been very happy about that. Even in college as I worked up to keeping a pretty steady 50-80 mile training load per week, I was able to avoid anything other than minor passing aches and soreness. That being said, I haven’t run much in several years and have more weight impacting my bones and joints, so just being aware of those things, I am trying to be proactive in keeping the volume and intensity of my running modest. I intend to increase it slowly and steadily, paying attention to any discomfort that I feel, so that I can hopefully avoid any trouble.

Overall training structure and periodization: Triathlon is definitely a very different sport than cycling and has very different energy demands, so the training structure will necessarily be different in order to accomplish different goals. I’ve done a lot of thinking about how I want to arrange my cycling, running, swimming, and cross training.

First off, the events themselves will be determined mostly by your ability to sustain a high pace for a long time, whereas in bike races that’s very important but so too is your ability to put in much more intense efforts intermittently at crucial moments. In training for bike races, intensity usually rises progressively throughout a training cycle, but for triathlon, it seems a different approach should be taken. Roughly speaking, I think that the first 2/3 of a training cycle for a triathlete should get higher in volume and intensity as the athlete tries to build up their endurance and high-end aerobic fitness. This would look similar to a traditional progression for a bike racer. But, in the last several weeks before a key event, the triathlete will probably engage in a cycle that narrows the focus (and reduces their intensity a little) to focus specifically on training at or around race-pace, building their tolerance to those intensities. I think I’ll approach the sport by trying to build the most endurance and aerobic capacity that I can before narrowing the focus down to threshold or just below as I get ready for goal events. I will still want to be doing some longer and more intense workouts to try to sustain a high level of endurance and aerobic capacity, because I think that will still be important. So, that might look something like this graph:

triathlon macrocycle

A training cycle might start out with moderate volume, but quickly increase over a few months and then sustained at a high level before being reduced in the last 3-6 weeks before a key event. Intensity would also start out at a moderate level, slowly increase, and then peak maybe 2-3 months out from a key event before being decreased to focus more specifically on race-pace intensities and less so on above threshold efforts to develop maximal aerobic capacity or anaerobic fitness. Likewise, cross training (e.g. strength training, plyometric training, flexibility training) would start off at maybe 2x/week, progress to 3x/week as volume and overall foundational fitness progresses, and finally could be reduced as sport specific training intensity increases, at which time it may be included just 1-2x/week. Of course, this is vague and general, but I hope gets the idea across. Basically, you still want to develop maximal aerobic fitness, but I think that then it will be good to focus that fitness on race-pace specific training for 3-6 weeks going into a key event so that you can use your fitness to its potential by increasing tolerance to the sub-maximal efforts required by triathlon.

Again, because of my recent background, I will rely more on cycling than running to gain fitness initially, but will increase my running volume as I find that my body tolerates it (i.e. that I get less and less sore or stiff from running). I do think, however, that I will never engage in truly high-mileage running, because of the increased risk for injury and because I know that runners are more prone to anemia than cyclists or swimmers, largely because of the trauma that blood cells sustain while pounding the roads or trails.  I don’t know if this was the case with me, but I do know that I personally had low blood values (i.e. hematocrit, hemoglobin, etc.) back when I was a runner, whereas the last few years as a cyclist, my blood values have been much more normal (say, hematocrit around 42-44 versus 36-38 as it was 10 years ago). Of course there are other factors in involved in this, so it’s hard to say for sure, but it’s definitely something I want to monitor. To that end, with moderate running volume I will focus more on brick workouts and running at or around race-pace more than just getting in mileage at slower paces. This should allow effective training at a lower volume and maximize the improvements at race-pace, because runners tend to get the most efficient at the paces they regularly practice. For that reason, I want to practice the neural and muscular stresses of running at those paces more than I want to rack up a lot of miles just for the sake of doing so. (Again, I would insert a plug for my favorite book on endurance sport training, Better Training for Distance Runners by Martin and Coe, advocating for multi-pace training as opposed to the popular but increasingly outdated Lydiard method.)

Likewise, I will try to develop good swimming technique through practice in training sessions, but there is limited fitness to gain from swimming itself. Even though it is probably my biggest liability right now in the sport, it’s also the shortest leg and relies the least on fitness per se and more on technique and being able to quickly and efficiently cover the distance. Just like biking, as you increase your speed swimming, the effort and energy required goes up exponentially, but for the time gained, that curve is even steeper. Namely, if you go faster on the bike and try to save 2-3m then you probably have to go maybe 4% harder, but if you want to save 2-3m on the swim, then you have to go probably 10-15% harder assuming you’re swimming in the mid-20m range. Again, 70.3 favors fitness and effort in cycling and running more than in swimming. I will do what I can to get as fast as I can, but focus on doing so in the most relaxed fashion that will allow a smooth transition into the bike leg with minimal wasted energy… again, assuming you’re an average to good swimmer, saving 2m on the swim will likely tire you out and cost you more time later in the race.

VO2 Max Ideas and Application

What is VO2 max? It’s a measure of how much oxygen your body is capable of processing while engaged in high intensity aerobic exercise. Let’s say that you’re running or biking as hard as you can for about 5 minutes or undergo a ramped fitness test to exhaustion, you will most likely reach a point where you can no longer use your lungs to absorb oxygen, have your red blood cells hemoglobin bind to those oxygen molecules, have your heart distribute that oxygen rich blood, and then have your working muscles absorb that oxygen and use it to produce ATP by burning fat or carbohydrate. At low intensities, your body will burn fat and carbohydrate in some mix relative to the intensity of the exercise. At very high power outputs or running speeds your body will use carbohydrate almost exclusively to produce the ATP needed to do the task at hand. At some point, you can no longer process more oxygen and any extra power or running speed will come form anaerobic metabolism, where your body burns fuel incompletely without oxygen, a process which simply requires oxygen after the fact to burn the lactate produced as a result of incomplete glucose metabolism. Your body is always engaged in some low level of anaerobic metabolism, but for the most part, it only becomes a major source of energy for short bursts of high-intensity work, like when you’re sprinting or lifting weights.

Mt Diablo photos 265Unless an athlete is relatively new to endurance sport, VO2 max is not a measure of how much oxygen your lungs can absorb or a measure of how much blood your heart can pump. Not everyone thinks this, but it is a fairly common misunderstanding. It could well be that for a given individual the limiting factor for their exercise performance could be due to a limit in oxygen absorption or blood distribution, but in most healthy individuals this is probably not the case. Early in an athlete’s career, their heart volume and efficiency can definitely be increased. Likewise, lung capacity can change with time. For an athlete that has been at their sport for a while, these two things are much less likely to occur.

Rather, VO2 max is more often a measure of maximal aerobic metabolism occurring on the cellular level as your mitochondria absorb oxygen and burn fuel with it. Your blood almost always leaves your lungs at it’s functional saturation level. Your heart almost always could pump anywhere from a few to several beats more than it is, even when you are exercising “as hard as you can.” So, what is it that limits VO2 max in most cases? Your cells’ mitochondria. The quantity of enzymes in all of your working muscles capable of using oxygen to produce the ATP needed to do work.

In a lot of ways, this is a good thing, because it means it’s more trainable than people may think. If you attribute your exercise limits to the volume and efficiency of your heart or lungs, then you may face a bleak future of limited potential for improvement, though this limit would be perceived. Rather, most of your aerobic limits, as well as your anaerobic limits, are attributable to the volume of slow twitch and fast-oxidative fast-twitch muscle fiber that you have and their training status… Ultimately, VO2 max is usually highly trainable. Of course, individuals very significantly in how much or little they respond to training and to different types of training. Likewise, an athlete may be near or far from their peak fitness. Still, VO2 max, like other things, is not static and is often not as much of a limit as you might think. Some athletes’ VO2 max will top out after a few years of good training, and they may stop improving or may see improvements in other areas. Other athletes may see their VO2 max increase for several years and end up at a much higher point than their modest beginnings would have indicated.

No matter how you think about VO2 max, what you attribute your limits to, or how long you’ve been an athlete, it’s good to remember that there’s almost always room for improvement and room to expand your perceived limits.

How do I improve VO2 max? In short, you exercise at or near an intensity level that requires you to process as much oxygen as your body is capable. The most common and likely most effective way of doing this is to do VO2 max intervals or aerobic capacity intervals of 2-6m duration with moderate to short recovery periods. As you do this, you will use your nervous system to recruit as many muscles as you have to use to produce the necessary power for such an effort, you’ll get your heart to pump almost as much blood as it’s capable, and you’ll get your muscles to burn fuel at the highest rate that their mitochondrial density will allow. It will also help your brain to become more familiar and comfortable with exercising at that intensity, and as your brain comes to learn and relearn your performance limits, those limits will gradually expand, as long as there is a hard basis for those expansions. Keep in mind that there are physical factors limiting your performance and those are what allow some athletes to perform better and worse than other athletes at certain things, but it’s always a dynamic interaction between the different parts of your body, including your brain and its perception of effort and exertion. Your brain is consciously and/or unconsciously aware of how many muscles you’re engaging, with what frequency and force, how much heat you’re building up in your body, what your heart rate is, what the oxygen, carbon-dioxide, and lactate content of your blood is, etc. etc. All of these things are integrated into a perception of effort, and whether you like it or not, or are aware of it or not, it affects and even controls how much work you can do and how well you can perform. This is, of course, an increasing area of interest among sports physiologists, and the degree to which your brain limits or even controls your performance limits is hotly debated, but I think it’s quite clear that both your physiology and your brain’s perception of it factor into the bottom line of workout or race-day performance.

Whatever the limiting factor may be among those four things, you will be addressing it. Whatever is most limiting to you at the time of your workout, you will be working out that system the hardest, which is kind of nice. Basically, it’s good to remember this fact. No matter what kind of workout you’re doing and no matter what system you think you’re working to improve, the weakest system that limits your performance the most will sustain the most stress and should be the system that undergoes the most improvement as a result. So that should take some pressure off, because your training doesn’t have to be “perfect” to help you improve. In fact, there’s probably no way to get it all just right, but there’s a few ways that will be as close as you can get, and will help your body to get it just right.

Regardless of how you think about your training, no matter what you think your limiting factor is, what your training status or personal history in the sport… if you go out and do 5x3m hard with 2m easy recovery, 3x6m hard with 3m easy recovery, or do a 40m threshold effort with 1-2m pick-ups every several minutes, then you’ll be stressing your body to bring about an improvement in your aerobic capacity/VO2 max.Mt Diablo photos 102

VO2 max workouts: 5x3m, 3m easy vs. 3x5m, 3-5m easy vs 3x5m, 15-20m easy? What should I do? From the start, all of these workouts are excellent and for most people would be a fantastic way to increase their aerobic capacity.

5x3m, 3m easy: This workout is short and to the point. Lots of VO2, lots of neuromuscular training, and a healthy dose of anaerobic training. After the first 1-2m of the first effort, your body will be at or near it’s VO2 max during most of this workout and will provide you a good 10-12m of time stressing that intensity to it’s utmost. Your power will be high, so there will be a notable anaerobic contribution to the workout, which is why you’ll be breathing hard for 1-2m after each effort. This is also why this format of workout is good for your nervous system; it engages more muscle fibers and trains both slow and fast-twitch muscle fibers.

3x5m, 3-5m easy: Again, it’s a very efficient workout. Lots of VO2, much less neuromuscular stress, and much less anaerobic stress. This workout is probably the most classic VO2 workout, because there’s no way to really overshoot your aerobic capacity by much, because the efforts are long and the recovery is relatively limiting. You’ll get at least 12 or 13m at or very near your VO2 max, with less overlapping benefits to your anaerobic capacity and some benefit to your threshold.

3x5m, 15-20m easy: Clearly, this workout will take much longer, but will still stress your VO2 max quite a bit. You may, however, have the most stress to all systems previously mentioned. Because you’re well rested for each effort, the power and intensity can be much higher, thus stressing your neuromuscular systems more as well as allowing for a greater stress to your anaerobic capacity. All the while, you’ll get at least 10m or so at your VO2 max, and you get the added benefit of a bit of endurance training. In some regards, this workout could be the most race specific rather than fitness specific, as it were, because you’re doing some efforts well into your workout time with more accumulated fatigue, as you’re required to do in races.

China, cycling, off-season, training, and new beginnings.

Usually my main interest in posting on my site is to relay ideas about training, nutrition, or lifestyle issues that affect endurance athletes, usually cyclists, triathletes, and runners. Every once in a while it seems appropriate to put in a word or two about what I’ve been up to and maybe any new insights that brings me with respect to the life of an endurance athlete. Feel free to skim and read whatever interests you. I never know what people will find interesting in my writing, but you can always shoot me an email and ask (nate@englishendurance.com).

ChinaUtah team ride

Yes, about a month ago, I went with my team to China for a few late season races. 6 of us from the team went, and we spent 10 days doing a stage race with all short, flat, sprint stages and then did a one day race before coming back home. It was interesting, and pretty cool to go to China since I’ve never been there. The racing was, quite frankly, terrible for me as a rider. With no mountains, no long stages, no time-trials, and no truly interesting features to the race except for the blistering paces on the flats, there wasn’t much for me and all of my slow twitch muscles to do but hang in and try to take some wind for my teammates when appropriate.

Ironically, after Utah, I figured my season was over because with my injuries (a few fractured vertebrae, abrasions, and sprained shoulder) I wasn’t fit to ride the inaugural Tour of Alberta with my team. Given an early start to my off season, I decided to experiment a bit with my diet and training and had been pleased to drop a few pounds below my normal racing weight (which is the same as my off-season weight). Losing 3-4 pounds is great for winning the Diablo Challenge mass-start hill-climb charity ride, which was fun, but not so great if you want a ton of power for races on flat ground that average 29-30 mph most of the time.

Still, I think most of my teammates are in somewhat the same state of mind of feeling fortunate to have gotten through the races unscathed by any serious illness or injury and having had the pleasure of another adventure only made possible by the sport we love.

Cycling and New BeginningsDiablo by Craig Huffman

At the end of this season, it became clear to us athletes and those that follow the sport that job prospects for cyclists were not at their high-point, to say the least. Rather, domestically and abroad several teams were folding, budgets were tight, and there was again an abundance of talent available with not so many positions around for them to fill. As much as I’ve enjoyed racing for these last several years, I’ve enjoyed most of all the opportunity to progress as an athlete, to increase my fitness and capabilities, and to increase my skills and knowledge of the sport and how to participate in it. To that end, each year has provided me good stimulation physically and mentally as I’ve tried to better myself physically and mentally as a cyclist.

As the off-season was setting in and teams were making their offers, I was given a few good opportunities to continue racing at the professional level, but only at a similar level of compensation to what I’ve had the last few years. This wasn’t really what I was looking for, and quite frankly is less than I think an athlete of my abilities is worth. But, in the current financial climate of the sport, it’s hard to look on any legitimate offer too poorly. Still, I’ve spent the last 6 years or so seeing how far I can develop as a cyclist while also committing myself to full-time work off-the-bike, and now also engaging in a steady flow of coaching work. If I were afforded a proper opportunity to forego a full-time job in order to pursue cycling full-time, then I might take that opportunity, because I’m certain that I would have more room to improve if I weren’t on such a tight budget with my time. But, nobody saw fit to give me such an opportunity.

To be sure, I’ve actually found that working full-time and trying to be  successful athlete with only 15-20 hours a week to train to be quite challenging, interesting, and fun. I take great pleasure in knowing that I’ve won professional races, finished 5th in the US Pro TT, finished in the top 15 at the Tour of CA, and accomplished many of my goals with a full-time job and only averaging about 16-18 hours per week on the bike. I definitely think it has helped me to develop a skillset and knowledge base that helps me as a coach, because quite frankly, the training that a Pro Tour cyclist does and what is available to a 40 hour a week working person are not at all the same, nor should they be. So, with limited room for further improvement and other reasons, I decided that I would take the next step in my efforts to explore my athletic potential and to move to triathlon in the coming year.

I’ve long planned on moving to triathlon whenever I saw my cycling coming to a close, but needed to choose the most appropriate time. To speak plainly, there isn’t much money to be made in cycling by anyone except the cyclists who are regarded as being the most promising or most successful and are compensated accordingly. Unfortunately, this system is not always fair, but for better or for worse that seems to be the way life often is across different circles, so I try not to let it bother me much. Likewise, there is a lot of inherent risk in the sport and most people will come away unscathed except for a number of superficial scars on their hips, knees, and elbows, but there are some who don’t walk away from the sport so comfortably. Some break their necks! Ha! Like me. Luckily, in spite of having one or two fairly catastrophic falls myself, I’ve been able to avoid any real damage, and I’d certainly like to keep it that way. If I’m not getting paid and not being given a real opportunity to pursue the sport full-time, then why should I keep at it?! Well, because it’s my passion, like many other athletes, but the rational side of me says that it’s an all too silly activity to risk one’s neck, quite literally, without real room for substantial improvement.

Lastly, even though I’m “only” 29 going on 30 in a few months, there is the simple fact that every year that I’m cycling, I’m taking away from other things that I could be doing with my time, like triathlon, coaching, and who knows what else. Perhaps I’m too swayed by the mentality of our age and the desire to pursue different dreams, but I do want to see what triathlon is like while I’m still young and have a room to see if I’m any good at the sport, among other things.

So, yes, I’m “retiring” from pro cycling. I’m committed to a move to triathlon to see how well I can do at that sport, and have started training to that end. I’m also committed to coaching and trying to develop materials for athletes to try to help them pursue their passion of testing themselves physically, as I love to do so much.

Off-Season and TrainingMt Diablo photos 265

For all intents and purposes, my off-season started the day I crashed out of the Tour of Utah. With a few broken vertebrae and some silly neck-brace to help keep my head from rolling off, I took 2 weeks totally off of any kind of physical activity, then took 2 weeks of riding the trainer every other day, followed by a month of regaining my legs on the bike. Basically, all of my training has been foundational with a lot of volume, tempo, and threshold riding, plus some weight training, and increasing amounts of running.

As always, you can see all of my over-distance training on Strava where I share all of my bike rides, runs, and now even swims. For the most part, my aim right now is to rely on cycling for good aerobic conditioning and endurance while I slowly add in slightly increasing volumes of running and swimming to the extent that my body allows. Even though I used to be able to manage 50-80 miles/week on a regular basis when I weighed 140 lbs in college, it’s been some years on the bike and my legs aren’t ready for that pounding quite yet. Hopefully they will be soon, but I’m easing into it as slowly as my body seems to want. Always, whether riding or running or otherwise, one of my cardinal rules in training is to try to avoid injury. A missed training session here or there because you’re cautious is nothing compared to a missed month because of injury sustained while mindlessly pushing ahead. I always hope that I have an adequate feel for what my body needs and what it’s limits are so that I can follow that rule successfully. I have so far in my first career as a runner, and then as a cyclist, so hopefully I can keep the streak going.

Clearly, my efforts to train as a triathlete, both now and my plans for it in the long run, are based on the same general principles as any endurance sport, but because of the nature of the sport will demand very different training methods than I’ve previously employed as a cyclist. I have a variety of ideas about how I plan to pursue this new endeavor, but I’ll bring those up another time in another text. In the meantime, I’ll just say that I’ve been having fun working with a few triathletes on their training, and thinking and planning for my own metamorphosis into a multi-sport athlete myself.