Tri The Parks – Blalock Lakes Sprint Race Report

Blalock Lakes Sprint

Written by Chris Abellana ~ TTP Scholarship winner

03:15am…

Time to wake up!  Its race day and in a few short hours I will be racing at Blalock Lakes in Newnan, GA.  I really have no expectations from the race other than I know the course will be hilly and I am not fond of hills.  I don’t know about y’all but when I hear hills, it strikes some uneasiness into my gut, my legs get weak, and I know that it’s going to be a long day.  I don’t know why but it just does.

My week of training has been decent but I have been training for longer distances so transitioning to sprint distances, is a very big shift not only in the mental but the physical endurance.  There is no more long and strong; it will be short and fast; real fast, if I am lucky.

05:48am…

Sitting out in front of the gate at Blalock Lakes and begin to mentally prepare for the race and going over the bike and run maps in my mind.  I know where the climbs are going to be but like I said earlier, this is a sprint and not a half or full Iron distance so I am going to need to push it pretty good but still saving something for the road.

06:30am…

Bike is in transition area now and I’m listening to Eminem’s “Till I Collapse”.  It reminds me that my mind can go further than my body so get that in the right state first and then my body will follow (hopefully).  All my shoes, helmet, sunglasses, socks are now in place for T1 so let’s get on a warm-up run.  Wow, this place is hilly.

07:25am…

Warm-up swim. Water feels good- not too warm, not too cool- concentrating on good, strong hip turn, and good cadence with my arms.

08:00am RACE Start…

Here we go. [Mind you, I am talk to myself a lot so you will hear what I see and say to myself during the entire race.] And we’re off! My goodness, this guy to my left couldn’t keep it straight if he had a blue line at the bottom of the lake! Whoa, those first 100 meters were kind of messy!  Making the 2nd turn and heading down the home stretch and I took it way too far left- gotta head back right.  Perfect, let’s add more distance to this race! J

T1 and Bike…

Thankfully this has one of the shortest distances from water to bike that I have ever experienced.  Socks, shoes, and helmet on and we’re off on the bike.  Going out, hills. Settling into race pace, and I feel good. Race officials come along side to make sure I am keeping my distance so I smile and say thanks for keeping us safe!  Middle part- hills. During this part of the race, I begin to not think about the race, but about how Blessed I am to be racing!  We have a gorgeous day, a dry road and a lot of great athletes to race against. Last bit – downhill. Gotta love this part.  Rounding the corner into the park and nothing but downhill.

T2 and Run…

Change shoes, bib # on, and I am off.  Man, my calves are a little tight.  I hope I don’t cramp up.  Did that Smith kid just pass me on his way in?!!! Wow he was fast!  Ok, focus now.  The first part of the run was not good.  I just didn’t feel good.  In the turnaround and half way home now.  I begin to pick up the pace knowing its only 1.55 miles from the finish.  My calves are ok now and I see my pace getting closer to where I need it to be.  I hit the finish and record a time of 1:22:47.5 (11:53 on the swim, 43:55 on the bike, and 25:00 on the run).  Not bad but I know I have a lot of work ahead of me.

Wednesday, June 5

I have a two mile critical velocity test, and I look at the schedule of my workouts and see a drastic difference b/w what I did on my own vs. what I am doing with Coach Mariska and Team EC.  On my own, I would go out on a swim, bike, or run and do it to get it done.  Now, I have specific drills that will test my endurance, work on technique, and reinforce good form vs. just mileage.  As a former coach myself, I can see how these drills are the building blocks to my improvement.  The drills are definitely more intense than my former workouts but then again, the focus was very different; nonetheless, these drills can begin to change not only the physicality but also the mentality at which I perceive and execute my workouts.  This will in turn get me faster and better as a triathlete.

My next race is July 20th at Mistletoe State Park, and knowing that I have 7 weeks of these kinds of workouts, I am very excited to see how much I will progress.

Goal-Oriented vs. Process-Oriented Training

 

As coaches, there are several methods we can use to get the most out of our athletes.  I have found that when an athlete begins they are only concerned about how fast they can get, not how to get fast.  Each athlete is motivated by different things and it’s our job to tease that out.

The first question that is inevitably asked of an athlete is, “What are you goals”.  The standard answers of to get faster, stronger, etc are too nebulous in nature to truly use.  It is the job of the coach to transform those into concrete targets.  There are two ways this can be done.  While they tend to be mutually exclusive, they can be used in conjunction with each other to provide a path for the athlete.

To start, you have to establish what motivates your athlete and devise whether a goal or process oriented approach will work best.  To help you determine which approach is best, I have defined each below.  Let’s start with Goal-Oriented.

Goal-oriented training is best for long range goals that can be expensive in nature and have many facets to it.  Multi-year plans culminating in qualifying for Kona is an example.  The athlete has a target goal and that guides the path.  This goal does not have to be a race.  It can be small goals that build upon each other and result in a larger goal.  The path is not set but the end result is.

Note that these goals are very individualized and concrete in nature.  Goals need to be time-limited. There has to be a deadline. You just can’t let the goal go on for years and years.  Having a deadline creates a sense of urgency for the goal and a sense of responsibility to get after it and get it done.  An example of a short term goal would be to go sub 40 in a 10K.  There are many paths there; it’s up to the coach to determine which path to take.

Process-oriented training reflects activities that occur in the process of achieving the long term goal.  With process oriented goals, the exact outcome is less controllable and may be affected by factors beyond your control.  These goals are more “squishy” like I want to improve my 10K speed.  The athlete’s focus is on what they are doing instead of what it will get them.  It requires trust on the athlete’s part that the process will get them there.

It’s important to get the athlete to enjoy the challenge of the training and the goal will take care of itself.  Organized goal setting with the use of short term process goals that lead to a few relatively large controllable long term outcome goals improves your performance and assists in creating optimism and motivation for the process.  Basically, you focus on the building blocks and motivate them through each one.

Unlike running or swimming, there are no set time standards that will qualify you for a World Championship or the Olympic Trials in Triathlon.  Mostly triathletes race against each other and the clock.  This varies greatly over differing terrain, temperature variances and the unpredictability of who shows up on race day.  While it’s nice to have fast times, a 5 hour time in St. Croix requires a different effort than the same time at Eagleman.

It’s vital for a coach to alter time goals to each specific race.  If the athlete is truly set on establishing a goal time, then pick a race that will allow them the best opportunity to accomplish that.  Most athletes have to enjoy the process in order to continue progressing and putting forth an appropriate effort.  While we all like to think of ourselves as 1%ers; the fact is that 99% of us are in the sport for the fun and health benefits of it.  Our achievement is to push our bodies and see what the clock reads when we are done.  In the meantime, it has to remain fun.  That does not mean that all workouts are going to be fun, but when you’re done training for the day and your athlete looks back over the week, it should still be fun.

Next time your athlete says, “I want to get on the podium”, ask them how they want to get there.  Make them be part of the process of training that will allow you to get them there.  Tell them the following: “We are in a sport with many variables.  The only variable you can control is yourself.  This is why process-oriented training is best for triathletes.  Focus on what you are doing and which you cannot control will take care of itself.”  Use both methods to get the most out of your athletes.  Start off with something as small as make one morning swim session this week.  Then use a goal of a specific T-pace.  Eventually you have them build up to an IM swim.

Does Your Coach Know You Better Than You Know Yourself

This article was written by one of our athletes Joshua Stephens. The original post can be found here

Hiring a coach isn’t for everyone in our sport. Some people go around reading and researching everything they can about the tried and true ways to train. Some are coaches themselves, and can make their own training plans without being biased about their sessions. Others use triathlon just as a outlet, a hobby, and can’t warrant the cost of hiring a coach. But for those of us that have a coach, we need a good fit.

One thing I looked for before hiring my coach, Tony Hammett at Endurance Concepts, is a coaching firm that invests in their athletes. I’m talking a company who’s athletes aren’t just pay checks; they actually want their athletes to improve. And they want to really know you, more than just logging your hours each week. Knowing what you want from the sport, life, where you are mentally each day, ect ect. The relationship should be more than just athlete-coach, and that will translate to bigger and better results.

I’m not writing this to dote on my coach, but more to show how a coach should interact with their athletes. During my flat[s] debacle in Cartersville a couple of weeks ago, Tony asked me a question while Bethany, Tony, and I sat on the side of the road. I immediately threw out an answer, to which he just nodded and kind of grinned. I read people well, so I knew there was something else going through his head, but I didn’t know what. I thought it was a good answer. About 36hours later I sent Tony and email, with my real answer. His response was basically “I know” but in more words and with an explanation of how he knew what my answer would be. He knew me better than I knew myself, and it’s because of that that my training fits so perfectly, and that I trust his guidance.

Make sure you fit with your coach. They need to be more than just the person that updates Training Peaks; they need to interact with you. If that’s all you want, then you can get similar results a lot cheaper buying a training plan, or a book. One way that Tony and I look at my training is a quote from The Matrix. It shows that I can question my plans each week, even if it doesn’t make sense or I’m a little apprehensive, because he’s done each session for a specific reason tailor fit for me. “I’m trying to free your mind. But I can only show you the door. Yours the one who has to walk through it.”

Misconceptions of Carbo Loading

is it a myth or reality? Learn what to eat before your race. Read more…

By: Dan Arnett
Head Coach – Endurance Concepts

If you’ve ever tried to get a reservation at a pasta place the night before a large race you know that it’s a task that may rival the race itself. Why is this? Do athletes all of a sudden get a sudden urge for Olive Garden at 7 or 8 pm the night before an event? Not really, they have bought into the concept of carbo-loading. Simply put, you eat a lot of carbohydrates (generally pasta & bread) before a race and that tops off your fuel tank for the race.

The concept of carbo-loading before is not a foreign one to pretty much anyone that has done any sort of an endurance event. But there are a couple of misconceptions that I want to address. The first is that carbohydrate loading is only recommended and is only beneficial if you participate in endurance events that are longer than about 1.5 hours. Your body, at any one time, has enough fuel to support a high level of activity for ~2 hrs. So if you have that 5K tomorrow, you will not reap the benefits of carb loading like the person who has an ironman the next day.

The second misconception is when you should carb load. Now try to find a find a table at Carrabba’s two nights before the race. You will be able to walk in and pick the table you want. Who will you see there eating? The smart ones that know it’s proper to carb load two nights before not the night before the big race. Your body takes awhile to process the carbs you are eating and fully utilize them. The last thing you want is to show up to the start line with a belly full of half digested pasta. So what should you eat the night before the race? Eat a normal meal, pasta or not, as early as you can. The last thing you want is to be eating at 8-9 at night with an early wake up call the next morning. Get that dinner reservation for 4 or 5 and be back watching reruns of Sanford & Son ready to tear up the race the next day.

The last thing you want to do is stuff yourself full of food in an attempt to carb load. Simply put you just pay attention to what you are eating and it should mainly be those that contain carbohydrate. And while you are carb loading, don’t forget to drink as well. Proper hydration will not only allow you to fully digest your meal, but it will help get your body ready for the PR you are going to set.

So in summary:

* Only Carbohydrate load if your race will last more than 90 minutes.
* Carb load 2 nights before the race
* Eat a sensible early dinner the night before the race

Don’t forget that you can also ingest a drink that is rich in carbohydrates. Think Gatorade or something to that effect.

Working the Downhill

By: Dan Arnett
Head Coach – Endurance Concepts

Think of the last time you raced a hilly course.  After you worked the uphill and crested did you keep pushing down the other side or let gravity ‘help’ you to recover?  For most people the latter is the choice they make.   Almost everyone’s heart rate and rated perceived effort drops on the downhill.  A lot of time is lost when one does this.  Gravity wants to help you go down the hill just as much as it limits your pace going up it.  Using gravity on the back side of the hill will allow you to keep a constant effort and separate yourself from your competition.

You adjust your stride length and body position when you are climbing, so why not when you descend?  Each time your foot hits the ground, you are applying the brakes.  Due to physics, it requires more energy to stop a mass going downhill.  So to keep your pace constant or relax going downhill actually provides more stress on your joints and muscles.  Keeping your effort constant on the downhill will increase your pace with little cost on your body.  Don’t just increase your stride and be out of control, but rather shift your hips underneath you and let those huge quad muscles absorb some of the work.  It will allow you to be under control descending and you’ll create separation from those that are taking the downhill as a rest period.  Now you don’t have to raise your heart rate back up from a low point, which requires more effort.

So next time you push that hill with another runner on your hip, crest and keep pushing.  This will cause you to increase your pace and give you an overall faster time.  It will also separate you from the person that worked the hill with you and now decided to rest on the downhill.  Stay in control and keep your heart rate in your race zone, regardless of terrain.  Practice this during training and you’ll be able to utilize it during a race to your advantage.

Ride Like a Pro (Triathlete)

Learn how to make the most of your next triathlete group ride. Read more…

There are many rules of etiquette used in cycling to keep athletes safe while riding in groups. These rules don’t always translate to a group of triathletes riding together. Here are some ideas to help make your next ride safe and effective.

#1: Give ’em Space
Whats the difference between a road bike and a triathlon bike? Some may say the seat tube angle, others may point toward the aerodynamic tubing, but the major difference is that a triathlon bike doesn’t have brakes. Okay, it may have brakes but they are far out of reach in an emergency.

Not only is 3 bike lengths the legal spacing for USAT races, it is also a safe distance to ride while in the aero position. So, next time you and your other aerobar wielding buddies get on the open road, give each other some space. Not only will this help keep you safe, it will make you stronger and better prepared to race legally.

#2: Eyes Up
Often times, the aggressive position of triathlon bikes makes it difficult to comfortably see up the road. As with anything in life, you have to see where you’re going to navigate safely. Keep your head in a comfortable, aerodynamic position and shift your line of sight just ahead of the rider in front of you. You should be continuously looking ahead and around for any potential hazards. Remember, your response time is far greater on a triathlon bike so you must stay aware at all times!

#3: Road Hazards
It is common practice among road cyclists to point toward hazards in the road. For triathletes using their aerobars, this can be especially dangerous. Rather than removing a hand from your controls, make an obvious movement around the hazard. Conversely, when your triathlon buddy swerves, it is wise to follow their path.

#4: Water Bottle Launchers
As triathletes, we’re obligated to carry at least four water bottles on every ride. Many of the rear mount bottle holders don’t adequately retain bottles over bumpy roads. Your water bottles are your responsibility so make sure they’re secure. You don’t want to lose your nutrition and the riders behind you don’t want to lose their teeth when they hit your errant bottle. If you need to use a rear mount bottle holder, don’t use a flimsy, lightweight carbon variety. Instead, go for a lightweight, secure variety like the Profile Design bottle cage. It will save you money and keep your friends safe.

#5: Push Through
It is natural to have ebbs and flows in your power output on the bike. When riding in a group, it may seem problematic to pass but this is your opportunity to practice your positioning skills. Envision yourself in a race and access your body. If you feel that you’re capable of making the pass, push through. Following the USAT rules and the guidance set forth in #1 (Give ’em Space), the rider which you passed should fall back. These surges may seem like undue effort but they will prepare you for the pushing your body on race day.

Coach Tips: Pre Race Fueling

Read Coach Dan’s article on pre race fueling

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