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I began doing triathlons in 1986, and I figured I was pretty much good to go. I was competing in both cross-country running and swimming in high school. The triathlon excited me because it seemed like a sport I would naturally be able to do. Swimming and running seemed like to only challenge. Afterall, everyone know how to ride a bike, right?
I’ve always said that you learn the most from your first triathlon. That was my experience at least. I was surprised how the swim and run were much harder than I expected. Oh, and I was clueless about generating any speed on the bike! Through brute force and volume I learned to race in triathlons confidently. It was difficult because I made it difficult, and figured that was the correct way to train. Eventually though I realized my training strategy was not getting me any further.
I thought about this recently when I spoke to an athlete that had figured out what he needed to get better at triathlon. He wanted help with swim technique, but not with his training. He said he got in all the bricks and other workouts that he needed to do. In our conversation it dawned on me that he thinks he know what he needs to do, but probably doesn’t. It’s easy to have blinders on and not see what is missing from your training to take your performance to the next level. I’ve been there. Hitting a wall in performance, and realizing you’ve exhausted every effort you can think of to reach your goals is humbling. I look back now and think what could have been if I had a coach earlier instead of committing years to doing it my own way.
What is holding you back in your performance? Do you even know? You might want to consider how much disappointment you might be avoiding by hiring an experienced coach.
Have you had personal experiences with a coach in triathlon or other sports that brought you to a new level of fitness and performance? Post your comments below.



Nov 2010

Dec 2010


32.3 mi

33.3 mi


697 mi

659 mi


143 mi

173 mi


82.20 hr

81.14 hr




Avg IF









Weight ∆

-4.6 lbs

+1.6 lbs


Today is 1/1/11, entering the New Year, with two months of training for the 2011 season already done!

Usually my training doesn’t begin until 1/1, so I feel that I am way ahead with a couple months of base training behind me.

Mid-December I took a rest week, but then followed it with three days of no training because of our ski trip. This resulted in a sharp drop in my CTL to 125.9 on 12/22. I am surprised it came back so quickly, but I did notice feeling flat with some loss of fitness with that drop. I have been planning increasing weekly TSS with rest weeks and rest days, but have decided to change my strategy a little. TSS is comprised of time and intensity. The total amount of time I have to train is already limited, so the only way to increase my TSS is by increasing the intensity. Since my CTL is already high, it isn’t likely that I will be able to increase it much more. I will therefore focus on what my training is comprised of, trying to make it more race specific each month. As for rest days and rest weeks, I am pretty good at taking inventory of my fatigue, and will rest a little when I am especially fatigued, or before a planned hard effort. Otherwise, life creates plenty of rest opportunities. If I plan rest days ahead of time, they often can fall on days when I have time to exercise, and then may be followed by days that I should be exercising but am tied up with other things. My training therefore has to remain rather fluid, and as long as I keep an eye on the totals and stay focused it should workout.

Over the next three months I plan on gradually increasing the amount of zone 3 and zone 4 exercise I do. I haven’t been racing for a while now, and have enjoyed the break, but am also looking forward to the higher intensity that racing provides.

I would have liked it if my weight had dropped over the holidays, but am actually pleased that it isn’t worse than it is. There were a lot of dinners, gift baskets, baked goods, and time to eat. Now that it’s January, the excuses are gone and it’s time to focus. The benefits of weight loss on cycling up hill and in running are phenomenal. Although I am trying to improve my fitness to do both better, losing a few pounds will provide much better results, even at the same level of fitness. I’ve read many accounts and claims (and experienced personally) of a 2 second per mile increase in running pace for every extra pound of weight that is lost. That is huge! So by losing 20 pounds I can see a 17 minute improvement in my marathon time. Relying on training alone is not likely to provide such an improvement. I guess it’s time to steer clear of the donut shop!


I am pretty much using a 2 week build with a 1 week rest cycle, but for Base 2 Period I am doing a 3 week build. Part of this was to get my weekly run plan with the weekly training cycle. My runs are currently on a 3 week build, with my long runs at 14, 17, 20 miles. I am planning on holding this mileage for the long runs, but gradually run them faster. I may cut back on the mileage if needed to achieve the run paces I want to run. My weekly run mileage is also building on a 3 week cycle, with the next cycle plan being 37, 40, 43 miles. As the pace increases I may reduce the mileage, but am planning on a maximum run mileage of 40, 45, and 50. Although I think of the running cycle starting with the low mileage and building over 3 weeks, the actual periods consist of 2 build weeks and a rest week, so the rest week is the start of the next run cycle, but the end of the current training period. Does it matter? Well, yes. The periods have specific training goals, mostly with progressive intensity, so the rest week should have the same intensity as the previous two weeks instead of increasing the intensity during the rest week to the next training period.

Okay, I’ve probably confused anyone reading that. Don’t bother dissecting it. It’s not the point of this post.

Now, summary of the training this week:

Total Swim: 14,900 yards

Total Bike: 180 miles

Total Run: 40.3 miles (goal was 40 miles)

Long Run: 20 miles (goal was 20 miles)

Total Training Duration: 20.6 hours

TSS: 1150 (goal was 1200)

Overall I am pleased with the training this week. You might have noticed that the TSS this week was about 100 higher than last week, and the training duration was almost ½ hour less. This is because of higher intensity in the biking and running. I tried to keep out of L1 (active recovery) for much of the biking, increasing the amount in L2 and L3 power ranges. Running is starting to feel better, so I’ve been able to increase the pace a little bit.

I’ve also looked a lot at my race plan for the year, beyond Ironman California 70.3 on April 2, 2011. Molly and I had planned on going to Paris for the Paris-Brest-Paris 1200K Brevet. The event is scheduled for 21-25 August, 2011. We know that we are going to have to move in August, possibly overseas. Also, our youngest son will be starting college in August, so we’ll be moving him into wherever he decides to go to school. We will have some vacation time, but we decided that planning on going to France for two weeks will be a little too much chaos. Trying to figure out what other goals to pursue in 2011 I realized that there are many options. I talked to several friends about what they were doing, read race reports, and considered a lot of races. I ended up deciding to register for Ironman St George on May 7, 2011.

Many of the Ironman events sell out very quickly. Some sell out in minutes, and this an entire year before the event! Ironman St George registration has been open for seven months, and is still open. Why? It has a reputation of being a very challenging course. The non-completion rate was high, and there were a lot of complaints. Yes, bad ass ironman triathletes were wining about how tough the race is. I get it, in a way, but Ironman is supposed to be an ultra-triathlon, and some of the most famous ultra events are known for their tough elements. I’ve seen recently “beginner” Ironman training plans. Should beginner and Ironman be put together? I’ve met people that had lottery spots into Kona, and after they do the 70.3 event to validate their lottery spot, Kona ends up being their second (and often last) triathlon. This also happens with “beginner” triathletes that move right into registering for an Ironman. In many ways it is awesome that everyday-nonathletic-people can become an Ironman, but many of those people are missing out on a great culture and lifestyle of triathlon. I’m always baffled when I see people acting as if an Olympic distance race is beneath them when they can’t even break 3 hours. They obviously could benefit a lot by appreciating the challenge of improving their time at a shorter distance race.

Okay, enough ranting about that…

Ironman events have a lot of appeal because when you finish “…you are an Ironman!”, and you may potentially qualify for Kona (Ironman St George there are 65 spots available for Age Group athletes). If you are just trying to finish an Ironman, and unsure of meeting the 17 hour cutoff, an “easier” race may be more desirable. If you are trying to qualify for Kona, a fast race might make people think that they would have a better chance of qualifying. There are still only 65 spots available! I do agree that a more challenging race provides a lot of opportunity for the race to go bad, and is more challenging to execute a good race. I went back and forth on this because hills have never provided me an advantage. Finally I realized though that a challenging course like this really fires up the drive to prepare properly. Some of my favorite races have been the toughest ones.

An example I have of a tough race is the Bataan Death March Memorial Marathon. This is a hilly marathon, and the military heavy weight division is in boots and cammies, and carrying a 35# ruck. Training for it was extremely tough, and the race was epic. I’ve longed to do this race again (did it twice) but the opportunity to do Ironman California 70.3 (2011 with be 4th consecutive year) has made me decide not to do it. This year Ironman St George is going to be my Death March.

After Kona I wasn’t sure if I would do it in 2011 because PBP was going to be my biggest event for the year. Since I’m not doing PBP, and my friend Matt Dixon qualified for Kona at Ironman Arizona, I’ve decided I really need to go for a spot. I still don’t know if I’ll even come close to meeting that goal, but right now I’m fired up and determined to give it my best shot.

Thanks for reading. Let me know if you are doing Ironman California 70.3 or Ironman St George 140.6.

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