Monday, January 30, 2012

Start of the Season and Avoiding the Training Sludge

With January coming to a close its a great time to start evaluating the effectiveness of your training time and if this is consistent with the season's goals.  Our M2 training squad has gone through some amazing weekends so far with our rides along the coast, Nicasio/Pt Reyes and Petaluma loops, and runs in the Headlands and on Tam.  Those athletes who are attending classes and group events will have seen a remarkable change in fitness in just one month's time - all good!

Take a step back and try to assess what you've accomplished to be able to plan next steps.  
Some big races like Oceanside, Wildflower, St. George and Texas are coming up on the horizon, is your training matching what you need for these events?  Don't be alarmed, there is still time to get the work done, but finding the best schedule to perform your three targeted workouts for each event, and making it a habit is paramount right now.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and possibly some guidelines to aid in assessing if you are on the right track:
Am I training enough or too much?  Triathletes have a habit of piling on just for the sake of it.  Triathlon does not have to take life as we know it, just be smart about it. 

Do you have at least 8-9 workouts a week? 2-3 swim, 3 bike, 3 run? Consistency is what helps you improve more than purely piling on distance.  For example, two 6 mile run, plush an 8-10 miler on the weekend is better than trying to make up miles by maxing out a weekend run.  More than 3 workouts is great, just remember to not interfere with other focused workouts to accomplish.  Consistency and proper execution of key workouts will be more effective than gloaming amorphous training sludge.

What is your total weekly hourly workload?  8, 10, 15 hours?  For our Half Iron folks, 6-8 hours is acceptable this time of year.  Those with Ironmans in May should see at least 8-10 as we enter the month of February. 

Are you coming to each workout ready to accomplish an objective?  At least one of each swim/bike/run should be a near fresh endeavor to bring some intensity and challenge yourself through an M2 cycling class, track/speed run workout, or pushing it in the pool.

Do you have a good handle on your weekly schedule?  Setting the time aside, or just finding the best fit into your week is an important aspect of training.  The earlier you figure out when and where you can perform your workouts at a normalized schedule, the better you'll feel about how training will affect you in not just a personal, but a professional level as well.  

Ideally, you will be attending M2 group rides/runs.  Having observed individuals and groups over the years, those folks who are generally consistent in their attendance always make, by far, the most progress in their fitness and performance.  

As is always the case M2 is available via email or in studio for questions or direction.  Very excited with the group so far and look forward to the race season approaching!

For a friendly reminder, classes are now as below with the addition of some great time slots.  It has been busy at the studio and demand warranted an expanded schedule.

Monday: 6:15 AM (NEW) and 6:15 PM
Tuesday: 6:00 AM, 7:30 AM, 5:30 PM, 6:45 PM
Wednesday: 6:15 AM, 5:30 PM and 6:45 (SF Tri Priority) PM 
Thursday: 6:00 AM, 7:30 AM, 5:30 PM, 6:45 PM
Saturday: 10:00 AM 

Additional weekend classes are added with inclement weather.  Stay tuned to M2's Facebook and Twitter pages for the most up to date schedules.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Group Riding - Paceline 101

For many, riding in a group is a social thing, but for training, it is completely different.  The group training ride has an objective, and moves along as a cohesive unit to accomplish this.  Working  as a single or double paceline requires some practice, confidence, and an alert sense of self or there can be dire circumstances for yourself and others around you.   

     1. Ride a straight line!
The safety and comfort of a group is greatly enhanced by an order of predictability, ie. riders will maintain a straight-line and will not be scattershot in and out weaving to and fro.  If you get dropped and there are riders behind you, do not drift into the middle of the road – maintain a straight line so that other riders might safely come by you.
2. Communication

Again, the safety and comfort of a group is enhanced by each riders' ability to spot and communicate hazards to the rest of their partners.  Riding close to each other has its aerodynamic advantages, but also closes down visibility.  Calling and pointing out bumps, holes, cars, etc is a must for a smooth ride, with minimal flats or other more dangerous events.

3. Beginning a Pull
When it is your turn to Pull the group, begin by ‘pulling through” which means maintaining the current pace without interruption.  If you are a stronger rider, you can begin to pull at a faster pace by gradually easing into the Pull.  Do not dramatically accelerate as you begin your Pull as all this does is yank the paceline like an accordion and cause people to get dropped or unnecessarily stressed.

4. How hard a Pull?
This is a function of how long you are pulling for (shorter pulls can see stronger pace), what the group training objective is, and whether you are trying to keep the group intact.  A common mistake that I see newer riders make is to pull for too long, where the rider’s pace clearly diminishes within their Pull, and which slows and frustrates the group.

5. Ending a Pull
The rider concludes the Pull by demonstrably pulling off to the side and once clear soft-pedals.  DO NOT finish your Pull by soft-pedaling or even stopping pedaling while in front of the group. 

6. Maintain your Distance
Riders should take care to generally maintain a consistent distance from the rider in front.  This consistency helps the group better settle into a rhythm of safe  predictability.  Descents can see wider spacing for safety. 

One tip for maintaining distance is to focus on the riders further ahead of you in the group and use peripheral vision for the rider immediately in front of you.  This forward focus helps you better anticipate changes in pace.

7. Time Trial Bikes

Time Trial, or triathlon bikes, are suitable for a paceline, but by no means are you supposed to go aero while behind someone.  Hands should be kept in the pursuits (bar end with the brake) to make sure you are ready to brake or turn if necessary.  This also makes the rider have to be in-tune with the gearing required as shifting requires more effort.

8. Mixing riders of different abilities
Learning how to effectively ride in a group allows riders of different abilities to share in a common workout.  Tips in addition to all of the above for making this work:
-         Stronger riders to the front – seems obvious, but….
-         Weaker riders should situate themselves further back in the paceline – let stronger riders pull you along without the pressure of you having to maintain a strong pace at the front. 

Here is an example of a paceline we performed along Bolinas Lagoon a month ago. Take note of some of the mistakes, but great use of intervals and reintegration once complete.

Winter Illness and Recovery

The winter months can be an exciting time for athletes who want to make large jumps in their fitness and speed, it is also a time that can put you further back at the same time if you don't deal with colds and viruses properly.  With the Holidays, less sunlight and other stresses in your life, the immune system takes a hit over the winter.  M2 is here to help guide you through coming back after getting knocked out of training from illness.

#1 Fever = No Exercise
While refraining from exercising while running a fever might seem obvious, consider that after offering the above advice to a new athlete at the time, I was admonished for such silliness where this same athlete years back somehow managed to train through pneumonia.  We were not a good match as things turned out.

#2 Aches = Light exercise at most
Preferably easy swim or gentle bike versus run.  Common sense here.  Do not be guided by the obligation to train so you do not lose fitness, but instead by whether a light exercise session might get blood stirring and leave you feeling better as a result.

#3 Chest Cold = Light exercise, short duration, low intensity
Important to respect lower intensities and no excessive duration.  Chest colds can be very draining and if you only drain yourself further and prolong recovery by force-feeding training.

#4 Head Cold = Moderate to L1 intensity 
With many head colds, I have often found it helpful to train at L1ish type intensity, or 10-20 below run LT.  Though not a pretty sight at times, such training can help clear the throat and nostrils of gunk that might otherwise remain stuck there.

Liquids, soups, vegetables, fruits are always good health agents.  Hopefully as an athlete you have already incorporated a good balanced diet, but maybe this is a chance to start?

Resumption of normal training:

First thing, do not worry that you have lost all your hard-earned fitness, that would take weeks of inactivity for this to occur.

Second thing, do not blast away the first day or even the send that you feel largely normal.  Test the water first with an easy workout, and assuming positive signals, you can upgrade to moderate and then moderate + L1 intensity.  Give a little watts or run pace and don't worry about it.  You should be good to go thereafter assuming the body responds well.