Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Triathlon is about more than swimming, biking and running.

In my years of competing in triathlon I have accumulated a lot of knowledge about the sport. My main conclusions are that triathloning is about more than swimming, biking and running - and many people are unaware of that. So, this post is meant for you: the aspiring triathlete, the beginner triathlete, the triathlete who's goal it is to win their age group or the triathlete who is thinking about turning pro.

My advice for triathletes (beyond the swim, bike and run):

1) Have patience. This is difficult to hear for any endurance athlete, as the goal is typically to complete a given distance in the fastest time possible. However, there is that phrase, "slow down to speed up" and that is very relevant to triathlon. For example, there is no point in increasing your speed or volume, if you don't have proper technique. It very commonly leads to injury. (More on this topic to be published in a book later this year. Stay tuned!)

2) Pay attention to detail. Know the course you are going to be competing on (including the transition area), it helps you enjoy the race more. Ensure that your bike fits, ensure that you are both aerodynamic and comfortable so that you don't lose "free speed", ensure that your bike is properly tuned up (tires get worn out, bike chains get stretched, cables can break or stretch and bolts can get loose or rusty), ensure you plan and practice proper nutrition, ensure you have used all your equipment before the race.

3) Don't practice until you get it right, practice until you can't get it wrong. Race day is full of additional stressors and the added anxiety makes you more likely to make mistakes. However, if you have practiced enough, this is less likely to happen on race day. For example, ensure that you can run after a race pace bike session, make sure you can sight while swimming at race pace, practice your transitions, and even...practice that bottle exchange, over and over!

4) Train your weaknesses, first. You may be a fantastic cyclists, but a weak swimmer. You may have great speed, but no endurance. So don't emphasize the cycling in your training and keep all your workouts short and fast. Focus on what needs work, even though it might not be as much fun.

5) Rest and recovery days don't just mean no swimming, biking or running. Unfortunately, "off training" days don't mean you get to load up on chores, eat lots of junk food, indulge in a few too many beers or glasses of wine. Your recovery days are actually more important than your training days in some respects. Your body is repairing and rebuilding during this time, so that you can benefit from your hard sessions and be ready for the next block of training. So what you do and what you eat actually matters just as much (or more) as on a training day. Eat simple sugars before, during or right after a big training session, but on your off days: Stay off your feet, get a massage, try to eat healthy food loaded with vitamins and minerals, hydrate on water. (Sorry if this isn't what you wanted to hear!)

6) Proper nutrition is key. This is more important for the longer races. Plan out your nutrition before a training session or longer workout. Practice your race day nutrition in a race simulation workout. For help figuring this out, see eLoad's nutrition calculator here. Also important is to eat enough carbohydrates the day or few days (for racing) before. This will ensure you have enough fuel to get you through that training session or race, and that you will be able to perform to your full potential.

7) Don't overtrain. Have a few key workouts per week or per training block (less is more if you have a busy schedule - remember what I said about recovery?). The remaining workouts should be low key, or have different goals. An easier/aerobic run (compared to running your guts out at race pace) is not lost training time, it is time to work on technique, to test out new running gear. Frequency improves economy (the energy it takes to perform a given task) and is better for injury prevention, so opt for more frequent sessions (even if many of them are easier or shorter) over a few longer sessions.

Subscribe to my blog updates here

Saturday, March 15, 2014

New bike for a new season!

While I was training in California, a few special deliveries arrived for me in Toronto. Among them was my new SRM and Rotor 3D+ cranks, QXL rings and ... my new Quintana Roo Tri bike! It was like Christmas in February :) And I was SO excited. However, I did not trust myself to get the bike set up perfectly. so I turned to my support network: The Bike Zone to do the mechanical work and Scott Judges, at Fitt1st, to do the fit.

I dropped my bike off at The Bike Zone (located at 734 Dundas St East) for them to assemble it. I couldn't believe how many bikes and accessories they have there. If you are looking for anything cycling related - you are going to be able to find it there. They have everything from road, mountain, tri and commuter bikes...and tons of gear and other accessories. And super quick service! My bike was all assembled and ready for pick up by the following day.

The next thing to do was pay Scott Judges a visit at his bike fitting studio. I knew I could count on him to get me as aero as possible on my new bike, without compromising my comfort. A new bike geometry on the Quintana Roo meant I couldn't just simply set up the bike identically to my old bike, so this was necessary. Being on the QR meant I was graduating from 650c to 700c wheels! Now, I am not against 650c wheels at all, but I was definitely at a disadvantage if I ever had a flat tire or an issue with my wheels - especially during a race. Not to mention the fact that they don't even make trainer tires for 650c wheels. So I am happy to say that I've graduated to 700c wheels :) However, with this change meant that it would be hard for me to get in the same aggressive position as I was in before. Hard, but not impossible! Scott was able to change up my stem, adjust the headset and get me into the same position as before.

I have ridden my QR now about a half a dozen times. On the computrainer to start - given the freezing cold temperatures and snowstorms I didn't have much of a choice! But, now, since being in Arizona I have been able to ride it on the roads as well. A few things that differentiate it from other bikes that I have been on are:

1) A more comfy ride. Scott at Fitt1st says that the fact that the front fork is a bit more curved - so the fork offset is greater - helps to give the bike better shock absorption and stability. I hate riding on poorly paved roads so this was very exciting news! And cycling in Tucson (anyone ever ridden on Tanque Verde?) has really put this statement to the test. The verdict - it's true - the ride is definitely smoother! This will definitely help me when I race on courses like that in St. George and Steelhead, which can have some very bumpy roads.

2) SHIFT Technology. This is what Quintano Roo bikes are known for. They have an 18mm shift in their downtube that direct air away from the drivetrain to minimize drag. Have you ever gone from riding the bullhorns to riding the aerobars and feel like you were instantly propelled forward?! Well, as soon as I get aero on my QR - that's exactly what I feel. And take a look at the bike from front on - you can barely see it!

3) Di2 Electronic Shifting! The Quintana Roo is able to support electronic shifting, which has been just amazing. Being able to shift easily from the bullhorns while climbing a steep grade, is probably the highlight. Not to mention the precision and speed at which the bike can shift. What a nice change!

4) It just looks FAST! Black and grey with an orange stripe! Nothing is more intimidating in the transition area than a bike that looks SUPER quick. Who says winning in triathlon doesn't have a mental component to it? :)

I am also happy to report that my first set of 2 minute Supra-Maximal Sustained Power intervals were a good 30W higher than last year. Co-incidence? Better bike fitness? Or better bike? Hmmm...

**Special thank you to Joe and Chris at Enduro Sport for helping me with some last minute adjustments on the bike before I left for the US. Their expertise is top notch. And to Peter Karmaszin for naming the bike Carlos!