Category Archives: Racing and pacing

Coach Rants: When an athlete says, “I want to go fast!”

Great run formAthletes who have worked with us over several seasons and have done their training as indicated, have usually enjoyed steady improvement and done so without injury. But when we sit down at the end of the year to plan for the coming season, many times the conversation goes something like this:

Athlete: “But this year, I want to go fast!”

Coach: “Oh! You want to go fast? Well, I wish you would have told me sooner because I’ve written all of your training programs thinking you wanted to go slow. In fact, I’ve withheld key workouts from your programs, silver bullets every one of them, that contain the secrets for going fast.”

Of course, we never say this. But does anyone honestly think we’re not trying our darnedest to write the best program for them given their ability level, time constraints, and goals to allow them to achieve the fastest possible times and do so without injury?

“But I want to be fast. And right now, please.”

Ok. Here it is.

The secret.

How you go fast.*

  1. Low intensity workouts to build oxygen carrying capability and teach your body to metabolize fat for fuel more efficiently.
  2. Tempo workouts to build strength and prepare the body for harder workouts to come.
  3. Threshold workouts to increase lactate tolerance.
  4. Rest.
  5. Repeat.

The time required to go fast takes weeks, months, and years of consistent, smart training.

There is no magic 8-week plan.

There is no special track workout.

It’s consistency and patience.

And just in case you’re skimming, let’s make that clear. CONSISTENCY AND PATIENCE are the keys to going fast.


*This is a short article, so technique is not mentioned. But obviously, addressing run technique, pedaling mechanics and bike fit, and swim stroke technique all play parts in the “going fast” equation, especially in swimming. So in addition to following your coach’s training plan to the letter, as we know you are doing, improving technique in each discipline will help you become a more efficient athlete. And an efficient athlete who trains properly is going to see the results they are looking for.

Why You Should Wear a Heart Rate Monitor in Triathlon Short Course Racing

triathlete cyclistMost people understand the role a heart rate monitor plays in long course racing. It helps us maintain a steady pace and can let us know when we’re in need of nutrition.  But many people think the heart rate monitor has no role in short course racing such as sprint and Olympic distance races.

In a sprint, you just go all out, right? But what if your perception of “going all out” doesn’t actually match with the effort you are capable of giving?

You just can’t sugarcoat a threshold effort. It hurts. A lot. And many athletes aren’t willing to stay there, let alone go there in the first place. But if you really want to race at threshold, a heart rate monitor can ensure you’re actually getting  there.

For example, a sprint distance race is generally raced at or near lactate threshold, especially on the run. If a person perceives they are working at threshold on the run, and they know their lactate threshold occurs at 165 bpm, but they see 155 bpm on their monitor, they now know they still have 10 beats to give. This little piece of information might help them dig just that little bit deeper to finish a 5K as best they can.

The heart rate monitor can also provide useful data for post-race analysis. We often hear people say, “I didn’t do so well on the run,” or “I felt great on the bike. I don’t think I biked too hard.” But without real data, it’s impossible to know how well a person executed their race. If that same runner who has a threshold heart rate of 165 bpm analyzes their data after a race and notes an average heart rate in the mid 160’s, they can feel confident they gave their best effort on the day. If they see an average heart rate in the mid 150’s, they would know that perhaps what they perceived as “going all out,” wasn’t necessarily the case, or perhaps their run was affected by biking too hard.

“I had a great bike, but I don’t know what happened on the run.” If only we coaches had a for dollar every time we have heard this. I had a great bike, but . . . What does that really mean?

Often, it means the athlete has “overbiked.” If this athlete has had a less-than-stellar run and has worn a heart rate monitor, they can use heart rate data from the bike leg to determine if they spent too much energy on the bike course. For example, if a person has  a lactate threshold heart rate of 165 bpm on the bike and cycles in an Olympic distance race—which is raced at slightly below threshold—and after the event, notes their average heart rate was above 165 bpm, and that the bike leg included several spikes into the 170’s, it’s safe to say they “overbiked” the course and didn’t leave enough for the run.

In summary, the heart rate monitor serves two valuable purposes in short course races. It gives us a piece of information during the race to ensure we are working as hard as we can, and it provides valuable data after the race to confirm how well or poorly we executed our race strategy.

Wildflower logistics and race strategy

Wildflower transitionWildflower—a world renowned triathlon classic. Here are some points on logistics and race strategy for the long course event that you might find useful.


One of the things that makes the Wildflower experience unique is the camping. Yep, you and eight thousand of your closest triathlon friends pitch tents or park RV’s for a weekend of camping. Be sure to bring warm clothes for the evening as it can easily drop to forty degrees overnight. Bring food and plan to purchase it prior to your arrival. There is a general store located at the race site, but most campers stock up prior. Paso Robles, a town forty-five minutes from the race site, is a popular spot for last-minute purchases.Wildflower camping

Bring water, although there is usually running water near the camps. Porta johns are numerous and are serviced regularly. Each camping area will usually have a BBQ pit and/or fire ring. Ear plugs are nice to have if you are a light sleeper as many athletes will still be arriving at the camp ground late into Friday night.

Registration opens at 12 noon. This is the best expo in the sport. Take a look around and enjoy! Again, be sure to bring warm clothing for the evenings and morning of the race. Winter hats, gloves, down jackets are not out of place here.

Wildflower transitionThe expo area/transition area is about 1.5 miles from the camp (overflow camping, that is). Shuttles will be available, but most people just ride their bikes down to transition—down because it is all downhill to the lake. Keep this in mind because if you’ve ridden your bike down, after the race, you’ll have to haul your stuff up!. A nice backpack or transition bag is essential to carry all of your gear down to the race start in the morning.

Long Course RaceWildflower swim start


When you arrive at the transition area race morning, plan on having a bit of a wait for your start. Depending on your wave, it could be an hour or more. Expect 20+ waves at this race. Set up your transition area, take care of the porta john business, and then hang out and watch the early waves head out. The swim in Lake San Antonio is one of the nicer parts of the course. Expect cool water in the 60s. The course does not head into a rising sun, so sighting is pretty straightforward. Wildlfower swim courseTry and swim at a steady level 2-3 pace. The effort should feel less urgent than an Olympic distance race. Nice and steady—it’s a long day. Once out of the swim, complete your transition.


The first mile or so of the bike is along the lake on a rough road. If you plan on doing a flying mount and putting your shoes on underway, try and complete it sooner rather than later as the road gets rougher the further you get from transition. After about the first 1-2 miles, you turn right and head up the first climb of the day. This is called Beach Hill and is very tough. Having just exited the swim, your legs might not be quite ready for a climb yet. As soon as you hit the hill, shift into your easiest gear. A 12-27 cassette is recommend in the back and a 52/39 in the front. Also, if you have a choice of wheels, pick the lightest pair you have. Shift straight to the 27 for this climb and try and maintain your rpms as well as you can. If your rpm starts to decay below about 60, then get out of the saddle and use your body weight to get over the steepest part of the hill. This climb will feel tough, but tell yourself that it is one of the hardest climbs of the day. It gets easier from here. After cresting Beach Hill, you’ll experience about 10 miles of big rolling hills. You will hit 35+mph on the downhills, which helps you to carry some momentum into the uphills. Try not to overwork this section. Your effort for the first 15 miles should be mostly level 2. You should feel like you are out on a normal long training ride. Do not ride the first 15 miles at level 3 or harder or you will fade dramatically on Nasty Grade and the last 10 miles of the ride.

Wildflower bikeAt about the 15-mile point, the course flattens considerably and becomes flat to gently rolling. If there is no wind, then this is a fast part of the course. You can now build your effort to a steady level 2-3. You should feel like you are at tempo pace or just below tempo.

At mile 38 or so, you will cross a metal bridge. Many people consider this the beginning of Nasty Grade and the return to the hills. The road does not really start climbing after the bridge, but it will definitely feel like you are on a false flat. About a mile or two past the bridge, the climb starts in earnest. Soon, you will find yourself in your easiest gear again. Find a steady rhythm—something you can sustain for the next 15-20 minutes. The hill gets steeper the longer you are on it. About halfway up, you will see an aid station. If you have some fluid left in your current bottle, you might want to avoid grabbing another one here as the extra 500 grams is just dead weight for you to carry onto the steepest part of the climb. At the top of the climb, you will see many fans and what appears to be the top of the hill—do not be fooled! You will turn right at this point and continue to climb for another 5 minutes. Be mentally prepared for this and it will make that last bit of the climb easier to deal with.Wildflower bike

Once at the real top of the climb, you will encounter the biggest descent of the day. The road curves to the right and drops steeply before curving back to the left. It is not uncommon to hit 50mph on this descent. Use your head and only go as fast as you are comfortable. Sit upright for more aerodynamic braking and use your brakes, as necessary, to feel safe. Once off of the descent, you will be about 9 miles from the transition area. Believe it or not, this is the toughest part of the course. You have made it over the most challenging climbs and are about 46 miles into the ride. It is easy to check out mentally at this point. However, these last 9 miles are over big, rolling hills back to the park. With accumulated fatigue and the rising temperatures, these last 9 miles are hard. Be prepared for them and keep telling yourself that the race is not over after Nasty Grade.

The last mile of the ride is all downhill back to the lake and the transition area. If you paced the first 15 miles well and used your easiest gears on the climbs, then you should be ready to head out to the half marathon run in good shape.


Wildflower runThe run course starts with a 2- to 3-mile section along the lake on the same bumpy road that you rode to start the bike. There are short, steep hills along the way. Shorten your stride and keep your cadence high on these rollers. You may even consider walking the steepest pitches in order to save some energy for later in the run. Aim at running a level 1-2 or 2-3 pace depending on how you are feeling. After about 3 miles, you arrive on the trails. For the next 7 miles you will be running on fire roads and trails. It is beautiful, but it can get hot. Be sure to stay wet by dousing yourself as much as possible at aid stations. Between miles 4 and 5, you will find the steepest climb or series of climbs on the run. The trail turns steeply up for about a mile. Many people choose to power walk this section. More power to you if you can run it! The top of the steepest pitch has typically been the location of the infamous “naked aid station.” The organizers have tried to stamp that out, but don’t be surprised to find naked co-eds handing you a drink!

Once at the top of the hill you run steeply down for about 400 yards before the trail flattens in a meadow. You will soon pass the mile 6 aid station and head into the camp grounds. At about mile 6.5, you run right through the campgrounds where 8,000 fellow triathletes and their friends/family have been camping. This is as close to the Tour de France as many of us will get. The crowds line the road and cheer like crazy. It is an absolute rush. Be sure to control your energy as it is easy to find yourself running at level 4 before you realize it.Wildflower run

At mile 8 you leave the campground and your energy leaves too! Be prepared for this. Once you leave the campground, stay focused and make mile 10 your next goal. At mile 9, you leave the trail and get back on the road and climb a short hill. You run down this hill for 1 mile—which is nice—until you realize that you have to run back up this hill. Mile 10 comes at the turnaround at the bottom of the hill. If you are doing well, you should try and run up the hill steadily. If you are struggling, then consider walking for 1 minute and running for 2 minutes to get up the hill.

From the top of the hill, you have about 2 miles to go! After cresting the last hill of the day, you run downhill for a mile. Stay under control and keep your cadence high. This can be a painful run as your quads are about done. At the bottom of the hill, you will hear the announcers’ voices and the music. You have 400 yards to the line – kick it in and finish with a smile!


Wildflower post race hikeTake your time to fully recover in the post-race area and let your body cool. Once you feel ready, you can tackle the last leg of the race—the hike back to the campground. It is a 1.5 mile hike on steep trails to get back (if going to overflow camping). This is where your backpack really comes in handy. Once back at the campground, kick back and enjoy having finished one of the greatest long course events in the world!

Nutrition Info

As for any long course race bike leg, aim at drinking 20oz of fluid per hour, eating 100-300 calories per hour, and ingesting at least 400mg of sodium per hour. Once on the run, drink a mouthful of fluid at each aid station, eat a gel every 45-60 min and be sure to get at least 400mg of sodium down. Products on the course normally include Gatorade Endurance Formula and Power bars and gels.

Good luck!

Ironman Lecture Series 2013 schedule

In June, we will start our monthly Ironman lecture series for the ninth consecutive year. These lectures will be held on the first Monday (usually) of each month and will discuss in detail subjects pertaining to Ironman training and racing. Subjects will include training volumes, equipment selection, nutrition, race day strategy, sports psychology and goal setting, and contingency planning. These lectures may be some of the most important things you can do in preparing for a successful IM or long course event. Why learn the hard way? At these lectures, you can learn from others’ mistakes and share your own lessons learned with your fellow IM athletes. The lecture series is free to all Camelback Coaching athletes whether you are racing an IM or not. Much of the information can be applied to ½ Ironman racing as well. Others may attend at a cost of $10 per lecture.

The meetings will be held in the Camelback Coaching office starting at 6:00PM and will usually be done by 8:00PM. We will provide food and drinks. The dates of the lectures are listed below (dates and times subject to change). We will send reminder e-mails prior to each one. If you cannot attend please be sure to let us know and we’ll send you the power point presentation.

Lecture #1 – Training Road Map – June 3rd

Lecture #2 – Nutrition – July 1st

Lecture #3 – Goal Setting – Aug 5th

Lecture #4 – Equipment Selection – Sep 9th

Lecture #5 – Contingency Plans – Oct 7th

Lecture #6 – Race Strategy – Nov 11th

A Tale of Pacing and Results from LA Marathon, San Juan 70.3, D.C. Half Marathon, Cincinnati Half Marathon, Mountain to Fountain 15K

Our athletes competed in Puerto Rico, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Cincinnati, and Fountain Hills over the last couple of weekends. We’d like to give a big shout out to Caroline Sekaquaptewa who set a PR at the LA Marathon with a time of 3:33. You’ve heard us say it a million times–start “slow,” finish fast. Here are Caroline’s comments from the race:

This race was funny. I started slow…And at the half I was way behind my time I wanted to be at. I almost was thinking ok, I can’t make the time I want so ill just finish it as a training run. I picked up the pace, then kept going because I wasn’t feeling tired. The last 4 miles were hard, but only because I was running fast to make sure I was under 3:40. I didn’t realize I was going to make the time until around mile 18. It was so exciting. I was smiling the last 4 miles, even though I was hurting. A very cool run. 

Also, congratulations for Mark Williams and G Parekh who raced the San Juan 70.3. This was Mark’s first ever triathlon and G’s first 70.3!

On the East Coast, Lindsey Buckman and Kyrsten Sinema finished the DC ½ marathon and Frank Smith ran the Cincinnati ½ marathon.

More results . . . Congratulations to all of you!

San Juan 70.3

Mark Williams             8:00 – first triathlon!

G Parekh                     5:50 – first 70.3!

LA Marathon

Sam Unzek                              3:57

Caroline Sekaquaptewa          3:33 – PR!

D.C. Half Marathon

Lindsey Buckman       2:40

Kyrsten Sinema           2:40

Mercy Heart Half Marathon, Cincinnati

Frank Smith    1:58

Mountain to Fountain 15K

Jamie Cook     1:10 – Jamie is racing Ironman Lake Tahoe this summer.


Tyler Webb     25:43   7th overall!

Basic pacing guidelines and thoughts for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon and Marathon

With so many people racing the PF Chang’s Half Marathon and Marathon this weekend, here are some pacing guidelines for both distances as well as some other thoughts.

Let’s start with nutrition. Eat as you normally would this week (the week of the race). In the 72 hours prior to the race, you can increase your carbohydrate intake slightly with some more pastas and breads and avoid fiber or high fat desserts. The morning of the race, your meal should consist of a 400-600 cal breakfast about 2-3 hours before the start. Nibble on an energy bar in the hours before the race and suck down one gel about 20-30 minutes before the start. Do some static stretching and jump in place as a simple warm-up. No need for a twenty-minute warm up run. Just limber up and get the heart rate raised a bit.

Pacing for the Half

Run the first two miles at lev 2 (on a scale from 1 to 5—lev 1 being a slow, warm-up pace, and lev5 being an all-out anaerobic effort). The death of any race can be traced back to the initial miles. Starting too fast in the first few miles will lead to a big fade in the last 3 miles. Keeping yourself at lev 2 will help avoid the two-mile sprint at the beginning. Run at lev 3 between miles 2 and 3 and time that split. The time it takes to cover that mile is your pace for the rest of the day. Expect HR to slowly drift upwards, as well as perceived exertion, but hold on to that same pace. At mile 10, decide if you can hold the same pace or go faster. If you feel good, try to lift the effort to lev 4-5a for the last 5K. Cross the line with nothing left.

Nutrition for the Half

Eat one gel every hour and drink water as desired.

Pacing for the marathon

Run at lev 2 for the first 13.1 miles and lev 2-3 after that. At mile 20, hold what you have or try to lift the pace to lev 3-4 for the last 10K. If you are aiming for a specific time, then try and complete the first 13.1 miles in 51% of your goal time and the second 13.1 miles in 49% of your goal time. A slight negative split is desired.

Nutrition for the marathon

Eat 100 cal per hour and drink as desired. If you have a heavy sweat rate, then ingest at least 400mg per hour of sodium.

Good luck everyone!!!

So, it’s two weeks until Ironman . . .

Congratulations on making it through your Ironman training! Now that it’s taper time, we want to remind you of a few things. Over the past several months, you have accumulated quite a bit of fatigue with your training. The stress of this training has caused your body to adapt and become stronger. You are currently fit to race an Ironman. Now that we are getting closer to the race, the priority is not on improving fitness, but rather, reducing fatigue so that you can arrive on race day feeling fresh and motivated to put your best foot forward. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. It is normal to feel nervous as though you have not done enough training during this period. You have become so accustomed to long Ironman training that anything less than a 6-hour ride seems like a waste of time. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Research shows that you can reduce training volumes by 50% for an entire month and see no decrease in VO2 Max or Lactate Threshold test results. Do not be tempted to squeeze in one last long ride or long run. You will only accrue more fatigue and delay your return to full freshness. Stick to your plan!
  2. Research shows that it takes 11 days for any workout to cause an adaptation or change in your body. So, when you are within 11 days of a race, there is nothing you can do to improve your fitness. The aim of the workouts during this period is to keep your muscles firing, but not so much that you accumulate unwanted fatigue. Remember, when you are in this window, there isn’t anything you can do to improve your fitness, but there’s a lot you can do to increase your fatigue levels. So err on the side of too little as opposed to too much.
  3. Lastly, during this taper period when we are reducing volume in order to decrease fatigue and increase freshness, the overall goal during this time is to feel rested. If, on a given day, you feel tired, sluggish, or had a stressful day at work, the smartest thing you may do is take the day off and get some extra sleep. Remind yourself you have done the work, the hay is in the barn, and now your only goal is to get to the start line, healthy, happy, and ready to go. 

Five common Ironman racing mistakes

Five Common Ironman Racing Mistakes

  1. Arriving to race day overtrained or with an inadequate taper
  2. Inflexible nutrition plan
  3. Not anticipating the bad patches and/or not having a way to deal with them
  4. Over-biking
  5. Overhydrating on the run

We’ve seen them all, so here’s some advice to avoid these common race day pitfalls:

1)  Arriving to race day overtrained or with an inadequate taper. Remember this: Better to be 10% undertrained than 1% over trained. You don’t want to leave your best race in training. The goal is to arrive fresh and ready to go (mentally and physically) on race day. If you’re within 7 days of your race, you will not gain any more fitness that will benefit you on the day.  Give your body the time it needs to recover/rest prior to race day.

2)  Inflexible Nutrition Plan.  It’s no fun getting sick during an Ironman, but if you get the nutrition wrong, this is often the result. And this is a tough one. You’ve trained with a specific nutrition plan (so many calories per hour, so many milligrams of electrolytes per hour, so many fluid ounces per hour) and you’ve got it dialed in. It has worked during training. Surely, it will work on race day.

Well, many times it doesn’t. For lots of reasons. Absorption rates for the stomach and small intestine can be affected by a number of things: temperature, intensity level, anxiety, even swallowing too much water on the swim.

Rule number one with regard to nutrition: Do not be a slave to your nutrition plan. You have to be able to adapt to changing conditions and circumstances. If you feel full, don’t force something down—your body doesn’t want it or won’t be able to absorb it. If you feel thirsty, drink. If those salty pretzels at the aid station look fantastic, eat them. Your body is telling you what it needs. Those gels that worked so well in training, might not work at all on race day for one reason or another. Don’t be afraid to try something else. Flexibility with nutrition has saved many of our athletes’ race days.

3)  Not anticipating the bad patches and/or not having a way to deal with them. This is mental preparedness and mental toughness all rolled into one. We all dream of the perfect race day experience, but sometimes—many times, in fact—this is not the case.  We all hit bad patches. It’s part of long distance racing. But you have to be ready for it.

Do your contingency planning ahead of time. What if your goggles get knocked off? What if you have a flat? What if you feel bloated and sick? What if you get a blister? What if you experience chaffing? Go through these possibilities ahead of time and then make a plan for how to deal with them.

If you’re worried about getting your goggles knocked off, practice treading water or rolling on your back to readjust them if they get skewed. Or hold onto a kayak for a moment to get everything organized again. What if you lose your goggles altogether? Do you call it a day? No, of course not. You can swim without goggles. It doesn’t have to be a showstopper on race day.

If you’re worried about getting a flat, practice changing a tire. Or if you’d rather not learn how to change a tire and prefer to wait for neutral support, be prepared that you might have to wait 30 minutes or more to get help.

The point is, don’t pretend like the bad things will never happen to you. Think them through. Have a plan. And regardless of what happens, whether it’s something you anticipated or not, remember the old British saying, “Keep calm and carry on.” Deal with it and get on with it.

4)  Over-biking. It’s far too easy to begin the bike too fast. You feel fresh. You’ve been training for months. You’re tapered. You’re excited. You’re ready to kick this course and take names! And darn it, you’re going to go for it! This is race day! You’re not going to hold back a thing!

Don’t do it. If you want to run well, you’ve got to pace yourself—especially the first 30 to 50 miles. These first important miles should feel like you’re cruising easily on one of your long training rides. It takes discipline to pace the bike this way—serious discipline. But you’ll run far better as a result.

5)  Overhydrating on the run. You hear this all the time: Never pass up an aid station. Well, that’s not necessarily the best approach to hydration on the run. Think about the long runs you do in training. Are you drinking a full cup of water every mile? Doubtful. You’re probably sipping from the hydration bottles you carry on your waist belt or maybe from a Camelback.  So be careful here. Hyponatremia is a serious health risk. If you drink too much, sodium levels in the blood can become too low (the blood gets diluted, basically). Try a small drink every 2 or 3 miles on the run—something more natural—instead.

Racing at Altitude

Lake Mary, Flagstaff, AZ

After the Ironman Lake Tahoe announcement, we have received many questions about how to race at altitude and what effects it can have on performance. The general consensus among the sports science community is that the effects from altitude are seen at altitudes above 3,500 feet. IM Lake Tahoe will be raced above 6,200 feet and definitely fits the definition of a race at altitude. Here locally, we have events in Flagstaff and Show Low that are raced at altitudes of 7,000 feet and 6,200 feet respectively.

Due to a decrease in atmospheric pressure at altitude, we take in less O2 per breath than we do at sea level. The body tries to make up for this O2 deficit by increasing the respiratory rate and the heart rate. This is an attempt by the body to increase the amount of O2 that is delivered to the muscles. The end result is that during exercise, we can expect to hit lactate threshold at slower paces and typically see higher HRs than we would at sea level.

So keep the following things in mind when racing at altitude. These are written with Olympic-distance racing in mind, but the principles can be applied across all distances. The intensities are obviously lower the longer the race distance.

Swim – Start very, very slow. Your breathing rate is fixed while swimming but there is less O2 available per breath than what you are used to. By fixed, this refers to the fact that you can only breathe every so many strokes because your head is otherwise underwater. If you are two-count breathing, you are only able to breathe once every two strokes. You cannot increase respiratory rate without increasing stroke rate. If you start too fast you will go into O2 debt (exceed LT) in about 2-4 min. We see this every year where people who start in a sprint end up breast stroking at the first buoy as they try and increase their respiratory rate (get the head out of the water) to get some more O2 into their system. Start slowly and build into the swim – stay in control. Do not sprint the first 200 meters! This applies to all racers – fast or not so fast. Be smart. Swimming at altitude is the biggest challenge you face on race day. Start slow and you will give yourself a chance.

Bike/Run – Trust your perceived exertion when racing at altitude. While HR is usually high when resting at altitude due to the body trying to get more oxygen where it needs to go, the HR is usually suppressed during exercise because we hit threshold at much lower outputs than we do at sea level. Expect to hurt the same as you would at threshold at sea level but you will be moving at a somewhat slower pace due to the decreased O2. The same goes for the run. You will hurt the same but will be moving slower than at sea level. Don’t get discouraged if you see slower mph or pace/mile than what you are used to. Just push yourself at what feels like a threshold effort and you will be right on course.  Realistically, racing a 7,000-foot course is probably not the likeliest place to set a PR J. You can expect a decrease in performance by about 7% at 7,000 feet. This means a 45-min 10K runner will be doing well to run under 49 min at 7,000 feet. Adjust your time goals accordingly. Try and ride at what feels like threshold to just below threshold on the bike and threshold to just above threshold on the run.

Be sure to drink plenty of fluids when at altitude as the increased respiratory rates can cause you to get dehydrated faster even when just walking around.

Have fun, race hard and enjoy the mountains!

Racing in the Heat – Sprint and Olympic Distance Triathlons

It looks like the summer is going to be here soon, so it’s time to talk about racing in the heat! Heat is the number one inhibitor of athletic performance in endurance sports. In other words, no one races their fastest when it is hot!

ice vestPhysiologists define extreme heat as any race taking place in 80 degrees or more. Runners have long known that best performances occur in temperatures near 55 degrees. For every 10 degrees above that, race pace slows by a few percent.

There is only so much blood in the body and when some of that blood is being diverted away from working muscles for cooling purposes, then we can’t do as much work. Also, an exercising body creates a tremendous amount of heat. Once core temperature exceeds 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit), the brain forces the body to slow down so that core temperature does not become lethal.

Managing core temperature is the name of the game when racing in the heat. If you overheat the engine, then you fall apart and slow way down. In order to avoid overheating, you have to slow down (i.e. generate less heat)!

Respect the heat! The most recent Boston Marathon was run in 90-degree heat. The winner’s time was the slowest time posted since 1985. A conservative pace was the fastest way to get to the finish. If the lead runners had run their PR goal times in terms of pacing, they would have blown up around mile 20.cooling with water bottle

Bigger people do worse in the heat than smaller people—the more mass you have, the more heat you generate when exercising. At the 1996 Olympic marathon, scientists calculated the mass of the winner based on the air temp being 80 degrees with 60% humidity. In order to produce a time near 2:08, they predicted the winner would need to weight 45 kilos. They were off by one kilo. The winner weighed 44 kilos! So, if you are bigger, then you need to be even more conservative with the heat.

Here are some tips for racing the Sprint and Olympic distance races in the heat:

Start the race normally hydrated. Do not over hydrate or you will dilute your electrolytes. Sip on a sports drink that contains plenty of sodium in the morning of the race. Stay cool as long as possible. Do not get into your wetsuit too early!

Consider wearing a sleeveless wetsuit or no wetsuit if the water is in the 70s and the air temp is going to be above 80. If you start to overheat in the water, then the day is doomed. It is almost impossible to cool your core temperature down during the race unless you almost come to a halt.

Once you are out of the water, do not let your skin dry off. Splash cold water on your head, arms, legs and core. Pay attention to splash water especially on the legs as those are the muscles doing the most work. Splashing water on your head and neck can cool the blood in the brain and can trick the brain into thinking it is cooler than it really is. Remember how much water Floyd Landis splashed on himself on Stager 16 of the Tour in 2006!

cooling with water bottle on runSlow down! Do not hammer at or above lactate threshold if you plan on running well. Your core temperature will elevate. It is easy do this since the evaporative cooling effect of the air on the bike makes it feel cooler than it is. If you start to feel hot on the bike then you have already accumulated too much heat – slow down. Aim at a conservative level 3-4 pace (sub threshold). The hotter it is, the slower you should go. Be sure to trust your perceived effort and speed. The heart rate will likely start climbing and be elevated all day on hot conditions.

Get off of the bike and settle into a reasonable tempo pace (level 3) for the first mile. At the mile point, you will be able to assess if this pace is sustainable. If you are already suffering, then slow down a bit. If it feels sustainable, then it will likely be hard by the second mile. Focus on quick feet and maintaining a steady rhythm. Your focus is to not slow down the rest of the run. Your heart rate, perceived effort, and core temperature will inch upwards as the run goes on. What seemed like a reasonable tempo pace at mile one may feel like an all-out level 5b effort by mile 5! Start your kick with about 800m to the finish. If you start a mile out, you will likely burn up about 600yds later. Again, splash as much water on you as you can during the race!!

Your nutrition can remain the same as any Sprint or Olympic race. You might consider some salt tablets on the bike if you are a bigger athlete prone to muscle cramps in the heat.