Q1



In business, as well as in training, it’s good to ”set the pace” in Q1. Rather than dicking around and hardly getting started – looking at the budget figures as ”a end of the year event” for business. Or in the case of training – see it as a fair weather experience…

This year I decided to I spent some hard time on the trainer the first 3 months of the year. It totaled up to >3,400 km in a little over 104hours. I would lie if I said it was fun all the time but not as bad as many people think.

Q1 was not much LSD/distance in fact, I think I have done more hours in the red on the trainer those past 3 months than I have done in my whole life. Or perhaps I have just forgotten the horrible pain of riding every Saturday with the beast Jean Moureau in Belgium. Either way the training is really almost the opposite to how we used to train and it will be interesting to see how that translates into race results this year.  

Managed to get some swimming and running in as well (which is not as difficult to get done as biking during the Swedish winter).

This week I decided to try something completely new and see a very interesting bike fitter that is a licensed naprapat and is therefor able not only able to point out what is wrong but also adjust it and advice improvements to your training. 

No big change in position (there rarely are – if you as I have been biking for +450 years) but the small changes made noticeable difference and I feel even more comfortable on my luxurious beast of a ride. Weakness was identified in left hip flexor (that currently is on holiday due to a overuse injury from running to much hills).

 

Delta Naprapat setting me up in the perfect position.

Next week I will reward myself with a week in Spain to finally ride outside. It will not hurt !

7 weeks to Ironman Lanzarote and hopefully I will get the hip flexor back in the game or I will bring my surfboard instead of the bike.

Buenas Noches Amigos!

//Juan Pelota

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To test or not test?



When I restarted training again 2014 (and racing 2015) I was surprised to see how accessible testing has become for all categories of athletes, not only to the top categories as in the past, but also to average age-groupers.

I am not talking about doping testing, which unfortunately seems to have gone the complete opposite direction. Pro’s have blood pass and experience frequent unannounced visits by WADA but there seems to be a complete lack of testing of age groupers. It’s amazing that two age group dopers were caught in the last few years but when you read the details about the cheaters Holly Balogh (2017, USA) and Thomas Lawaetz (2015, Denmark) it’s clear that someone really worked hard to get WADA out and test them – it didn’t happen as part of a structured testing in a race – someone had specifically given information that those two were using illegal substances.

But this post will not be about doping but rather about tests of your individual aerobic, anaerobic threshold and VO2 Max, done by knowledgeable people and documented in a professional way.

Over the years, it feels like I have read every book there is about training and racing and I know my body extremely well after so many years. So, it was with hesitation that I finally booked a test at Aktivitus. I made the decision after discussing it with my coach Teresa at Uperform.dk who really encouraged me to do the tests. I also reminded myself that I have made a commitment to use every possible legal advantage I can through better materials, methods and knowledge – finally I booked the appointment. Facts are friendly – belief is for religious people.

Test Time:

14:00 on a Tuesday I turn up at Aktivitus and Johan Hasselmark meet me and we start the tests with the bike leg. After a short warm up the resistance is increased every 3 minutes, a blood sample from a prick in the finger is collected and the heartrate is recorded. We take it up to 360W, 158 bpm and 7.1mmol lactate – no need to push it further as the purpose of the test is to identify at what resistance and heartrate the body makes the transition between the different energy supply systems.  

  • Aerobic threshold (LT) – the intensity level under which fat is the main source of energy.
  • Anaerobic threshold (AT) – the intensity level at which lactic acid starts to accumulate in the muscles and glycogen is used as the main source of energy.

Test master – Johan Hasselmark (one of Sweden’s top adventure racer team “Swedish Armed Forces”)

Next test is running with the same process but with speed increase every 4 minutes and blood sample taken at the same intervals. The run LT and AT test is followed by a VO2 max run test where I get a mask on my face where they measure the amount of air (volume) I inhale as well as how much oxygen I absorbed from that air (uptake). This test was shorter and rather than increasing speed the treadmill was elevated to simulate a steep hill. A really steep hill. Johan stopped the treadmill when claimed that ”your stride started to look more like a shrimp than a runner”. I was happy with that that and I am sure that I maxed out on both the speed and elevation that was possible…. 

Still looking relaxed and happy – before the VO2 mask….

My results were somewhat in line with my expectations but with some very important learnings (more on that later):

 

Bike:

Effect:

Heartrate:

Aerobic (LT):

240W

132 bpm

Anaerobic (AT):

305W

148 bpm

   

Run:

Tempo:

Heartrate:

Aerobic (LT):

4:35 min/km

145 bpm

Anaerobic (AT):

4:10 min/km

154 bpm

VO2 Max testing is a real treat! 

Apparently, anything over 46 as a VO2 max is considered “elite” at my age (Compared to the average population), so I guess there is still hope to become faster at +50.

VO2 Max:

 

Test value:

59,2 ml O2 /kg/min

Oxygen uptake:

5092 ml O2/min

Key learnings:

  • There are statistical models to derive intensity zones out from maximum heart rate or FTP-tests. Most common I believe is Dr. Andrew Coggans models. These models has been developed in the past due to advanced tests hasn’t been available to ‘ordinary people’ or Age groupers. However, during recent years advanced physiological tests are far more available. Statistical models are statistical, which means an individual can be far off the statistical zones.
  • In my current shape, I should aim to race Ironman distance at 230-235W on the bike, this is higher than I had intended and a good indication that the winter training with 1,000km per month has not been wasted time.
  • Given my VO2 Max I should be able to move threshold 10-15W before the race season start.
  • Based on the FTP tests that we have done – the bike zones (watts and heartrate) that was defined by Uperform.dk was a close but not exact. Now we have the exact values.
  • The running zones were way off compared to the zones that we have worked with based on 20min run test on the track. Both heartrate and speed. It’s highly likely that the current values reflect my current running shape that is far from what it need to be around race time. Uperform.dk works with the principle to “lift” one sport at the time and for the past 2month the focus has been on the bike where I really made progress. Now it’s time to get the running in shape before Ironman Lanzarote in May and more importantly Challenge Roth in July.
  • Talking to people who refers to real research rather than opinions and hearsay is so refreshing (specially in our current communication landscape). The team at Aktivitus are impressively knowledgeable and when discussing “train low, race high” concepts with reduction in carbohydrates to promote increase of mitochondria I got a very good reference to a study/thesis done at GIH by PhD. Niklas Psilander (2014) 

 

Summary:

Would I recommend going to Aktivitus for testing for a beginner/intermediate – absolutely, you will learn a lot about how to train and can even get personalized programs to work on the areas you are weak in based on the tests performed on you – not a general shrink wrapped standard program. 

Would I recommend it to an experienced athlete that has been in the sport for +10 years plus – Yes. I think we all are victims to habit to some degree and even if we try to challenge ourselves with new programs, drills and concepts – we still need to measure to know the truth. Only measuring the actual results a few times per year in races will not really expose the strength and weaknesses that we need to work on.

Have a great spring – train smart!

//Maggi

Faster swimming with less effort



That heading sounds like a sales pitch! Well, it’s not.

A seemingly small thing that is obvious to every good swimmer but often neglected or even unknown to triathletes including myself is working on ankle flexibility.

As runners and cyclists, we typically develop extremely poor flexibility in the ankles and while swimming we point our toes towards the bottom rather than the horizon behind us. The additional resistance of two big feet hanging down is obviously not something that will have positive impact on our battel against the resistance of water. A better option is to learn to point them and make this part of the body as hydrodynamic as possible rather than trying to catch fish between the toes.   

I have heard swimmers tell me that I can gain as much as 5 seconds / 100m which seams a lot – perhaps they were referring to my size feet which typically sends shoe sales people into the back of the shop for hours or across the street to the canoe and small boat outlet to find something that fits. Either way; 5 seconds or 0,5 seconds/100/meters my point is that less drag will give faster times without more effort and energy spent. 

Training your ankle flexibility is very easy and can be done anywhere and as you can see on the picture it’s pain free, enjoyable and quite glamorous (at least when you FINALLY get flexible – I have been told..)

Folding a Yoga mat under the top of your fleets and toes increases the effect and can be used once you can comfortably sit on your feet.

Have a good one and happy training!

//Das (U)Boot 

Race plan 2017



I am not much for rearview mirror looking but perhaps a quick glance back is good this time of the year. 2016 was a great year with lots of training and trips around the world. No crashes, no big injuries but I think I did too few races in retrospect. This will change in 2017.

2016 Training:

Swim: Around 2-3 sessions per week, 324,000 meters, 107hrs.

Bike: Moderate total distance just over 12,000km, 416hrs. More quality work than 2015 as Coach Teresa likes quality.

Run: Not that great total distance just under 2,000km, 158hrs – but also here with more quality work than 2015.

Total training time: 681hrs a 13% increase in training time vs. 2015 and an average of 13hrs/week.

Injuries and sickness:

Not bad at all. A bad cold kind of disrupted the early season and another one after the last race of the season but otherwise OK.

Race and results:

Did not race as much as I would have liked to due to several reasons but was satisfied with two races out of three.

Trapaniman ½ ironman: 04:12:42, 1st in age-group, 13th overall.

Slovakman226 full Ironman: 09:40:57, 1st in age-group 10th overall.

Ironman Cozumel: DNF due to stomach problems / cramps.

 

Conclusion:

Happy that I could spend so much time training and racing without sacrificing quality time with the family and still make ends meet. Awesome to get to know some great people all over the world. Also, good to do an Ironman distance race under 10 hours again and get one step on the way to the goal of “Faster at 50”.

Still not feeling my old strength on the bike – but considering that I have just restarted my training I am hoping that my bike legs will return. Running is gradually coming back and I am happy to be able to do multiple 25-30km runs at 4:30 – 4:35km pace with backpack on tired legs. 

2017:

Now it’s time to suit up and race more frequently than 2014 and 2015. It will be a busy schedule that will seriously test if the two years of preparation has made me ready to beat my old times. The first 7 months includes two Ironman races that I have sign up for and after those two I will revisit the plan and see if I will do two more this year or just one (Ironman Cozumel).

January – February: No racing.

March: Half Ironman, Half Marathon

April: Half Ironman and/or Olympic

May: Full distance #1 – Ironman Lanzarote (my old time from 1997 to beat – 10:08:16) 

June: Half Ironman and/or Olympic depending on how I feel after Lanzarote and how quick I recover.

July: Full distance #2- Challenge Roth (my old time from 1996 to beat – 09:12:23)

Aug: TBD

September: Possibly full distance #3- Austria Long Distance, Podersdorf

October: No race – Preparation for Ironman Cozumel.

November: Full distance #4 – Ironman Cozumel.

December: No race.

It’s a pretty ambitious plan but given the nature of the event I think it’s better to have multiple races lined up. Apart from the training and preparation all we can really do is to hope that the ”perfect day”, when everything works like it should, will happen on one of them.

//Maggi

Captain America Matt Russell



One of the best things with going to races abroad is that you often meet new interesting people. On the trip to Ironman Cozumel I was fortunate to get to know professional triathlete Matt Russell from USA. As we were both traveling without families and staying in the same hotel, we started to chat during a breakfast and over the course of the stay we spent some time talking about training and racing. When his amazing story unraveled I just had to ask if I could write about this and share it here, on my Runners World Triathlon Blog. 

Matt Russel at Ironman World Championships 2016 

For those who don’t know about Matt, he placed second in Ironman Cozumel this year with the impressive time of 08:04:24. With a background on the college team in track and field, specializing in 3 000 meter steeplechase and more recently Duathlon, Matt found triathlon in 2010. Lacking a swimming background (as many of us do) he had to do the hard yards and learn to become an efficient swimmer and is still making improvements in this discipline. Matt raced professional for the first year in 2011 and has since then completed close to 40 full distance Ironman races winning Ironman Canada and finishing top two and three in a substantial number Ironman races (Matt Russlell’s web page, FaceBook)

Matt is the kind of person that proves the hypothesis “The better and disciplined the athlete – the more humble, approachable and non-bragging person they are”. It took several days until he shared some of the extraordinary training values that he is capable of – or what do you think of a resting heartrate of 30bpm, max HR on the bike around 182bpm and an ability to produce 269W average (not normalized) over 2 hours with a heartrate of only 119bpm. 

One thing that I found amazing is that Matt does up to 9 Ironman races as well as several 70.3 per year and quite often they are not very far apart – twice in 2016 he did Ironman races that were no more than two weeks apart. The shortest time in between two Ironman races was one week and Matt feels that he often has a much better second race if they are close together, for example this year he raced Ironman Chattanooga and placed third just two weeks prior to Kona where he finished 12th overall. How is that even possible?

Matt says that he has a very fast recovery and that he found his ideal way of preparing is quite opposite to the traditional several days of complete rest during a tapering period and rather prefers to continue with a rather high trainload all the way up to race day. For example, the week leading up to Ironman Cozumel Matt did over 20 hours training. He found his training formula almost by accident – when he entered a half ironman race in the middle of a hard training and racing period and had a great feeling in the race as well as great results.

Over the years Matt worked with different coaches and have tried many ways of periodization, training and tapering that are common in the sport. He has found that following his intuition and listening to his body was a better alternative and now prefers to take planning into his own hands and to continue to experiment to find what works best for him.

 

Matt Russel at Ironman World Championships 2016 

Another interesting aspect is that Matt does all his bike training on an indoor trainer which seems to becoming more and more common for high performing Pro’s (same with Canadian Pro Triathlete Lionel Sanders). Main reasons are the fact that spending time on the trainer is more safe and provides the optimal environment to better focus on power levels, form and actual training rather than traffic situation and trying to staying out of accidents. Even in Cozumel Matt had his indoor trainer with him and did the bike training in his room. This might be hard to imagine for many age-groupers but is undoubtedly the best way to get the max out of your training time. 

Most of his training has been endurance/distance but before Ironman Cozumel Matt added a 4-week period of more intensity, VO2 max and speed, which obviously worked well and resulted in a personal best improvement with ten minutes.

It’s interesting and inspiring to meet people who chose a different path, who are eager to test new training methods and explore boundaries. Also, it’s fascinating to meet an athlete who’s willing to undertake the challenge to train on the indoor trainer to that extent.

Matt says; “It’s great when you finally get to race day and can unleash the speed and the feeling of going fast again outside – that’s the reward that makes all those hours on the trainer worthwhile”. He also points to the fact that enduring so many hours on the indoor trainer (and treadmill) builds his mental strength and prepares him to dig deeper than most are capable of.

Enjoying a few days off after the race Ironman Cozumel.

Truly a remarkable athlete. I’m not sure what is most impressive, his physical capabilities and talent or his relentless training and racing discipline, one thing is for sure – it’s inspiring! Meeting with Matt and getting this inspiration came at the best of times possible – during the cold and dark Swedish winter. We are still at least another three to four months away from the possibility to ride safe and comfortable outside again – at least for a sunshine cyclists like me.  

Happy Holidays on the trainer !

//Magnus

Race Report – Ironman Cozumel



I expected a paradise when I flew in to Cozumel International Airport and a paradise it was – in every aspect. Cozumel is a small island, just outside the Yucatan peninsula. It has a somewhat overcommercialized 1km waterfront with cruiseship tourists that visit the island every day. As soon as you leave the Starbucks and Hooter’s polluted downtown area and explore other parts of the city and island you find a genuine and welcoming culture and beautiful nature.

Down town waterfront – part of the run course

Pre-race week: A shuttle bus/taxi took me to the hotel that I had booked near the city center and as soon as I had checked in I went out for a run, assembled the bike – rode a quick test loop and had a beatuiful evening ocean swim. I got stung by jelly fish on both arms, chest and legs but I had started taking antihistamine to reduce the effects I get from the stings (as I am allergic) so I didn’t care much about it.

Next coming days I got to know some really great people that stayed in the hotel and had done the race several times before; Matt Russell from USA who placed third overall last year and Toni Ferreira Da Silva Neto who often is the fastest overall amateur in this race. I must say that I was plesantly surprized to find that there still are people in the big races that have the passion and attitude that I know from times of the past.

 

Toni Ferreira Da Silva Neto, Matt Russell and a Oldman (from left to right) at the bike check-in.

Over the next few days we did several more ocean swims and I got stung even more by jelly fish but told myself that “it’s probably good to get the body used to the stings as I will have more during the race. By Friday it was getting bad and I felt sensitive to heat – almost like I had a fever and talked to my coach Teresa at Uperform about it. The last session I decided to swim in the pool instead as I didn’t feel that good anymore.

 

Itchy & Scratchy – Perhaps I should get a ”Burkini” for next years race?

Swim: Raceday morning came and we took off into a crystal-clear water. In Cozumel, you walk out on a pier and at the end of it there is a timing device that pick-up your chip and start your time as you walk over it – this is excellent as you can only walk 4-6 at the time over it and creates a steady stream of people going into the water and spreads out the competitors. The swim course starts 3,850 meters north of T1 so all participants are driven by busses up to the start area. I started in the fastest group (<60min) did my own relaxed swim and was pleasantly surprised with time of 54:54 as the current was a bit all over the place and quite strong at times – it felt like I swam for much longer.

 

The Pro heading in for their swim start (which was a water start)

T1:Quite a long run to the bikes and up to the road – along a fantastic cheering crowd.

Bike: The bike course runs south along the west coast all the way down to the most Sothern point of the island in lush tropical vegetation on decent closed roads. Then it turns north along the east coast along the beautiful beach with some rather noticeable headwinds. After the beautiful ride right by the ocean it shoots straight accross the island again back to the west coast. I was positivly surprised to find that there was no packs or drafting and only saw a few people on the last loop that was a bit close.

 

East coast – riding close to the ocean

Followed my plan and started the first loop (of 3) at sub 5 hour pace. After 30min on the bike I started to have difficulty to keep the energy and water down – it came up in smaller volumes that I still could swallow back down again. Second loop the situation got worse and the volumes that was coming up can better be described as “cascades” that erupted over my bike and body, now I started to have difficulty to keep decent speed. By the third loop even attempting to keep something down was impossible and I showered in water to cool down as I couldn’t drink anything. I was quickly becoming dehydrated had cramps in the stomach and the cycling was transformed from ”race pace” to ”transportation to the transition area pace”. Finished the bike in a dissapointing 5:23.

T2: As I arrived to T2 I could hardly stand up – standing straight was out of the question. I entered the tent in a haze, walking like a folding knife that can’t be folded out anymore. Sat down and the cramp would not stop. Put on my socks, shoes, sun-visor and sun glasses, stuffed my Isostar gels in my back pockets and tried to stand up. That didn’t go to well. I laid down and tried to release the cramp through controlled breathing which didn’t work. After what felt like an eternity I decided  to try to run anyway (against the advice of the concerned looking medical staff).

Exited the tent, ran half folded for 200meters and the cramp brought me down on the ground again. The medical team seamed to expect what happen as they came within seconds and wheeled me off in a wheelchair to the medical tent. Apparently, I had high blood pressure, dehydration, fever (?) and they hooked me up to a couple of pints of IV. After an hour, I was better and released and could shuffle my crooked body out to pick up bike and bags and head back to the hotel in dispair.

Well that kind of sucked…. It is frustrating to DNF but I didn’t have much of a choise. Not sure about the reasons for the cramp – I have had stomach issues and vomited in races before – but never so bad that I had to stop. After the race, I talked with my very supportive and encouraging coach who had followed the race on Ironman She had googled “allergy against jelly fish & effects when stung” after I told her about the situation earlier in the week and apparently, you can get nausea and vomiting if you are sensitive. Being the smart coach that she is – she didn’t tell me about her findings BEFORE the race to get me worried.

Most likely I had accumulated quite a bit of poison in my system and when trying to race, and putting an increased load on my body, the symptoms broke out. Many people had problems with the stomach that day and the medical tent was much more frequented than previous years. There are of course other possible reasons; we got bottled water but was the ice made from tap water or botteled water if so – is the tap water on the island ok, was the bottles new or stored from last year and not cleaned properly? Can it be a combination – who knows.       

Either way – I was really happy to later hear the news that Matt finished second overall just a minute and a half after Fredrik Van Lierde, Toni placed third in his age group and our Swedish Pro K-J Danielsson was eights with a really strong finishing time of 08:23:01 – so good considering his pre-race uncertanty about racing in really hot humid conditions.

 

Getting to know new friends (left to right): Guilerme – Brazil, Ruth – Costa Rica, Tales – Brazil, Christina – Mexico, Rae – USA, Toni – Brazil, Dalibor – Swizerland, Matt – USA and me.

What now: Thankfully; my happiness is not dependent on results and getting a place on the podium. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a great reward (and addictive feeling) to win and achieve good results, but I separate my happiness from results and take a setback as fuel for the fire of motivation.

I don’t view my preparations for the race as ”lost” or ”waisted” – I love my training in all intensity and condition, I don’t mind long hours on the indoor trainer and refuse to relate or refere to training as a “sacrifice” or worse – be overbearing and marginalize the types of training that I find more challagning than other. 

For me, training for long distance triathlon, is not only a physical undertaking but an opportunity to build and develop mental strength and cultivating emotions. A possibility to learn to enjoy something that I perhaps initially disliked, dreaded or even feared (like +5 hour rides on the trainer).

Now I am back in training again after my seasonal break (which was Monday, as Coach Teresa sais – there is no ”Off-Season” :-). I feel fully recovered from the race (both physically and mentally) and looking forward to train hard.  Most of all, I look forward to go back to Ironman Cozumel next year as it is my ideal location, course and climate. 

My goal remains – to become faster at +50 than I was at +30 and I must admit that deep down I’m kind of relifed that I didn’t achieve my goal this time – then I would have to ask myself that difficult question – “what’s next?”. 

//Maggi