Thursday, 26 August 2010

How should you pace your triathlon run?

An interesting recent study looked at the best pacing strategy to adopt during the initial phase of an Olympic distance triathlon run. In summary, ten highly trained male triathletes completed three individual time-trial triathlons (1.5-km swimming, 40-km cycling, 10-km running) in a randomised order. Swimming and cycling speeds were kept constant for all three triathlons and the first run kilometre was done alternatively 5% faster, 5% slower and 10% slower than a control run. The subjects were instructed to finish the 9 remaining kilometres as quickly as possible at a free self-pace.

The run that started with the first kilometre being 5% slower than the control run resulted in a significantly faster overall 10-km performance than the 5% faster and 10% slower runs. The results showed that the running speed achieved during the first kilometre of the triathlon is crucial to the performance of the run as a whole. The authors suggest triathletes would benefit by running the first kilometre of the run at a pace 5% slower than their 10-km control running speed.

So does that mean that this is the strategy you should employ in your next race? Not necessarily. The study looked at ten highly trained male triathletes performing an individual time trial. This is different to a race situation in which other factors, such as the influence of fellow compeditors, may alter your chosen pacing strategy. However if you are only interested in racing the clock and are not concerned about your finishing position it might work well for you.

In a study by Tucker et al. looking at the pacing strategies for the 5000-m and 10,000-m running events, times for each kilometre were analyzed for 32 (1922 to 2004) and 34 (1921 to 2004) world records. The analysis showed the first and final kilometres were significantly faster than the middle kilometre intervals. Quite a different strategy to the triathlon run in the study above. The slowing in the middle of the race allows for maintenance of an 'energy reserve' for the final push to the finish line. This is probably the strategy you see most often in an elite Olympic distance triathlon too. Certainly by those who leave T2 in the leading pack. The chase pack just have to go hard from start to finish in the hope of catching the leaders.

Pacing strategy during exercise is regulated by a complex system that balances the demand for optimal performance with the requirement to defend homeostasis i.e. keeping the internal body environment in a steady state. There are many external factors that influence your pacing strategy. These factors are likely to be different with every race e.g. weather conditions i.e. hot versus cold, the nature of the course, energy levels of the day, other competitors. You can't do much about the weather or other competitors but practising nutrition and hydration strategies in training and knowing the course will certainly be advantageous when it comes to pacing. Try different pacing strategies in training and low priority races to see what you prefer. Half the fun of participating in endurance sport is learning what your body is capable of!

See you Saturday. Long weekend...Bring it on! Tim (LFTC Coach)

PS. "The Runner's Body" is a great book if you want to learn a bit more about how your body responds to exercise and how to improve performance using the latest scientific approaches.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Bike/run brick route

I had a request yesterday to put the Brick bike route up on line, so I’ve created a map in mapmytri.

I couldn’t get the notes working on mapmytri, so I’ve listed a few things here instead:

- Start at Thames Barrier Park, and head out East

- At the island, turn left up and over Conaught Bridge (check out the dock on the left hand side, this is the London Tri dock)

- At end of the road, turn right to go down onto Royal Albert Way and keep going

- The first set of traffic lights are here, along with rumble strips – keep to the left of the road to avoid the strips

- At the Gallions Reach roundabout there are 2 sets of traffic lights, keep the right hand lane on the approach so you can go straight across onto Armada Way

- There’s a set of traffic lights here, but approach slowly and they should turn to green by the time you get there

- Keep going until you see the big warehouses, at this island, turn around and head back along Armada Way, across Gallions Reach roundabout (more traffic lights) and along Royal Albert Way (traffic lights and Rumble Strips at 7k)

- Instead of going up the slipway, and turning left over Conaught Bridge, go under the roundabout (more rumble strips) to go into the Excel Centre

- At the island take 3rd exit, this will take you along the road that runs at the back of Excel

- Follow the road around until you get to traffic lights, bit of a pain here, but aim up to the A1011, Silvertown Way, and another set of lights

- Turn left and follow the road all the way back to Thames Barrier Park (2 sets of lights I think)

The route works out about 12k. Not the most light free route, but the route that I use to train and there are decent sections with no lights to let you get up a decent speed to try out those tri bars.

Usual bike rules for everyone though. This is an open road with traffic and rules of the road, so make sure your bike is roadworthy, you must wear a helmet and you must follow rules of the road.

One last point, if you’re a member of the British Triathlon Federation, you will have insurance not only for when you race, but also for when you’re out training should the worst happen.

Hopefully the route will make sense, but happy to answer any questions. Karl (LFTC Coach)

Monday, 9 August 2010

Get yourself some toys for the pool!

I probably don't need to tell you that swimming front crawl or freestyle is a technical skill. It requires the coordinated movement of all four limbs and the spine to produce a smooth series of strokes that blend together seamlessly to propel you through the water. You might have found that endless hours of just swimming up and down the pool has not resulted in significant improvement. A technical skill such as swimming front crawl (FC) often needs to be broken down into it's component parts, with each part being practised and refined, before bringing it all together again. This is where the use of swimming tools can be very useful.

A pull buoy is not just for improving the strength of your stroke. The added buoyancy that the pull buoy gives to your legs allows you to focus on what is happening with the front end of your stroke i.e. with the arms and trunk. This is why we might ask you to use the pull buoy when practising drills designed to improve your catch and pull or body rotation.

Using fins is not cheating! Fins are very useful for improving your ankle flexibility and kick efficiency. The added propulsion that fins give you also allows you to focus on what is happening with the arms and trunk and to practice streamlining and body roll drills more effectively. Fins can also be used for 'over-speed' training. This type of training gets your body (and brain) used to swimming faster than normal, a form of neuromuscular training, that can result in more efficient movement patterns. Make sure you buy swimming specific fins (not diving fins which are very stiff and long).

Paddles are great for improving the strength of your stroke but there are some paddles that are also designed to improve stroke technique such as the Finis Freestyler Hand Paddles and PT Paddles. The Freestyler's unique shape and 'skeg' design forces streamlined hand entry which lengthens each arm stroke. A longer stroke creates a better pull through, a better hip-rotation, and ultimately increases performance. PT Paddles are shaped to deflect water around your hand, effectively removing the hands from the swimming equation. By removing the hand as a paddle, swimmers have to find other methods of generating propulsion such as using the trunk and keeping a high elbow during the catch and pull and using the forearm. Both these paddles are available through Swim Smooth.

In future sessions we will be using this equipment more and more. The Lido does not have enough pull buoys for the whole squad and they do not have fins. If you really want to make the most of the upcoming swim sessions and improve your stroke please buy a pair of fins and a pull buoy. I think you will find the swim sessions a lot more fun and rewarding as a result.

Nautilus, 197-199 Mare Street, have swimming specific fins. You must ring the bell to enter the shop so don't be put off if the door is locked during normal hours. The Lido has pull buoys for sale at the front counter. So get yourself some toys for the pool!

Well done to all of you who completed the London Triathlon in the weekend! Tim (LFTC Coach)

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Tapering for your triathlon

Training for triathlon does place 'stress' on the body and mind (physiological and psychological stress). If the level of stress and recovery is appropriate then the body (and mind) will adapt in a positive way and you will become fitter and stronger.

The main aim of the taper then is to reduce the negative physiological and psychological impact of daily training. In other words, a taper should eliminate accumulated or residual fatigue, which will translate into additional fitness gains leaving both body and mind in optimal condition to perform at your best.

It is sometimes quite difficult for athletes to reduce their training volume as they approach a race. A commonly held misconception, especially amongst novice athletes, is that they will lose fitness as a result. This is not true and a reduction in training volume is vital if you are to perform at your best on race day.

How one athlete tapers for a race will differ from how another athlete tapers for a number of reasons. Race distance and priorty, your level of experience, your training load (high versus low) amongst other individual characteristics will effect how you taper for a race. Here are some general principles about tapering:
  1. With a taper you should decrease the volume of training – but you must maintain your intensity levels. How does this work in practice? Your training volume might go down to 75% two-three weeks out, 50% the week before and maybe 30-40% in race week. If you normally run for 90 minutes, you might reduce that to 75 minutes with two weeks to go, an hour the week before and 30 minutes during race week.
  2. Maintain the frequency of your workouts. If you train five times per week on average you should continue to do this during your taper. Too much of a disruption to your regular routines can disturb things like eating and sleeping patterns and leave you feeling sluggish rather than fresh to go!
  3. Make your sessions race specific. Short brick sessions at race intensity are ideal and give you a chance to practise your tranistion skills. Even simple things like practising slipping your shoes on and off between running and cycling intervals can help prepare you for race day.
  4. Should you do anything the day before a race? This is where individuality comes into play again. Some people prefer to have a day of complete rest two days before the race and 'train' the day before with short sessions at race intensity (and no more!). Others will prefer to do things in the opposite order and have complete rest the day before the race. You must discover what works best for you.

All the best to those competing this weekend at the London Triathlon! Tim (LFTC Coach)