Step Up and Tri – June 2011

It’s June already!
How did that happen? At the beginning of the year, it seemed as though we had ages till our big races but they are creeping up on us. Some of you just marked 6 months till your key races, and some of you are MUCH closer to the big race/s of your season. I hope that training is going great and you are feeling strong and confident.

I just got back from a super Century ride in horse country, south of Gainesville, as I prep for the biggest, gnarliest ride I have ever undertaken: The Death Ride- a tour of the California Alps on July 8th — 129 miles with 15,000 feet of climbing. Yes, I have indeed lost my mind! I decided to do this ride because I SUCK on hills and thought I needed something to inspire me. It may be fear or smart training that gets me out to do my training rides for this puppy, but I hope to see some of you out there.

May you find the following tidbits interesting ….

Just “Step up and Tri!”

Training Tidbit-
How a higher cadenced riding will lead to a stronger bike AND run – trust me.
Why o Why does Dara keep harping on about cadence drills this, and spinups that, and increase your cadences all the time?

It all boils down to the makeup of our muscles and slow vs. fast twitch muscle fibers. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, our slow twitch muscles are the ones responsible for higher cadences (because these will generally be done with a lower resistance/less force application than fast twitch muscles fibers).

Slow-twitch fibers:

  • Primarily burn fat for fuel, an almost limitless supply (tens of thousands of calories) for even the leanest athlete.
  • Are very resistant to fatigue: they take a long time to fatigue and recover very quickly.
  • Produce less force and do so more slowly than fast twitch fibers.

Fast-twitch fibers:

  • Burn glycogen (stored form of carbs) for fuel of which there is a limited supply- somewhere between 1500- 2000 calories of muscle glycogen for a well-trained, well-fueled athlete.
  • Produce high force, very quickly.
  • Fatigue quickly, and recover slowly.

Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan (THE source for all things power related) have developed a nifty analogy: Imagine your legs are a book of matches and every time you dig deep and go really hard you burn a match. The total number of matches in the book is finite, just like your energy supply. Once you burn a match, it’s gone. At the beginning of the day you have a full set of matches, but each hard effort your do burns one of those matches. Those hard efforts are all powered by the fast twitch muscle fibers. Spinning at a higher cadence allows you to hang on to those very valuable matches.

If you try to climb or ride at a high pace with a low cadence (high force) you are most definitely using up those fast twitch, powerful, quick to fatigue matches. Where will you be when you hit the final stretch and none of those matches are left? You will be left riding (or running) slowly. Or, worse than that you may just bonk as those fast matches used up all your muscle glycogen….

The issue is NOT just one of spent matches, however. For cyclists, holding a higher cadence will allow you to respond to an attack more quickly, as you know you can’t explosively initiate a sprint from a really big gear- you have to be in a gear that will allow you to take advantage of your power- and that will take higher cadences.

For triathletes, a cycling cadence of around 90 rpms actually matches their running cadence, which facilitates running off the bike. And of course, if you pushed a big gear with a low cadence all the way through the bike leg then you definitely used up a lot of muscle glycogen and spent a lot of matches and Voila!- Concrete legs that don’t run well!

What is the optimal cadence? Studies have generally found that it is around 85-95rpm. Of course, there are times when this is too slow (sprinting)  or too fast (climbing a big hill). Experienced, stronger cyclists will be comfortable within a wide range of cadences.
Nutrition Tidbit –
What’s the hype about carbohydrates & what is their role in performance?
As endurance athletes, we use two primary substrates for energy- carbohydrates (stored in the form of liver and muscle glycogen, and present in the blood as glucose) and fat (you know where this is stored!).

The typical athlete has about 1200-2000 calories of stored carbs  (if they have been eating well), and if we burn between 600-900 cals an hour, you can see that we will run out of this energy source pretty quickly. This is why triathlon is really 4 disciplines: swimming, biking, running and nutrition.

What about fat? This is an almost infinite supply of energy (literally tens of thousands of stored calories), but at exercise intensities greater than 40% of VO2max the human body will preferentially begin to use glucose or glycogen to produce energy. This is because carbohydrates are metabolized very quickly, whereas fats must undergo a much more complicated and time consuming process to produce the zoom zoom in your legs. The higher the intensity, the more your system will burn carbs for energy.  Additionally, fat burns in a carbohydrate flame, so even when you are working at low intensities, carbohydrate is still being used (in small amounts). Actually, we are never just using one substrate; there is always a mix being metabolized.

So what!? Because you don’t want to bonk! We can’t actually replace the glycogen at the same rate that we burn it during exercise as we can only process about 60g of carbs /hour(240 cals). This means that long course triathlon or cycling events over 2 hours have a lot to do with resource management- with regards to both the expenditure (pacing) and the intake of energy. Pacing is vital for longer events as is ensuring you are optimizing your intake of carbs in a way that works for you. If you would like a copy of my workout hydration and nutrition document that details all the things you need to consider for your nutrition strategy in training and racing, please email me (
Athlete’s Races Updates

Bonnie and Franny– Mud run, Miami. They had fun!!! But not as much fun as we are gonna have at the Tough Mudder in December!

Melissa C-W– Big Syd Climb: Melissa was shooting for negative splits up this nasty 1.2 mile climb in Canada and she did it! Very happy with her time, she has already set new, challenging goals for this puppy next month!

Adam– WPB TT. Decided not to do that race, but is going to do two the first week in June: Team Armada 4.1 m and Orlando Airport series (7 or 14 mile) TT’s! He is also training for a sub 60 minute 40k-er at the end of June! Go, Champ, Go!!!!

Tracey– Gulfcoast Half Iron! Tracey had a super race and is ready to do Augusta in September. Last year she got a flat and her “wrench” had put the wheel skewer on so tight she could not get it off and that was the end of the race.  THIS year, she raced strong and hard to the finish!

Orlando– Ironman St.George. This was Orlando’s first IronMan, and he was ready despite fighting with some serious tendonitis. Orlando finished this race, in spite of having the stomach flu and throwing up for much of the race. I don’t know how he managed to complete arguably the toughest race on the US circuit. But now he can say he is truly an Ironman of the toughest order. He still wants to race IM Florida at the end of the year…. And I know he is gonna kick some serious iron booty!

Jim– Naples Road race. Jim took 8th in his first ever road race, which is amazing! Jim is training for Nationals in Oregon, so wish him luck!

Raul– I don’t know how he does it, but he races every Wednesday and kicks it hard! The last race in May he took 7th and we are determined to get him on the podium! He is getting stronger and smarter each week. Way to go, Doc!

Melissa W– Florida 70.3, 5:45. A nice steady training race.

Mark-Club Med Olympic- This was Mark’s first Oly distance race, and he did so well, despite running an extra mile or two due to poor race instructions and a lack of volunteers on the course. He is ready to race another Oly as soon as possible, but this time he wants his time to reflect the right distances!

Upcoming races:
Melissa C-W has another round with Big Syd as well as a duathlon or two.

Liz S will be doing the Mack Cycle Du in June. She will make the Dawgs proud!

Adam, as I mentioned will be taking on the ultimate race of truth, with a 40k TT. Ouch. But with his latest power numbers we know he can do it!

John is going up to New York State to do the Tupper Lake Half Iron, and he is gonna show those northerners just what a Floridian IronAthlete can do. (Ok, John is from New York, but he lives here now….)
Are You Mentally Prepared?
What gets you through those rough patches out there on the course?

One of the best tools to help us deal with the inevitable “dark moments” during racing (and training) is to have a plan in place for when these moments arise (because they WILL arise). You should practice a couple of different techniques in training so that you can easily call upon this on race day, because if you have not practiced it, it will NOT work on race day – you won’t be able to access it.

My fave tool to banish the demons, I imaginatively call “100”. (I thought it was all mine, but then I read an article that Paula Radcliffe uses it too. I came up with it first, but I can’t run a 2:18:55 marathon…)

100: Use this for tough times during training and racing. Keeps negative thoughts out of your head, takes your mind off pain, yet still lets you focus on the task at hand and helps you find your rhythm.

With every out-breath, count until you reach one hundred: out-breath = “1”, out-breath = “2.” If you lose count, simply start again.  Sounds silly simple, but it really works.

Mantra- Come up with your own version. When things get tough, you can replace negative thoughts and self talk with these short mantras. Again, these take your mind off discomfort and give you something positive to focus on. Here are some of my athlete’s mantras that work really well for them:

“piece of cake”,  “fast, fluid, fresh,”  “Fierce,” or  “steady and smooth.”

What works for you?

Note, it has to ring true for you- if not it will grate on you and won’t work. For instance, while I love to run, I am a back of the packer so when I first came up with my mantra “Fit, fluid, fast, and strong” it did not work because I would get all caught up and negative about not being fast. And as you know I get very upset if anyone complains they are slow. So I changed it to “fit, fluid, smooth and strong” and it works great for me.

Some common self talk errors: Focusing on the Past or Future, Using the Negative, Focusing on Weakness during Competition, Focusing only on Outcome, Focusing on Uncontrollable Factors, and Demanding Perfection from  Yourself.

Instead, we need to focus on:

  • the present (associative thinking),
  • use the positive as we talk about what we can do/are doing,
  • focus on our strengths during competition,
  • focus on performance goals (how we do it)  not outcome goals (whether we podium or not- as this depends on so many things beyond our control)
  • focus on what we control (pacing, H and N, mental outlook, form, etc)
  • compassionate evaluation of how you are doing. Demanding perfection will prevent greatness.

Pic of the Month
Dara's Running Speed Group 2011

The last day of Run Speed Group — what a great bunch!!! I can’t wait till the next one! ___________________________________________________________________
Client Corner – Bonnie Barr
Let’s see, I got back into running and triathlon after I had kids, well, about 10 years after I had kids — lol! I met Kevin (my boyfriend) about 4 years ago and he was doing tri’s, I was so psyched because I really wanted to become active again in the sport and needed the motivation and a training partner. My first race was a Tradewinds sprint tri in 2009, and then jumped into Florida 70.3 a couple months later. I remember saying to Kevin after the 70.3, “I will never, ever, ever, ever do an Ironman” he was laughing at me so I asked him to write it down in case he forgot, but I was dead serious! Since then, I have done a lot – 1 marathon, 7 half marathons, another 70.3, several sprint tri’s, 1 Olympic tri, and lots of 5K’s. And now I have even done the unimaginable…signed up for Ironman Florida !!  I don’t remember the exact moment I decided to sign up, or what possessed me to do this damn race but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with my BFF Franny, who’s doing it with me and the other 12-15 people doing it with us..and no, I wasn’t coerced into it while drinking heavily ! 🙂

There are 159 days left until Ironman Florida and I am so excited (and scared) to be doing it. Everything I do from here on out including Nautica New York and Augusta 70.3 is to get me fully prepared for a strong finish in my first Ironman.

Working with Dara has been an amazing motivator. I’ve seen so much improvement and I’m so grateful to have her to help me through this. I could NOT be doing this well without her, and I’m secretly looking for races early into next year so I can keep working with her longer.
Did you know….?

39% of triathletes are women.
Triathlete Magazine, May 2011
Ask me anything.

Comment on this blog or visit my Facebook page to chat with me!


About TriCoachDara

I have been a multi-sport coach since 2001 and during that time I have trained hundreds of athletes for whom triathlon, running, biking, fitness and health must fit into very busy lives. My clientele includes lawyers, doctors, full time mothers, office workers, school teachers, nurses, and entrepreneurs – and every one of them has a jam packed schedule. My goal is to help each athlete strike a balance between training to their maximum potential and balancing the various other aspects of their lives, as well as to provide all the information they need to perform at their best and stay healthy and injury free.
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