Step Up and Tri – September 2011

Hello everyone!

Welcome to September’s newsletter/blog. I hope you all have had a great August and that training is going well. This month I am going to talk about an issue that comes up in every athlete’s life: pace vs. effort, and why it is so important to understand the difference.

Probably one of the toughest issues for athletes is learning how to pace themselves. To pace yourself does not necessarily mean you actually have to hit a certain absolute pace, but rather that you are parceling out your effort by monitoring your level of exertion so that you can finish the workout or race strong.

I think that many athletes believe that pace and effort are synonymous and interchangeable, but they are not. The main difference is that pace is very contingent upon extraneous variables: wind, hills, heat, and training status (how tired the athlete is), but effort is more of a subjective measure that allows for some variation and can absorb those extraneous variables. For instance, I went out for a ride last Sunday and headed out with the wind up to Palm Beach. I was feeling good! I had a tailwind and was zipping along in Z3 power and HR at 25mph. Of course, at some point unfortunately I had to turn around and ride into the headwind and for the same power and HR I was now riding at a very unsexy and humbling 15 mph (considering I live in the flatlands). So, my paces were very different while my effort (and you could say “pacing”) were the same.

Running has the same issues; if I do a TT at the beginning of the year, when it’s a bit cooler here (maybe I can sneak in a TT in a 60 degree cool morning?), my average pace might be 8 min miles. When I try to replicate that mid-summer, my average pace might be 8:15 min/miles which does not mean I got slower; it is simply a reflection of the heat and that the optimal running temperature is somewhere between 41 and 48% Fahrenheit. Or of course, if I run a marathon on a hilly course vs. a flat course I can anticipate slower paces for the rolling hills, while my effort may be the same or harder than for a flat course.

Why am I going on about this? Because athletes will often set themselves up for failure by chasing a pace instead of an effort. What matters is how well you run the race and parcel out your effort so that you can finish strong, and if you chase a pace you may well blow up before the end of the race. Effort is described by RPE (rating of perceived exertion), HR (Heart rate), and power (if you have a power meter on your bike). These are the best tools to govern your actual race pace. Make sure that you start every workout with a clear idea of what the goals are: it would be ok to shoot for a certain pace when you are coming into a workout rested with similar conditions that allowed you to actually set those paces.

For instance, if I am basing my track interval paces off a hot TT that I have done within the last month, then it would be reasonable to expect I could hold a certain pace for my 400m repeats. But if I do that same workout on tired legs in an ambient temperature that is 20 degrees hotter than the TT I used to base my paces on, then my pace goals are unreasonable. The longer the race, the more important it becomes to let power, HR, and RPE dictate what pace you actually run and for ultra-endurance events, these measures have to be King. If you aim to hit a certain pace early in a long race and ignore these exertion indicators (and allow HR and power to soar and RPE to be in the red) then it is an absolute given that you will bonk long before the finish tape.

So, for your next workout or race, be sure that you are chasing the right performance indicators and that you have a clear idea of what HR, RPE, or power targets you are shooting for, and that if you are using pace as a target, that it is a reasonable target that takes into consideration race day conditions of terrain, wind, heat, and your training status.

Training Tidbit:

A friend of mine was asking me why an athlete’s heart rate is higher on the run than on the bike. She thought for sure it’d be the opposite… . We tend to have higher HR’s on the run for two reasons:
1) there is more muscle mass activated when running than biking, and
2) runners don’t stop and coast (we are always working against gravity with every step, while a cyclist can coast a little).

Generally, as we get fitter and become better cyclists, our cycling HR’s may begin to approximate our running HR’s. The difference in HR’s between running and cycling is the main reason that aVO2max (aerobic capacity) test done on a cycle ergometer in the lab will usually actually be called a VO2 “Peak”, while a running test will be called a VO2 “max” test. The “Peak” is the highest you can achieve in that modality, while the “max” is truly your maximal aerobic capacity.

When running comfortably my HR will be in the 140’s, but when I first started cycling I was amazed that an HR of 130bpm made me feel like my legs were going to fall off and my heart explode. As the years have progressed I am MUCH more comfortable with my HR on the bike in the high 130’s and low 140’s (I can do that all day), but my HR is still a good 15 or so beats lower for a given effort on the bike than it is on the run. This is why everymultisport athlete must conduct separate time trials that establish their own distinct HR zones for both the bike and the run so that in both training and racing they can monitor and control their pacing/exertion levels.

This does not answer the question of why it is SO DAMN HARD to get our HR’s up on a stationary bike/trainer. When we are out riding with our buddies or doing an interval workout, we generally have no problem getting our HR’s up to where we need them. But put us indoors on a stationary bike and suddenly it seems as though molasses is moving through our veins and we can barely get our HR’s to rise. I think this has to do with motivation levels: there is no scenery, no distractions of traffic, no variation in terrain or wind, the fact that we never coast on a stationary bike, and that the devil must be bored and looking for someone to torture at the same time we decide to ride the stationary bike.

Training Tidbit (another one)-
Vibram FiveFingers – Like Barefoot, Only Better?
ACE Certified News, August 18, 2011

Barefoot-style and minimalist shoes are one of the hottest trends to sweep the footwear category since Nike Waffle Trainer running shoes and Crocs. In fact, according to OIA Vantage Point and Leisure Trends, these types of shoes have continued to enjoy double-digit sales growth since the start of 2010 and have outsold nearly every other type of shoe during that time.

One of the shoes that has led the surge in popularity is the Vibram FiveFingers, a quirky-looking sock-style shoe with separate compartments for each toe. These shoes are designed to combine the feel of being barefoot with the abrasion protection of wearing a shoe. Many adherents also believe these shoes improve proprioception, balance and foot strength. You’ve no doubt seen people wearing these types of shoes to work out in the gym, for fitness walking, yoga, water sports and, one of the most controversial uses, running.

But why would someone want to run without running shoes? Lower-extremity injuries can be found in 20 percent to nearly 80 percent of all those who run, with some experts pointing to the high-impact forces of heels hitting the pavement and the use of over-cushioned, overly supportive running shoes as potential culprits. To that end, a small niche of runners have shunned shoes altogether as a way to escape chronic pain and injuries.

Here’s their logic: Barefoot runners tend to run more lightly, landing near the balls of their feet while generating less pounding than regular heel strike-style runners. Less pounding should then equal fewer injuries. And that notion seems to be catching on even more quickly with the advent of barefoot-style shoes, which make running “barefoot” more comfortable and more appealing to some runners.

Here’s the potential concern, though—most runners have spent a lifetime wearing shoes and have thus been ‘programmed’ to run in the conventional heel-strike manner. So what happens when they switch to running in barefoot shoes? It’s an intriguing question, and one that the experts at the American Council on Exercise (ACE) sought to answer.

For more helpful tips on how to safely and effectively wear barefoot-style shoes, check out this video from ACE Exercise Physiologist Pete McCall.

Watch the Vibram FiveFinger Study  on Youtbube.

The Study
To analyze how similar running in Vibram FiveFingers is to running barefoot, as well as determine how it varies from running in regular running shoes in terms of ground-reaction forces and the motion of the lower extremities, ACE enlisted a research team from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. Led by John Porcari, Ph.D., and Caitlin McCarthy, M.S., the researchers from the Exercise and Health Program recruited 16 healthy, injury-free female subjects, ages 19 to 25, all of whom were considered recreational joggers.

Two weeks prior to testing, each of the subjects was fitted with a pair of Vibram FiveFingers Bikila ($90). These 4.8-ounce barefoot-style shoes are specifically designed for running, with slightly more padding in the heel, a higher heel lip and a snugger fit. To get accustomed to running in the Bikilas, the subjects were then asked to wear the shoes while running for up to 20 minutes per day (or until discomfort), three times a week for two weeks.

Once acclimated to running in the Vibrams, subjects returned to the lab for 3-D motion analysis and measurement of ground-reaction forces as they ran under three separate conditions: (1) while wearing the Vibrams; (2) while wearing a pair of neutral running shoes (New Balance 625); and (3) while barefoot. The order was randomized between Vibrams and the running shoes, but the barefoot condition was always measured last.

The Results
Upon completion of testing, the data was crunched and processed. Porcari and his team reported that all of the subjects were rear-foot strikers while wearing typical running shoes, landing predominantly on the heel. However, while running barefoot and in Vibrams, approximately one-half of the subjects switched to a forefoot strike pattern while the other half continued to impact the ground with their heels.

“It’s tough to re-learn to run,” says Dr. John Porcari. “When you look at the data even though we encouraged them to run with a more forefoot strike while wearing the Vibrams, half of the subjects still continued to land on their heels. Even with two weeks to practice and instruction in how to use the barefoot shoes, [the subjects’] bodies still tended to run the way they’ve always run.”

Those subjects who switched to a forefoot strike showed a much more plantarflexed ankle at ground contact while wearing the Vibrams and while barefoot running. This greater flexion appears to allow better absorption of the impact forces of running. However, those subjects who continued to utilize a rear-foot strike pattern experienced a higher rate of loading while wearing the Vibrams and running barefoot. In fact, load rates surpassed those of running with the typical running shoes, perhaps due to the lack of heel cushioning of the Vibrams or while running barefoot.

Researchers also noted that, for all subjects, there was less knee flexion while running barefoot and with the Vibrams, a condition associated with lower injury rates. While running barefoot, subjects showed less pronation. However, while running in Vibrams, all subjects showed greater pronation, similar to the pronation exhibited while running in the regular running shoes. (Note: Excessive pronation can be the reason for some overuse injuries.)

The Bottom Line
While synthesizing these results can be a bit complex, the bottom line is clear. “Just because you put the Vibrams on your feet doesn’t mean you’ll automatically adopt the correct running stride,” says Porcari. Runners who fail to change over to a more forefoot stride while wearing Vibrams may open themselves up to discomfort and possible injury. “Buying these Vibrams and continuing to land on your heels is probably worse than wearing regular running shoes because the Vibrams don’t have any cushioning,” he says.

“If you want to run in the Vibrams, you should be prepared to change your gait pattern,” says Pete McCall, an ACE exercise physiologist, who has been exercising (but not running) in Vibrams since mid-2009. “If you run in them, give yourself time to acclimate to them and adapt.”

So should you or your clients ditch the running shoes and start running barefoot or in Vibrams? If you aren’t experiencing chronic injuries while running, don’t quit with your shoes just yet. Going barefoot or wearing Vibrams will affect which muscles are used and how you use them, all the way up the kinetic chain, says Porcari. And the results of those changes are uncertain. “I think it’s one of those things—If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” says McCall.

That said, for those people who suffer chronic running injuries and still want to continue running, they may want to give the shoes a try.

Monthly recipe

Quinoa Casserole
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup chopped celery
1 and 1/3 cups water
1 bunch broccoli, chopped
1 to 2 tsp sesame oil
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 clove garlic, peeled and pressed
2 tbsp brown rice vinegar
2 tsp curry (optional)
1. Roast rinsed quinoa in a skillet until it makes a popping sound. Place quinoa in a casserole dish and add water.
2. Heat oil, sauté onions, garlic and curry in a skillet until onions are translucent. Add celery, broccoli and tomato, sauté briefly and add to quinoa. Add tamari, and brown rice vinegar.
3. Cover casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Please share your reviews of this recipe or any other others we’ve published (either here on the blog or our Facebook page)!

Mental Tidbit:

The key to handling pre-race stress and anxiety is four-fold: 1) remind yourself of all the workouts you have done and that you are trained and ready. 2) have a pre-race routine that is totally rote behavior, 3) have a race plan in place, 4) focus on what you are in control of.

1) By the time you get to race day you are trained and ready; you have practiced your warm-up, the race start, your transitions, your race pace/effort, your mental skills, your hydration and nutrition plan, and you know how to do this. You are trained and ready!

2) By race day you have figured out what works for you pre-race and you have a rote set of behaviors you ALWAYS do before a race. You have an iPod with your own playlist on there that is the right mix of motivation and calming music (you want to be psyched up, but not crazed and too amped up so be careful with the music selections!). You know that you like to be in the middle of it all talking to all the athletes, or like me that you prefer a little quiet time, away from athletes who might have a bit too much nervous energy. You take some time to sit quietly before the race, reviewing your race plan, using the mantra/imagery/visualization techniques you have practiced in training. You do the warm up you have practiced to warm up the muscles, check that everything is where and how it needs to be, and to get focused on the task at hand. (I once discovered during my bike warm up that I had put my inserts in the wrong shoes, so left insert was in right shoe and vice versa…). This is a KEY element of staying calm before a race, so take some time to come up with your own personal pre-race routine.

3) You have a race plan that details all of point number 2 as well as all the logistics for the race, from wake up time and breakfast, to parking, pre-race set up, mental techniques you will use, to H and N, pacing techniques (HR, RPE, power, cadence), and where you will meet friends and family after the race. It is VERY calming to have your event laid out like this so that on race day all you have to do is follow the plan. I even list the order I will do everything: for a tri- number marking, transition set up (bags, fluid bottles on the bike, shoes in bags if it is raining, etc), mental prep (sit quietly, review race plan, race visualization), warm up, body glide, wetsuit, breathe deep and calm, water and a gel before I get in.

4) Focus on what you are in control of and don’t let race day conditions take you out of yourself or off your plan: if the water is rough, focus on all the same things you do when you swim in a pool (form, timing of the stroke, pacing, breathing, etc.). If it’s windy, focus on your cadence, HR, RPE, power, and staying on track with H and N. If it’s hot, focus on cooling yourself at aid stations (pour cold water over your head, take ice cold sponges and put them under your clothing, stay adequately hydrated and control your pacing so you don’t overheat). If you get a flat, fix it calmly. We only get in trouble when we hand off control – and on race day we are in control of how we handle every situation and if we feel in control, we won’t panic and get off the plan.

Featured Athlete – Q&A with Eric Levy

Home town: Plainview, NY
Past history of sports participation (kid to adult): I was known as a natural athlete growing up. I played pretty much all sports including baseball, tennis, soccer, hockey, lacrosse and basketball. I loved competition. Growing up, I was most competitive in tennis and hockey. As a teenager, I was a top 10 ranked tennis player in the northeast. Hockey was and is my passion. I played hockey up until about 4 years ago when I started triathlon. I miss hockey very much but plan on lacing up again one day soon.
What was your first tri & what made you do it: My first tri was a Multi Race sprint distance back in the summer of 2008. I was training for an Olympic distance triathlon with Team in Training and wanted to get some race experience before I did an Olympic. I felt the Multi Race sprint distance was a good place to start. I pulled a 1:12 in my first sprint and new I can do better the next time. I was hooked.
Favorite training or racing experiences: I love training in Clermont. I usually train on my own up there. It is my time to get away, enjoy the quiet roads, climb some hills and be grateful for what I have.
Races/events completed recently: Boulder 70.3 (DNF), Disney 70.3 and IM St. George
Favorite race/s (all-time): My favorite races of all time are St. Anthony’s, Nautica and Escape to Miami. I enjoy the city races.
Athletic achievement/s you are most proud of (PRs/Best races): My best racing experience was the 2010 Nautica Olympic. While training for IM St. George, I completed a 120 mile bike ride the day before, stung by a man-o-war during the swim and was still able to pull out a PR of 2:22.
Goals for the coming year/season: After focusing on IM and 70.3 distance racing over the past two years, I will refocus my training on Olympic distance racing next year. As a Certified Financial Planner at UBS, a husband and father of a two year old, my lifestyle can no longer support long distance training. My primary goals for 2012 are to have fun with racing and training; try not to take it too seriously. My plan for next year is to become a better runner and to incorporate other cross training activities.
Favorite racing and/or training tip (what would you tell a newbie): I tend to be a person who goes all in with whatever I do. My advice to newbie’s is “Balance” and to have fun with your training and racing. Take it serious but not too serious.
A favorite “Dara-ism”: Too many to choose from but I will add my motto which keeps me going. “Train Hard, Tri Harder.”

The Way I See It
There is some confusion between the Masters division and Age Group divisions at triathlons (or at least I was confused!). But after a little research, Tim Yount of USAT defined Masters Division for us: “In triathlon, we have categories of awards that many race directors set up to extend the volume of awards given. The most popular happen to be “overall”, “masters” and “grandmasters.” In some cases, they offer clydesdale/athena categories as well (weight based). Masters is designated as being 40-54 for women and 40-59 for men. Many directors award these and then pull out the athletes from the age groups so there is not a doubling up of awards for athletes. Some will even go as far as offering special master’s elite waves where you choose between racing in your five year age group and the master’s elite category or meet a time criteria in order to be eligible to race in that category.”
And that’s that. Questions?

Athlete Race Updates
• Melissa Cohen White did the Dundas Cactus 10k in Canada (where she lives and is enjoying the last of the summer weather) and had a super time!
• Catherine– Ironman Louisville! Woweee! Came out of the water only 12 minutes after the women pros! Had a great bike and held good speed despite the hills, and was running strong till the dreaded “fgastric discomfort devil” attacked her at mile 17. But, determined as ever, she still finished the race in just over 15 hours! Way to go, Catherine. You are an Ironman now!!!
•John unfortunately pulled a calf muscle on his last training run and had to pull out of IML, but is going to do the Great Floridian. He has been experiencing the joys of pool running and this week is tentatively running easy on land. Way to go, John!
•Adam did the Orlando Airport Series 7 mile TT and missed a PR by 4 seconds, which is really rude. But this is coming off a week of being all kinds of sick, so this was superb. He is on track for a sub 1 hour 40k!!!
•Jim is out in Oregon racing the National Masters crit and road race! He is ripping their legs off out there!! Took first place in the Cat 5 Crit and this is only his first year racing!! Road Race is Sunday the 4th.
•Raul continues to race stronger than ever and is seconds off the podium after attacking the peleton the whole time, EVERY race. No-one gets away from him!
•Carol’s metric century was rained out, but she is doing the MS150 this month, despite having a little problem with her foot. She never gives up!
•Melissa Wu did great at the WPB TT and was right on par with her earlier TT’s this year, despite being in a really high volume training phase that is not conducive to fast TT’s. AND she is taking great care of her sick companion animals that means slightly less than optimal sleep.

Upcoming Races:
• Bonnie, Franny, and myself are all doing HIM Augusta.
• Tracey is in a relay gang and will be crushing the swim there also.
• Melissa has a 5k run and a 50k bike “fall Colors” ride coming up.
• Capt Patrick will be doing his first Half Iron in Cancun!
• Paul might be racing for a 5k PR.

Did you Know?
The average age of triathletes is 38.4.
Triathlete Magazine, May 2011

While we may not talk about it a lot, all of us who ride our bikes for any amount of time have to eventually ask the question, “How do I get my crotch to hurt less?”

Please do list your favorite cream so the rest of us can try it!


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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