Yesterday I had a conversation with my boy Juanito about swimming and what is the ideal situation to train in.  The point to the discussion was swimming in a 50 meter pool versus the 25 yard pool that I use.  His point was that you don't flip turn or make all those stops and starts when you are in an open water swim and he had a valid point.  I then raised the point that he shouldn't swim in a pool at all then and go the lake everyday for his swim training to which he scoffed at and came up with another point about swimming which was about breathing. [caption id="attachment_3382" align="alignright" width="300" caption="My boy Juanito trying to make sure the sun is still in the sky."]TWU_Pioneer_Sprint_Triathlon_Swim[/caption] I told him that my breathing is every two strokes and only to one side.  To this he laughed again and said I MUST learn to swim bilaterally.  I asked him why he thought that?  I told him that I had been in a few Olympic distance open water swims and that 70.3 Ironman California was an open water swim and I did those based on my current stroke of breathing to my left every other stroke.  To this he truly had no answer other than avoiding injury.  Another valid point but I explained that I do quite a bit of strength training and focus on my shoulders more than any other body part when I am doing my strength training. In our conversation I pointed out that through training and practice I have been able to knock minutes off of my swim times to the point that I believe I can swim the 1.2 miles at 70.3 Ironman Longhorn in October in 33 to 35 minutes.  This is a 5 minute improvement over the 40 minutes I posted at 70.3 Ironman California. I have not seen a single post or argument that says that I would be faster with bilateral breathing so the idea of focusing on that versus improving my form while breathing only to one side just did not make any sense to me. I have also exchanged emails with Nora Mancuso of Tri-Living regarding this exact question.  My email went right to my point about getting faster and if bi-lateral breathing would get me to finish a distance at a faster pace.  Nora's response to that question was that she wasn't sure it would make me faster since her times of breathing to one side or every third stroke were about the same.  She did point out the benefits of avoiding injury and strengthening the muscles in your back and shoulder area from bi-lateral breathing.  I don't doubt all of these points but I have not seen a real use to bi-lateral breathing AS OF YET. [caption id="attachment_3383" align="alignright" width="278" caption="Proper Head Alignment In Water"]swimming_bilateral_breathing[/caption] My coach has had me working on breathing as well.  Her training sometimes calls for breathing every other stroke, every 3 strokes, every 5 strokes and every 7 strokes.  Needless to say I have no clue what it would feel like to breath every 7 strokes because I can't hold my breathe that long.  I was able to get to every 4 strokes and that felt OK.  My biggest issue was that I was over rotating to the point of having both eyes out of the water.  If you swim then you know that proper head alignment includes one eye piece out of the water, one eye piece in the water and breathing as if you had a cigar in your mouth.  When breathing to my right (weak side) I would rotate to the point that both eyes were looking at the ceiling and this form would cause me to slow down.  I know that practice makes perfect and I need to keep attempting this technique but I find that if I concentrate most on the form I have now that I am able to get faster.  Focusing on breathing to my weak side causes my form to get out of whack and slows me down. Today, while I was on Twitter and getting ready to publish this post I noticed a tweet about bi-lateral breathing and clicked on the link.  The article is from Triathlete's World and asks why the person swims faster when breathing to their weaker side.  Simon Murie (founder of SwimTrek - answered the question with a lot of the same rationale that was given above but he ended it with something that I had not thought of or been told and that is:

Bear in mind the main disadvantage of bilateral breathing, which is the reduction in oxygen supply - if you're taking more strokes per breath you may become tired more quickly.

When I swim to my weak side I always feel like I am short of breathe and thus tire much more quickly than normal.  I also notice this when I do one arm swim drills.  My breathing to my left feels great and no issue, then when I breath to my right I am dropping my legs and have labored breathing.

Here are the other points that Simon Murie makes about bilateral breathing:

1 The stroke will become more symmetrical because breathing to both sides encourages you to roll equally to both sides. 2 The chance of shoulder injury is reduced because both arms are doing the same amount of work. 3 If you are changing from a pattern of breathing on just one side every two strokes to a bilateral pattern of breathing every three strokes, you are breathing less and therefore lifting your head out of the water less frequently. This results in a more streamlined and efficient stroke. 4 Both sides of your environment are now visible, so in a race you can see how your competitors are doing.

What do you think of bilateral breathing?  Do You Practice Bilateral Breathing?

Published in Train
Wednesday, 15 June 2011 14:21

Tips for First Time Triathletes?

Last week I found an article on about Training Tips by Peter Reid for triathletes and it got some traction and conversation.  These tips were great for those that were further along in their triathlon career and not for those that haven't even tried the sport just yet.  I was thinking about what I would tell the person who is just getting into this sport for the first time. How would I describe what they needed to do?  Would I go into the 'just enjoy the first race' or would I tell them they had to train for it and really be committed to it?  I would not want to scare anybody off because I think this is a great lifestyle.  I enjoy testing my limits and finding out that those limits are further away than I can imagine. I love the idea that food is not for comfort because I am stressed or bored but it is fuel for the fire that burns inside to keep me moving on that last 1/4 mile of a tempo run.  The ability to push ones mind into darkness so you can embrace the suck (thanks Chris McCormack.) Maybe I point out the ever ongoing conversations via Twitter, Facebook, Text, Email and smoke signals to learn from and help out your fellow triathlete.  It is an ongoing lifestyle that for me is hard to describe but if I had to I would say it in one word:  AWESOME. So how do you translate AWESOME into tips for first-timers?  I haven't got a clue but does and they laid it out nice and neatly for me.  This article was written by Paul Taylor for Toughman Triathlon.  Once again I lay out my thoughts as best I can without just saying AWESOME.

10 First-Time Tips From Everyday Triathletes

You have a job. You have a family. You signed up for a triathlon. You want to get a great time and still balance other important parts of your life. How do you manage it all? There's no better way to find out than by talking to those who have. We found six age groupers who have not only balanced the demands of life and the sport, but have succeeded at them all. What's the common thread? The Toughman Triathlon in Westchester, New York, offers the 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run while recognizing the time constraints of everyday life. Many finishers of the Toughman have plenty of advice to pass on to newcomers. "Our race is intentionally designed for age-groupers," said Richard Izzo, event organizer. "We attract time-pressed athletes looking for a half triathlon their whole family can enjoy." What did they have to say? We spoke to them and walked away with 10 tips for success this year: Get a Plan: Ann Williams, age 46, family physician and faculty member at Columbia, placed second at last year's Toughman in her age group. She tells everyone to find a plan. "If you can't afford a coach, find a program and stick to it. Don't just wing it." Ann fell into the sport as an injured runner looking for exercise. Today she says, "Anything you do well at is a lot of fun."
  • This goes without say.  While you want your first one to be fun and enjoyable you also don't want to bonk or you will wind up hating every stroke, pedal push and step.  There are a number of free plans out there so download one and get started.  It might not be the perfect fit to start out but it is better than just saying I will run for 3 miles on Tuesday and 5 miles on Thursday, then swim on Monday and Friday.  Inevitably you will not be prepared for the race and can risk injury.  If you are injured you will not enjoy the sport the way it was meant to be enjoyed.
Train Consistently: "Train an hour and fifteen minutes on some sport every day," advises Michael Begg, former Penn football player and current account manager at Presidio Network Solutions. Michael, 42, lost over 60 pounds training for the event last year. "Results are measurable." Begg, from Trumbull, Conn., likes the sense of empowerment he gets from the races. "It's something the whole family can enjoy."
  • I don't agree with this because unless you are only planning on swimming for 1h15, cycling for 1h15 and running for 1h15 then how will you be fit enough to conquer a 3hr bike ride?  I found out the hard way that you have to actually swim farther than the race distance to be prepared for the race distance.  For my first triathlon, a sprint with a 250y swim, I swam exactly 250 yards and got out of the water.  Come race day I was able to swim 200 yards and walking nearly 50 yards in the pool.
Know the Course: Christine Dunnery, age 42 from New City, New York, holds the race record. "Preview the course. In the case of Toughman, preview the bike course, if even by car." Christine, age 42, is a seventh grade English teacher and track coach when she's not raising the bar for the rest of her competitors. She likes triathlons because she like pushing her limits and "leading a healthy lifestyle."
  • I think this goes without say.  You can formulate a proper strategy for when to go hard, when to change gears, etc.  Now some courses you won't be able to do that with but look at the elevation maps and correspond them with aerial maps so that you can see where you are on the course and what you need to do.  On the swim know if you are going clock wise or counter clock wise so you can setup your angle for going around the buoys.  There is more to a triathlon than just racing it and knowing the course is a big part of that.
Eat Right Before the Race: Williams willingly offers a good prescription for food. "Prerace nutrition starts at least a week before the what you normally eat when you train. Find a routine and stick with it."
  • I couldn't disagree more with this.  One week is not enough time to fuel your body properly.  You should make this a lifestyle commitment even if you decide not to pursue the sport of triathlon.  Eating food that is wholesome and not processed should be a lifetime commitment and it will help support you in anything you decide to take on.
Get Plenty of Rest: Mimi Boyle, age 38 from Greenwich, Connecticut, placed second overall this year at the Toughman. "Don't underestimate the amount of sleep you need." Mimi is an account director for a package design company. Mimi stays passionate about the sport because, "I want to always try to go faster...I honestly feel better, eat better when I train for a race."
  • Rest days are vital to recovery.  Your muscles don't get stronger while you are pushing your body to its limits.  They get stronger when they are rested so do not overestimate the necessity for rest.  Your body will tell you when it needs rest but you should also plan a rest day in your training.  I train at the wee hours of the morning so that my body has 24 hours to rest and recover before the next mornings training session.  I believe that this has helped me get to where I am today compared to where I started.
Pack Everything the Night Before: Begg advises people the night before to, "Pack all your essentials. I have one big bag, and three smaller bags...[ones for] swim, bike, and run."
  • To me this is a no brainer.  This removes any chance that you might skip a workout because you are running 'late' trying to look for gear. Pack it all up the night before and be prepared for that next morning's training or even that session you have planned after work.  If you remove any obstacles in your path you will have no excuses to miss a session and don't look for one either.
Visualize Success: Mimi Boyle encourages other athletes to prepare mentally as well as physically for the race. "Do a little bit of visualization. Imagine a relaxing swim. Visualize yourself executing a perfect race."
  • I always visualize me crossing the finish line of the race or pumping my fist when a training session goes well.  Success is like a virus in that it breeds upon itself.  Once you taste that satisfaction of a successful race or workout you hunger for more.  You want to keep momentum on your side and it starts by visualizing the positive to your race or session.
Pace Yourself: Don Henry, age 45 from Pound Ridge, New York, says it is critical to, "Pace yourself. The swim is always the swim. Understand the hardest section of the course and don't blow up. At Toughman, the first 25 miles of the bike are the toughest and the ones to do carefully." Don is a financial adviser in Westchester County. He used to play golf and weighed 20 pounds more than today. Why does he love the sport? "Being part of the community and enjoying the camaraderie of fellow triathletes," he said.
  • If you have trained properly then you should be able to know your approximate finish time of each discipline.  Take a look at Jeff Irvin's pre-race predictions and then read his race report and see where he fell in line.  Had Jeff not trained properly he would not have known how to pace himself for success in accordance to his plan.  There is a simple correlation here.  Proper training = expected results on race day.  Can you have a day that is worse or better?  Of course, but you can eliminate a lot of that from happening by being prepared for the race.
Don't Panic: Scott Harrison, age 56 from Darien, Connecticut, took second place in his age group at the event last year. The general contractor for a commercial/industrial construction firm tells fellow athletes, "Don't panic. The swim is daunting for first timers." Scott used the sport to beat addiction. Today, triathlon is his lifestyle. "I travel with friends to events. This is what we do."
  • The swim is always going to be daunting and that is because it comes first so your pre-race nerves/jitters are right there.  If the bike were first or the run first then that is where the jitters will occur.  Either way know your capabilities and find a rhythm.  Discover your breathing patterns and stick to your plan.  I cannot stress enough how creating a plan and sticking to it will help ease the burden of any panic that might set in.
Don't Let One Problem Ruin the Day: Christine Dunnery wants everyone to expect that something will go wrong. "Don't get caught up on a single thing that happens during an event -- like a flat tire." Get off the road, fix it, and know that you will finish the race.
  • I really like this piece of advice.  The best way to say it is to expect the unexpected.  Anything and everything will happen on race day, but if you have planned and trained and visualized then these setbacks will not affect you as much as if you were not prepared to race.
  For me these tips are excellent but they all boil down to one thing:  Preparation.  Failure to prepare is preparing to fail as the cliche goes.  As questions and listen, then apply those answers to your training and racing.  Triathletes are some of the most friendly people I have met.  We are all competing against each other but there is a brotherhood in the sport and we will work with each other to help each other out as well.  

What are your tips for a first-time triathlete?  First time marathoner?

Published in Train
Sunday, 15 May 2011 13:11


If you are a baseball fan you will remember T.W.I.B.  The acronym stands for This Week In Baseball.  It was narrated by Mel Allen, who was a famous broadcaster for the New York Yankees who had a great voice and ended spectacular plays with the phrase 'How About That?' So I am taking the liberty of using that acronym to my advantage and looking back on my training.  T.W.I.T. stands for This Week In Training, but could also stand for This Week In Twitter.  This week's Twitter brought about some new verbiage that I will talk about in a few, but first let's discuss training for this week.


Ever since training picked back up after recovery from 70.3 Ironman California I feel like I have struggled with it.  I have kept to my schedule and not missed one session but they did not feel like they used to.  Felt more like a chore than enjoyment even though I was hitting it and hitting it hard. Part of the problem resulted from the thought of #thinkSPEED.  I wanted to get faster on the bike and on the run off the bike.  I got it in my head that I needed to do more and do it faster.  I think that wrong thought pattern cost me.  One morning I decided to run the 10k with the group I was training but I wanted to do it at a fast pace and I certainly did.  I ran the 10K in under 47:33.  I then went for a bike ride to then follow that with another run.  That second run felt like I was running in quicksand and my legs have felt heavy ever since.  That is until this week. This week's training resulted in my finding my mojo again.  It's back and I am not letting it go.  I plan on building on this and building a house that can never be blown down. Monday -
  1. 2525y swim on the schedule with 4 sets of descending 75s.  I nailed every set.  Started each around 1:26/75y and finished at 1:10/75y.  Fastest set was the last one at a pace of 1:10 and the best part was I was not panting in the pool, but ready to take on the world.
  2. Later that day I had a 1 hour and 30 minute ride that was to be in the aerobic state with undulating hills.  I covered 30 miles in that time and my legs felt great.  No complaints at this point.
Tuesday -
  1. 60 minute run that resulted in the following splits: 8:14, 7:29, 7:43, 7:32, 7:56, 8:07, 8:15, 8:15 pace.  I covered 7.59 miles in 60 minutes for an average pace of 7:54/mile
Wednesday - Raining so moved brick to trainer
  1. 2350y of swimming: W/U 50s : :53; :48; :48; :43 (used :15 RI); 300 Drills of paddle, pull, paddle/pull: 5:50 ;2x 300s: 5:28; 5:37 100 Kick : 3:07;  5x 150s: 2:36; 2:37; 2:40; 2:41; 2:40; 100 Kick : 3:19 6x 50s: :56; :56; :56; :55; :55; :55
  2. Bike - 40 minutes building to LT and then 20 minutes at LT.  Covered 16.65 miles at 16.7 mph and felt great.
  3. Run - 20 minutes at LT and covered 2.67 miles for avg pace of 7:29/mile.  Avg HR was at 168
Thursday - Track training that frightened me at start of the week
  1. The training called for: Warm up +4 strides.6 x 800 meters (recover for 400 meters) at 5 seconds/400 meters faster than 5k race pace. After last recovery run 2 miles at 10k+10 seconds/mile pace. Form! Times? Heart rates
I forgot to enter my times into Training Peaks but I nailed it.  I hit every one of these requirements and felt my MOJO being there with every step.  I know that my final 2 miles were at 7:54 pace and 7:30 pace.  I was coming back Saturday - Brick of 2h30m ride (aero) and 45 minute run (LT)
  1. The bike ride was 2hours16minutes and covered 37.65 miles.  I felt great the whole time and thought at each interval:  Wow I am here already?  It was amazing.  I will say that each peddle stroke was harder than the previous one because of the headwind.  The same route the week prior with much better conditions saw me average 17.1 mph compared to these at 16.5 mph.  I feel like I accomplished more this time because it was a harder ride but I enjoyed it more.
  2. The run was 45 minutes and covered 5.83 miles for an average pace of 7:43/mile.  I felt like I had heavy legs but I focused on form and pushed through to the end and was surprised by my pace.  The week prior was done at an 8:22/mile pace.  I think I learned that if I go a touch slower on the bike I can make it up on the run.
Sunday - 1 hour 20 minute run and a swim.
  1. Find out from Twitter how it goes because I am about to head out for the run and a swim.

UPDATE:  Just ran 10.05 miles in 1:20 for a pace of 7:58/mile with an avg HR of 155.  Coming back later with swim numbers.

It has been a great week of training so in the words of Mel Allen:  How About That?!?!?!

Now for T.W.I.T. ==> This Week In Twitter we have discovered a bunch of superheroes.  Those superheroes are now known as the Extraordinary League of Tri-Geeks.  It is a group that I am proud to be a member of and while the nickname Sancho to Jeff Irvin's Don Quixote is hilarious I am changing my name, whether they like it or not, to The Golden Warrior. Why the Golden Warrior?  Come back on Tuesday to find out.

Have you ever lost your mojo?  What did you do to get it back?

  [caption id="attachment_2194" align="aligncenter" width="160" caption="Next Race -- MoJo needs to be there"][/caption]


Published in Train
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