This morning I’m flying back home from Vegas on the red eye and oh my goodness, has it ever been a fun 4 days! I swam, I biked, I ran, and my body’s in a bit of pain right now but it was all SO worth it. In case you’re new to the blog or missed my first Ironman 70.3 training update, feel free to catch up on it here.
Last time I talked a lot about my decision to hire a coach, how I’ve been using heart rate training (specifically low-intensity zone 1 training) to improve fitness, what my training schedule looked like, and how my nutrition had changed. Taking a slightly different approach to this post, I’m going to tell you all about what I did at training camp, as well as a few things I’ve learned about each of the 3 triathlon disciplines over the past month.
Training Camp Recap
Prior to starting to work with my coach, I had no idea that Las Vegas was such an amazing training haven. On my first day we cycled 30 miles at Lake Mead Provincial Park, and I was kicking myself for not bringing my GoPro on this trip because the scenery was beautiful. The area where my coach lives is also very cyclist-friendly, with wide bike lanes along many of the streets and plenty of parks with dirt trails for running.
Here’s what the schedule looked like:
- 2 hour bike with 2×10 minute hard intervals at Lake Mead
- 7.9 mile run with hard hill repeats
- 4.1km swim (my longest yet) with some hard descending 75m repeats and not much rest (tough but so satisfying!)
- 40 minute easy ride on trails
- 20 minute recover run on trails
Saturday: We were going to do a 5 hour outdoor ride but the weather wasn’t great, so this became mostly an indoor session.
- 3.5 hour indoor zone 1 progression ride
- 40 min zone 1 run (it was CRAZY windy so I only managed to cover 4.3 miles)
- 30 min recovery ride
- 1 hour mixed recovery/zone 1 ride
- 1 hour 20 minute zone 1 progression run (about 9.3 miles)
Key things I’ve learned this month
As I mentioned, my coach has taught me a lot about each of the 3 disciplines – particularly over the course of my last training block. Here’s some of the key highlights for each sport:
Many of my workouts include lots of pull sets with paddles and a pull buoy. For a while I wasn’t sure why my coach was putting so much focus on the pull, so in true Angela ask-all-the-questions fashion, I asked. I learned that in triathlon, most of the time, wetsuits are worn. Because they add that extra bit of buoyancy, the legs don’t need to be kicking super hard to keep the body afloat. By contrast though, the pull is really important in propelling you forward in the water.
Why paddles? Well, pure swimmers log many more miles in the water than triathletes do on a weekly basis, so their pulling muscles naturally become stronger faster. The purpose of the paddles is to help triathletes build strength, and they sort of help to compensate for the fewer miles logged. I actually really like paddle drills because they make me think about how to be most efficient at each point of my stroke – and that’s a welcome distraction when all you have to look at is a black line at the bottom of the pool!
This training camp was my coach’s first time watching me ride, and he pointed out a few really key things about my form that I’m going to be working on over the coming months. One of the biggest was my tendency to grind the pedals while climbing up hills, which is a waste of energy and seems to drive my heart rate up really quickly.
The fix? Thinking about being as smooth as possible, keeping the pedal strokes circular instead of up-down-up-down mashing, and trying to stay nice and light. Thinking about this as I’m climbing almost instantly makes me feel more relaxed and less tense in my upper body (a waste of energy – the upper body isn’t supposed to be where much of the work is happening anyway!) and doing this on a regular basis should make me a stronger climber. In a race setting, it’ll help to ensure I’ve still got power left in my legs for a strong run.
The other thing (and this is probably one of the most important) is not to hesitate. The more you hesitate on the bike – whether it’s riding with hands near the gears, up on the top bars or in the aero position, deciding to slow or speed up, deciding to change lanes etc, the more likely things are to go wrong. On Friday’s easy ride we were on some trails that crossed over roads and had a couple of tight turns. Not hesitating was definitely what I wasn’t doing, and this almost resulted in a few falls. As I’ve said before, bike confidence is one of my biggest weaknesses but I know riding more and not hesitating is the only way to fix it.
This is the discipline that I’m strongest at, and it continues to be my favourite. As I described in my first recap, my coach has given me lots of zone 1 progression workouts, where I start at the bottom of my heart rate zone and progress to the top. Right now, my zone 1 is 129-140 beats per minute, so in one of these workouts, I’ll start off with my heart rate near 129 and by the end, I’m up at 140.
The really cool thing about training consistently in this way is that over time, you have to run faster to get the heart rate up into zone 1. I’m not talking crazy fast or anything (yet!) but I’ve definitely improved my mid-zone 1 pace since I started this training program.
Occasionally my coach throws in some higher intensity workouts to stress my body, like the 5 hard 1-minute hill repeats we did on day 1 of my visit. The key to these though, is to recover like a boss on the following day, and in the few minutes between those intervals. In this particular set, I was able to get my heart rate up to the low 180s for all 5 hills, but that was with a major focus on getting it down – like as close to zone 1 as I could – in between. The stubborn independently-training me would probably want to recover somewhere around 150, but the result would be not getting as high (up into the 180s) with each consecutive repeat.
I’ve learned a lot from zone 1 training over the past couple of months, both while training at home and under my coach’s watchful eye in Vegas. As he pointed out, it takes a lot of discipline to run slow when your mind wants to run fast, but seeing results is really rewarding when you’re patient enough to wait for them!
A brief note about nutrition
I talked last month about how I was preparing my stomach for the types of fuel it’s going to need to handle on race day, and this has been going well. I’ve found liquids far easier to take than solids, and learned the hard way that an apple is NOT what my stomach wants to eat between a bike and a run. (Fibre is a NO!)
My coach really drilled it into me during my time in Vegas that I need to be drinking more on the bike (something I’m not good at) because fuelling on the run when the stomach is under more stress isn’t as easy. I’ll talk more about nutrition in a future training recap, but just wanted to mention that this is still a work in progress.
Summing it all up for Month #2
Now that I’m back home, recovery is on the schedule for this week with mostly light workouts planned. After this, we’ll go back into another 3-week build followed by recovery, just as we’ve been doing in the past. As far as racing goes, I’m plotting out a few to do as the weather warms up in prep for the big A-race. My coach has suggested that these be scheduled near the end of recovery weeks so that my body is rested and ready for them, which totally makes sense.
Lastly, there’s a pretty big thing about to happen over the next month that will affect my future training, but as I hinted last week, that’s coming up on Wednesday so watch this space!! 🙂
So tell me…
- For whatever sport you do, what’s one lesson you learned when you were just starting out that totally made a difference to the way you train or race?
- Do you have any races coming up this spring? How’s your training going?