The TriDot Triathlon Podcast

Don't Miss the Most Valuable Training Block of the Season

Episode Summary

What is the most valuable training block of your season? The answer might surprise you! Most athletes believe that the few months immediately preceding their race are the most important. However, there is greater opportunity for performance improvement in the training further removed from race day. Join TriDot coaches Jeff Booher, John Mayfield, and Elizabeth James as they uncover how and why the training many months before your next triathlon has the most impact on your race results.

Episode Transcription

TriDot Podcast .27:

Don’t Miss the Most Valuable Training Block of the Season

Intro: This is the TriDot podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We'll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let's improve together.

Andrew: Welcome to the TriDot podcast, everyone. Okay guys, so usually, we try our best on the show to not say anything that dates when we record it or when an episode comes out. Whether you listen to an episode the day it comes out a month later, or a year later, the triathlon wisdom shared is still relevant. And we want the jokes, the stories, the anecdotes to still be relevant as well. We don't we don't want to be the show who says, “Hey, Ironman Hawaii just happened. What are your thoughts?” because we want you to just, whenever you listen, what you hear is relevant to you. But I'm going to give away when this one was recorded just a little bit. 

At the time of this recording, the triathlon world is feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. And our topic today is how to optimize your training when there is no race in sight. We all have plenty of motivation and plenty of reason to follow the training plan as we approach race day. But when we are in between races, or a long way away from our main A race, or maybe you're in the winter break without a race until the following year, or maybe you're quarantined inside because there's a pandemic, what should our mindset be as athletes during these times? And what should we expect… expect from our training plan? This is a topic we were already planning on addressing. But with most triathletes worldwide pushing their races further into the future, due to COVID-19, we decided to push this conversation to the front of the line. The questions I asked will be 1,000% relevant for day-to-day triathletes once the world is a healthier place, but we hope it's also helpful for what we are facing today with race postponements and cancellations.

I've got 3 of our wonderful podcast regulars on today to talk about this. First up is coach John Mayfield. He is a successful Ironman athlete himself. He also leads TriDot’s athletes services ambassador and coaching programs. He has coached hundreds of athletes, ranging from first-timers to Kona qualifiers and professional triathletes. John has been using TriDot since 2010 and coaching with TriDot since 2012. John, how's it going today? 

John: Going good. Since you kind of let the cat out of the bag on the date, I can also speak to the fact that we just closed out our 2020 Ambassador roster.

Andrew: Yeah.

John: And very proud to say that we have over 500 ambassadors representing TriDot from across the US and across the world. So…

Andrew: And we love them all. We love them each.

John: We love them all, we really do. These guys are… are just fantastic ambassadors. They represent our brand and our culture and our… our ambition to just share knowledge and experience and provide a better triathlon experience for everyone, and that's what these guys are about. So, shout out to all our 500 2020 ambassadors.

Andrew: Yeah, it's really become this really cool family of athletes that we have, right, that… that are on course, cheering for each other, representing the brand, and maybe representing their own TriClub as well. You know, a lot of our athletes were the… the… their TriClubs kit, a TriDot hat or visor on race day and represent on all fronts. I will say this, again, acknowledging when we're recording this, one of our newer ambassadors, who actually just won our… a Train X challenge winner, his name is Matt Rudd, he has been posting daily to the TriDot ambassadors Facebook group. And on his Instagram, he's calling it his quarantine diary, and literally every day, he's kind of posting just situationally just… just the little nuggets of what he's going through as a triathlete training during a quarantine. He's one of our Canadian athletes up in Canada. 

And so… so, to me when he first started doing it day 1, 2, 3, I was like, “Oh, it's kind of funny. But there's no way he keeps going with it.” Well, now he's on like day 7, 8, 9 and he's still doing a daily post with his quarantine diary and finding ways to make it fresh and funny and entertaining. So, go check out Matthew J Rudd on Instagram and see his quarantine diary. 

And I bring that up to say this. I feel like there's several podcasts we've recorded during this COVID-19 kind of quarantine time, some of them about COVID-19, and some not. But… but I feel like these episodes we're recording together during this outbreak, in a way, are our own quarantine diaries as a podcast. And this episode is one of those. So, anyway, shout out to Matt Rudd. You're hilarious. You're… you have a baller mustache, and keep up the good… the good work. You're… you're an ambassador we're going to shout out today. But we're, to John's point, super thankful for all 500 plus of our people willing to be part of the family

So, alright moving along. Next up is pro triathlete and coach, Elizabeth James. Elizabeth came to the sport from a soccer background and quickly rose through the triathlon ranks using TriDot. From a beginner to top… top age grouper to a professional triathlete. She's a Kona and Boston Marathon qualifier who has coach triathletes with TriDot since 2014. Elizabeth, thanks for joining us. 

Elizabeth: Thank you. I'm so pumped for today's episode, so let's get rolling. Let's do this. 

Andrew: Next up is TriDot founder and CEO, Jeff Booher. Jeff is the chief architect behind TriDot’s insight optimization technology that powers TriDot’s optimized training. He's a multiple Ironman finisher who has coached dozens of professional triathletes and national champions, as well as hundreds of age groupers to podiums and PRs since he began coaching triathlon in 2003. Jeff, how's it going?

Jeff: Pretty good. How are you doing?

Andrew: Doing good, friend, doing good. Ready to rock this podcast quarantine diary here. Who am I? I'm Andrew the average triathlete, voice of the people and the captain of the middle of the pack. We'll get going with today's warm up question and then get into the main set conversation, discussing how to train when there's no race in sight. For a cool down, we're going to give a shout out to some of the great companies in the triathlon market. They're doing just some really cool things to help the world during this COVID-19 outbreak. It's going to be great show. Let's get to it.

Narrator: Time to warm up. Let's get moving.

Andrew: Across the entire world of sports, athletes rely on motivational mantras to inwardly focused themselves on game day. American football players write scriptures on their eye black. International football stars and soccer players wear undershirts with meaningful phrases. And basketball players right on their shoes, dedicating games to loved ones. There are tons of examples, and I'm sure if I ask the right triathlete, some of us out there have a race-day mantra that ends up on our bodies somewhere in some way. For today's warmup question, if you were to take a race-day mantra onto the course with you, what would it say? I want to hear from Elizabeth on this one first. Elizabeth, if you put something, just a nice little encouraging reminder to yourself somewhere on your body on race day, what would it say?

Elizabeth: Well, I've actually only had it written on my body twice for actual racing, but my mantra is, “I am stronger.” And I leave it open ended like that, not saying what I'm stronger than, as that part kind of gets filled in during the event as I'm racing. And it's not a competitive thing like with other athletes, I'm not saying like, “Oh, I'm, you know, stronger than so and so or stronger than this athlete,” it's always an internal reminder for me. So, things like, you know, if I'm doubting myself, like, “I'm stronger than the self-doubt” or, “I'm stronger today than I've ever been. I'm stronger than this hill.” Gosh, in the last couple of races, it's been, “I'm stronger than this freezing cold or choppy water. When I see my husband or my family on the course cheering me on, I… you know, I think to myself, “I'm stronger because of the people that are here supporting me.” So, ‘I am stronger’ is kind of the… the base of my mantra for racing. And then I add to that, kind of depending on the circumstances that I'm currently facing.

Andrew: Yeah, I like that, because it's… it's no matter what happens on the day, it's a nice little reminder that you're stronger than it, right?

Elizabeth: Mm-hmm, yeah.

Andrew: Very, very good. Jeff Booher?

Jeff: Well, Andrew, I give this a lot of thought. I have never written anything on my body for a race, but you know, I think it may change, you know, race to race, what people put on their very personal thing.

Andrew: Yeah.

Jeff: Time that they're going through. And the one that I kept resonating on like, you mentioned just a scripture, and it’s Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And when I got to be thinking more about that, and, I mean, for… for some Christians, you know, you've heard that verse a million times. For others, not a Christian, there's still a lot of truth you can take from that and may have a curiosity, “Was is that, you know, 4:13 on Tim Tebow’s cheek?”

Andrew: Yeah.

Jeff: Or, you know, “What does that mean?” And a lot of people… you know, to me, it’s more significant even outside of the sport. And I use it in sport because it just kind of epitomizes the struggles that we go through in… in life. But a lot of people view that verse a like your Christian spinach. Like Popeye, you eat your spinach and you can do anything.

Andrew: No matter what you’re doing, you can do it all.

Jeff: “Hey, I’m doing it for Christ, and so I can do anything.” And it's not about… you know, the verses that come before that, it's not about our goals, necessarily. But, you know, Paul, before that, he says, “I've learned to be content in whatever circumstances I'm in. I've learned what is to be a need, what is to have plenty I know what the secret of being content with every situation, any and every situation I'm in. Whether I'm fed or hungry or living with plenty or in want, I can do all things through Him who gre... gives me strength.” And so, to that, I see it's… it's living in pain without pain, when you're doing good, when you're doing bad, and it's about purpose. So, I like to focus on the purpose and know that there's purpose behind the pain. You wouldn't do pain voluntarily, but whenever you do see you're in pain, it's in a race or anytime, focus on the purpose. And if you don't know the purpose, then trust in the God and that there is a purpose there. And someday, you may or may not know that purpose, but there is a purpose. So, you know, pain without purpose is pointless. So, I think in life, if you focus on pursuing your purpose, and not just avoiding the pain, but realizing the pain has a purpose in itself to get you…

Andrew: Yeah.

Jeff: … closer to your purpose that He has for you.

Andrew: Yeah. And in that way, it's… it's Philippians 4:13 not just being representative of that one isolated verse what it's talking about, but it's… it's giving context.

Jeff: Not a selective application.

Andrew: Yeah, it's… it's giving you the context of the verses that precede it. And it just gives it a whole deeper meaning than… than what people probably would think of when they see that on Tim Tebow’s, you know, face or any football player’s face during a game. So, yeah, love that perspective, that… that deeper look of looking at the full context of the Scripture what’s being said there. Yeah, that's great. John Mayfield, what would you… what would you want to remind yourself of while you're out on course?

John: So, like a lot of folks, I've… I’ve got the Ironman tattoo, and my Ironman tattoo says, “Soli Deo Gloria,” which is Latin for, “God's glory.” But as far as mantras, I really have 2 that kind of come. And I would say, they're… they're probably more so specific to training than racing, but they're also applicable in… in racing. And one is, it's kind of just a check. And in one it's a strength building thing, and it's, “I've not yet begun to suffer.” And so, often, it comes up when I feel like I'm starting to suffer or like when it’s like, “Man, this… this interval is really starting to suck and..”

Andrew: Yeah.

John: “… I really want to quit,” that's when… that's when it comes in. And it's, “I've not yet begun to suffer.”

Andrew: It's kind of like the Sebastian Kienle, the pro like, like his phrase is, “If it's hurting me killing them.”

John: Right.

Andrew: Right? It's kind of along those lines.

John: And that’s… that's kind of that thing. It's like, yeah, with everyone else out there on race day, it's, you know, we're out here together and it's we're getting close, but I've not yet begun to suffer. So, that's… that's when we can go in. And kind of along those same lines, one that that I was told years ago, I've mentioned before, Ronnie… Ronnie Reeves, who was one of my early mentors in… in triathlon. It's Cindy's husband that everybody knows. We were probably in his garage on a trainer set, and again, things are getting tough towards the end, he said, “You can do anything for 3 minutes.’ And I cannot tell you how many times…

Andrew: Wow.

John: … I've repeated that to myself in the decades since Ronnie told me that for the first time.

Elizabeth: And his athletes, I didn't know where that came from until now.

John: Yeah. And, you know…

Andrew: Elizabeth, how many times have you heard that from John?

Elizabeth: More than once.

John: And it’s true. I mean, I can't tell you how many times I've told that to myself, and been able to get through it. And even if it's… if I've got 5 minutes to go, I know if I can just make it to that 3-minute mark. I don't have to make it all the way to the end. I just have to make it to the 3-minute mark, because I know, I've proven to myself literally hundreds of times, I can do anything for 3 minutes. And it may suck, and I'm really glad when the 3 minutes are up, but I can do it. So, that one's probably because it's time-based but you know, it's… the same thing applies to a mile. I know I can run a mile. I've run lots of 1-miles. So, you know, as you approach that last mile, I can… I can run 1 mile. 

Andrew: Yeah, no, I love that. It reminds me of one of my training buddies named Kelly, who I know listens to the podcast, and he's multiple time Ironman finisher. And so, I always… he's a great sounding board for me just as a training buddy on asking him questions about approaching race day. And, but… but… but he's that guy that when we're on a group ride, he's always kind of throwing out those little one-liners like that. When we hit a hard hill or when we're, you know, hit… turn… turn the corner into a headwind, he's always good for the good one-liner that just kind of get you through that moment. And so, shout out to him because… and shout out to all the training partners out there who kind of have those words of wisdom, those little Yoda nuggets, right, that helps us those training sessions. But… but I love that one, “I can do anything for 3 minutes.” That… that's a super cool mindset. So…

Jeff: Yoda nugget.

Andrew: Yoda nugget.

Jeff: How would Yoda say that? I was trying to think. I didn't know how to do Yoda would say that, “3 minutes, you can do,” I don't know.

Andrew: Like, that was a good try. That’s… that's better than I would have come up 3 with.

Jeff: “Mm, 3 minutes, you can do.”

Andrew: This is… this is digressing quickly. That that was TriDot founder, Jeff Booher, giving his best… best Yoda impression.

Elizabeth: That was awesome.

Andrew: That was awesome, right? Oh, man. I don't even know how I follow that. But… but just really quickly, for me, when I was… I was thinking about this, yeah, I've tried to think just as an athlete, you know, in… in the past as a Christian. You know, Jeff, I love that you shared Philippians 4:13. I've never had one scripture that I felt is like the perfect application for me, you know, on my body during… during the race course. I love it when athletes go that route. You know, when you see them football players, it's great to see some faith-based players out there. But… but… but for me, I think the one phrase I always come back to and it's kind of a self-reminder for me before heading into a race, I always remind myself, “Okay, there's 3 parts of this race. I'm really going to focus on swimming smooth. I want to focus on biking steady. And then when I get to the run, I just want to run brave.” 

And for me, that's… that's… it kind of comes from the people that I see that are successful swimmers, they're not expending energy slapping at the water. There’s a smoothness to it, right, when you're doing this swim portion right. And once you get on the bike, okay, it's not… it’s not about being a hero. It's not about… about throwing down the fastest split, you know, on the day necessarily. It's not about passing people and… and being a hero, but… but it's more about settling into your rhythm, staying steady, knowing what your power numbers, heart rate numbers should be, and… and sticking to it.

And then once you get on the run course, that's the part where you just leave it all… all out to dry, right? Everything you got left, just… just run brave, run with all you got left and get… get to that finish line. And so, that… that's always just internally, for me, I've never said that, I've never voiced that to anybody, never written it on myself. But it's… it's just been an inward reminder that, when that adrenaline gets pumping and you try to do too much, or you try to… try to really peak on that day and go overboard, that that's always grounded me on race day. Really cool to hear y’all’s input. 

Guys, we're going to throw this question out on social media. You know, do you have something you write on your calf, write on your thigh, write on your hand, write on your hat, sunglasses, shoes to kind of as a mantra that just propels you forward and helps you through the day? We want to know what it is, because we know there's a lot of great ones out there, a lot of great ones that our athletes can read and… and hear and learn from and apply to their race, even themselves. So, go find us, TriDot Triathlon Training on social media and we will have this question out there. And we want to hear your responses to what is your race-day mantra.

Narrator: On to the main sets. Going in 3, 2, 1.

Andrew: Our main set today is brought to you by our friends at Garmin. In the fitness and multi-sport market, Garmin products are the gold standard. Known for their compelling design, superior quality, and best value. As a triathlete, Garmin can be and should be your very best friend. They offer best in class GPS watches that can track your every swim, bike, and run with ease. When you are out on the bike, Garmin is vector power pedals can measure those all-important watts while their Edge cycling computers conveniently display all your data in real-time as you ride. You can also bring Garmin into your pain cave with their Tacx indoor trainers and accessories. 

I tell everyone who will listen that my tax flux indoor smart trainer is the best investment I have made in my own triathlon training. The best part is Garmin is fully integrated with TriDot. So, your Garmin Connect and Garmin health data seamlessly streams to TriDot and your training is continually optimized. So, head to garmin.com and check out all the cool tech they have to offer. 

 

Way, way back in the history of mankind, someone decided to take the 365 days of the year and break them down into 12 months. Those 365 days were a blank slate. They could have been arranged in an infinite number of ways. But here we are with 12 months that take us through the year. For a coach-designing training, there are a huge number of ways to break down an athlete's season to help gain fitness and peak for race day. At the highest level, there are really 2 different times during the season though; the times you are prepping for a race that is quickly approaching, and then times you are training without a race insight. 

Today, we're going to be talking about how to approach our training during those times of the year when we are not actively preparing for an upcoming race. So, guys, let's start here. How do you optimize training when there's no race on the schedule yet?

Jeff: So, actually, the 365 days weren't broken into 12 months, it was originally broken into 10 months. 

Andrew: Really?

Jeff: That's why it’s September, Oct is 8, 9 November, nano, 10 deca. But then Julius and Augustus Caesar both had to have their months. So, they added July and August and that took days away from all the rest of the months. So, that's how we end up with 12. 

Andrew: I 1000%, when I scripted that intro, I went 1000% expected somebody from the… from the audience to email in and to kind of give me that history. I didn't even bother to look it up because I'm like, “You know what? Someone's going to educate me after I say all this on why it was broken up that way.”

Jeff: It’s pretty cool. This is pretty cool. If you look back at the Gregorian calendar, the first day of the year was actually March 1st, and they backed it up to January 1st and did some changes there. So, if you look for George Wa… and that happened in the early… I think the early 1700s. So, if you look up George Washington's Birthday, he has 2 different years of his birth, because it straddles, it's in that January. So, it was in one year, and then they moved it from March back to January, so it became the next year.

Andrew: Anyway, on the same episode… on the same episode, we're getting a free history lesson from… from Jeff Booher, and we're getting free Yoda impressions from Jeff Brewer on same podcast episode. This is… this is already a landmark stuff. But…

Jeff: So, how do you optimize your… your training schedule when there's no race insight? This kind of gets started as we… as we dig in deeper to the considerations what you can do. There's the very, I almost call it a pre optimization factor. And this is going back almost 15 years now, when we first started, or when I first started even before TriDot existed, thinking about, “How do we break up the season? How do we start categorizing times of year and what's driving training?” Of course, you have the athlete's ability and, you know, metrics on, you know, their profile and their abilities…

Andrew: Yeah.

Jeff: … and all like that.

Andrew: And of course, you can just train, but how do you optimize that time?

Jeff: Right.

Andrew: What's the best use of that time? 

Jeff: Correct. And so, it becomes up, how do you improve overall fitness in what areas? How do you prioritize those things and make the best use of your time to be most efficient with your time? And so, I realized very quickly that there's 2 realities, and those ended up being 2 phase types later. And the one reality was you’re training in a time period of the year when the… the requirements of the racecourse dictate how… or have a primary influence on how your training needs to be. If you need to do an Ironman or half Ironman, you need to run 13.1 miles or 56-mile bike. That's… that length of the race that is 2 weeks from now is going to have a driving factor on your training.

Andrew: You got to be ready to complete that distance. 

Jeff: Exactly. But a year before that, 2 years before that, that length of that course doesn't matter yet, whatever it is. So, you're free to do a lot of stuff 2 years out, 1 year out, 6 months out, that as you get closer, you're not free to do anymore. So, without that constraint, how would you train? And then with those constraints, how would you train? So, that was the very first decision from my time prioritization and optimization standpoint that you take. So, it's like a pre-optimization 2 phase types. Race prep is what we call it. Race prep is when your race is imminent, and… and it gets closer. There's not a dead cutoff for swim, bike, and run at a certain date.

Andrew: Okay.

Jeff: There is overlap. So, you can… you tran… it’s a soft transition from the end of one phase to the beginning of the next So, but there is… if you, in periodized training, you're going to block it off and have structure within each phase of, you know, mesocycles. But it is that the development phase is when the requirements of the… the race distance don't have as much influence or impact or restriction on what you can do. So, it's a more freer time. And then as you get closer to the race, that's a race prep phase. And that is where one of the primary drivers of your decision making in optimization are the requirements of the race. 

Andrew: So… so, when do these kind of race phases happen?

Jeff: So, the… the time when there's no race in sight, it can happen a few different times. One is after the last race of one season. So, your finished race, you may take a week or 2 off. You know, just… so, we're not counting that time, just, “I need to chill, don't want to burn out, spend some time family go on a vacation, whatever, holidays.” So, it's not counting that time. After that spike, you're ready to train, you have time to train, you want to focus, you may not know what races are coming up. So, that's one time. 

Another time is when you may have some indecision. So, you're getting close to the season that's going to start, but you have some family vacations you're not sure about. You might take a new job. You know, all of these different things are still in flux. You know, it's preseason, maybe it's just you know what race, but you're just 9 months out from it. So, there's a long time, and so you don't need to start going long yet. And so, you have that preseason. 

And then there's the other time and that's when you're going through a global pandemic. 

Andrew: Yeah. 

Jeff: And everything's on hold and you don't know when races are going to be scheduled. And so, you're dealing with this weird reality when normally, you may be right in the middle of, you know, some ramping up.

Andrew: And for a lot of athletes, they were smack dab in the middle of that. 

Jeff: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew: I mean, when I got my email saying Ironman Texas was going to be postponed, I was… the next day, I was supposed to have a 4 hour 45-minute trainer ride. And so it's, “Okay, if I'm not racing now in a month, I don't need to do a 4 hour-45 minute trainer ride. So, what do I do?”

Jeff: Or maybe you do.

Andrew: Or maybe I do. How do I know? What do I do? Okay, so let's… so let's kind of talk about this… this phase that we're talking about. You know, when your race isn't imminent, you don't have something, you know, right now that you're preparing for. You know, we… like you said, Jeff, we call it we call that the development phase. So, what is the development phase? And as athletes, what are we looking to achieve during these training times?

Elizabeth: The main focus in the development phase is going to be increasing an athlete's functional threshold in all disciplines. So, an athlete is looking to gain speed and strength in the swim, bike, and run, so that they can enter that race preparation phase as strong as possible before needing to increase their stamina for that specific race distance. 

John: So, one of the things we talk about fairly often is… is one of our kind of core mantras within TriDot is fast before far and strong before long. So, that's… that's speaking to building this functional threshold prior to building that stamina. So, we want to get fast before we… we take on these… these longer races, knowing that it's that functional threshold that's going to power through… through those long races. So, when we talk about that, this is really what we're talking about is… and this is how that's achieved. This is how we get fast before far and strong before long, because it's… it’s the difference of training specifically for functional threshold, as opposed to training for stamina. And we talked about this at length in episode 10. That's that Escaping the Power-Stamina Paradox. That's one we've… we've referenced back a ton. 

Andrew: It's like one of our… one of our brainier, heavier training theory episodes, but… but so core to how to optimize training.

John: There's a ton of truth in it. 

Andrew: Yeah.

John: And some of it's not necessarily intuitive, but once explained, it really makes sense. And some of it even flies in the face of what is a long-held even misconception within training and coaching and triathlon in general. So, it's a very important topic, and it's something that really can… can revolutionize an athlete's training in their approach, as well as their race results. 

Jeff: Yeah, it's definitely a 5-lightbulb episode.

Andrew: Yeah. 

Jeff: So, a lot of things. You know, these things make sense when you when you get that concept and understand what's going on. You think about, you know, what Elizabeth was saying, you need to function… or focusing on the functional threshold is because maintaining that high-volume, the stamina, the things that you have to do when you get closer to a race, that comes at a cost. You only have so much time, energy, and ability to absorb training stress. And when it's driven by the race distance as you get closer, there's things that you can't do because of that. 

And so, this time, this development phase, it's far enough out where you're free to do that. You can focus on your FTP. You can focus on form. You don't have to worry so much about how long you're swimming. Make sure every form stroke is perfect and really work on things. Go back to add strength training, have more time for that, a lot of injury prevention. I know in our training, the drills that you do during that time were more focused on where you are developmentally as a swimmer with your stroke. And as you get close to a race, the drills you start doing are more race-specific. And so, you may spend less time in those early fundamental races that you need to habituate the new movement over a long period of time. If we have a long period of time, you're going to spend more and build that foundation during a developmental phase. Whereas, if the race is coming up, you may go through that faster just because of race is eminent.

Andrew: Got it. So, when an athlete is not in this development phase, it's because they are approaching a race, and thus, they're in the race-prep phase. What are the most noticeable differences athletes will see in their swim, bike, and run training in between these 2 phases? 

Elizabeth: So, I know we've already touched on this a little bit. But I mean, truly, in the development phase, athletes are going to notice sessions that specifically focus on those upper intensity zones to develop that functional threshold. So, there's going to be some intense interval work with the specific purpose of creating those physiological adaptations that are going to make an athlete stronger and faster. 

Another thing that Jeff just touched on, and I know we've touched on in other episodes is, is an athlete's training stress and their training stress profile. So, an athlete has a very finite and specific amount of training stress that they can absorb within any given session, a week in a mesocycle. And without having those longer duration workouts that are focused on increasing stamina, and are essentially taking away some of that available stress that can be absorbed in training, the intensity can be higher in some shorter duration sessions as they're working to increase that functional threshold.

Andrew: And that's what helps us build that… that power, that speed, get faster, and stronger.

Elizabeth: Yeah, yeah.

Jeff: That's even more significant in… as you age, as you get older. You know, older athletes, as they're getting closer to races, they can't do a lot of high-muscular endurance and some of those things. Neurological stress is very taxing the older you get. Whereas in development phases, they can do that and they can maintain that… that power longer in life, longer into their triathlon career.

Andrew: Wow.

Jeff: Whereas younger people can do it longer into their… their race prep phases.

Elizabeth: Mm-hmm, yep. And… and when an athlete enters that race preparation phase, their training stress profile doesn't change. They can still only absorb a particular amount of training stress within that mesocycle of their training. So, I would say that, you know, the biggest differences that an athlete would see in kind of the movement between these training phases is if they're going from a development phase into like an Ironman race preparation phase. 

So, in general, you know, Sprint and Olympic distance racing is done at or near an athlete's functional threshold. And the stamina required for those distances is either largely or entirely covered by the volume that they're already completing in the… in that development phase. So, sprint and Olympic race preparation phase may look very similar to the development phase. But now, you know, on the other side of that, in an Ironman or 70.3 race preparation phase, the structure of that training cycle has to shift the focus from developing that functional threshold to now increasing the stamina necessary for that race distance. So, during that race preparation phase, athletes are going to notice an increase in the duration of their training sessions, particularly kind of those long bike and those long run sessions. 

John: So, one thing I refer to as stamina is it's… it's somewhat of a necessary evil. And obviously, nothing wrong with stamina, but it comes at a cost. And building functional threshold and building stamina are somewhat mutually exclusive. It's difficult to… to do them both at the same time for… for some of those reasons that Elizabeth mentioned, and Jeff mentioned, as well. So, one thing that's… that's unique about these development phases, is that we don't have to build stamina, so we can focus exclusively on building that functional threshold. 

And when we say functional threshold, we're really speaking to swim, bike, and run. It's… it’s power, it's speed, it’s… it's how… how powerful can we build the engine? How fast can we create the athlete? Because that speed and that power that is… that is obtained in these development phases, is going to have a direct impact throughout the race season, whether you're continuing to… to race short course, which as Elizabeth mentioned, is a… is a… is a functional threshold event, or whether you're on the opposite of the spectrum racing Ironman, which is much more of a stamina event, it's still that functional threshold that's going to determine how fast and how powerful you're able to complete those events. 

So, I refer to stamina as being cheap, and functional threshold is expensive. And so, I think it's that can help contextualize how we approach them. So, stamina is cheap, because you build it real quick. And an athlete that's in a reasonably good condition can go from very low volume to Ironman ready in 8, 10, 12 weeks, if they had to on the short end. So, you build the stamina very quickly, but at the same time it also dissipates very quickly. So, if you go from your Ironman race where you're able to race for 10, 12, 14 hours, and you don't do any training for a month, a lot of that stamina is going to erode. It erodes very quickly.

Andrew: Wow.

John: And it’s… it comes at a high cost to maintain. Functional threshold, however, is… is much slower to build. It takes much more time to increase the power of that engine. But again, as we mentioned, this is what's going to really determine your… your race success. If you're… if you're gauging your race success based on time, functional threshold is your key component. That's what's going to determine your race results. But as I mentioned, it takes time to develop. It takes a lot of time to drop 10 seconds off your 100-pace. Especially the stronger you are as a swimmer, to drop 5 seconds off your 100-pace may take months or a year depending on where you are. Same thing with your… your functional threshold power, to gain 10 watts may take a significant amount of time, or to drop 10, 20 seconds off your 5k time, those are all functional threshold events. Your 100-pace, your 20-minute power, your 5k time, those are all functional threshold events. 

So, I think people understand that… that, yeah, to a certain extent, early on, we make those gains real easy. But we had to have that low-hanging fruit where we can drop a minute off the 5k time…

Andrew: Yeah.

John: … every month and we reassess. But at some point, when we build up that… that critical mass, those gains become much more difficult. You have to invest a lot more time, you have to be much more intentional in making those gains. You can't just go out and… and go on random runs or random bike rides and see these… these gains at some point. So, it's very expensive.

Andrew: Because they’re expensive. Yeah.

John: It's very time consuming. It's something you actually have to really work on, really focus on, be very intentional in… in doing. But the good news is, is they stick around much longer. Yes, you still have to maintain your fitness. Yes, you still have to do the work. But you're… you’re going to be able to maintain those paces and those… those power numbers for a much longer period of time. So, they're going to stick with you. So, you can… you can take these gains from one season to the next. Whereas, as a rule, it's very, very difficult to maintain stamina from… from one season to another. So, if you, if you race a late season Ironman race, to maintain that stamina into the following season where there may be a 4, 5, 6 months wait…

Andrew: It’s gone, yeah, it's…

John: … the work required to do that is going to be very taxing, you're going to have a very high injury predisposition, a really high injury risk, if you…

Andrew: And you're not going to get faster.

John: … do the work. And that's the big thing is the cost. So, in order to maintain that high amount of stamina, that means you're not going to be working on your functional threshold. So, you're not getting faster. In fact, you're neglecting your functional threshold, which means you're actually getting slower. So, you're able to go longer, but you're going slower because you've… you've chosen to maintain stamina, and… and in doing so, whether you realize it or not, you've neglected your functional threshold. And that, in time, is going to erode.

Andrew: Yeah, that's… I mean, you're saying all of that and I'm just thinking back to my own training, and because I… you know, we did the episode, like you said, about the power stam… stamina paradox, and we we've talked in the podcast before about when you really slip into training for stamina, it really inhibits your ability to train your functional threshold. And so, I got to see that at work in my own training for the first time while I was getting ready for Ironman Texas because, you know, my… my rundot, swimdot, bikedot, you know, every single month was just getting a little faster, a little faster, a little faster. You know, those 5k times, you know, dropping 10… 10, 20 seconds off every single time. 

And then once you got into that race prep phase where I was working on my stamina and the runs were going from an hour and a half to an hour 45 to 2 hours to 2 hours 15, you know, suddenly, my 5k wasn't getting any faster. But every single long run I would take, you know, if it was an hour and a half one week, and at the end of it, I was just like, “Oh man, that was really hard. And now look, I pulled the program next week was an hour 45, how am I going to run an hour 45? That hour and a half was really hard.” And then I get to the hour 45 the next week, and at the hour and a half mark, I was fine. And by hour 45, I was tired. 

And so, like each week, as that bike ride became… went from 3 and a half hours to 4:15, well, that jump actually… like, I was ready to make that jump after having done the 3 and a half the week before. So, I was very not surprised, I guess pleasantly surprised that everything we talked about, I could see it at work. I could see that, “Man, this stamina is really coming along quite well quite quickly.”

John: Yeah, it comes quick. And one thing, just to kind of follow up is there's… there's no limits on how much functional threshold you need. Unless you're winning every race by a massive margin, you don't have enough functional threshold. So, that… that is something that you can always…

Andrew: You can still get faster.

John: … continue and you always need more. You know, unless you're just a casual athlete that's not really concerned with time, sure. But I think for the most of us, we want… if we're going to do the training, if we’re going to race, we want to race faster, we want to improve our ranking, functional threshold is that. So, again, unless you're just obliterating the field in every single race (which there's not a single person in the world that's doing that at every given distance), that functional threshold can continue to increase. There is marginal benefit from having more functional threshold. There's at a certain point, and it would be specific for each athlete at each distance, there's not a marginal benefit to having more stamina. 

So, in order to race a sprint race, you don't need Ironman stamina. Once you have sufficient stamina to complete the sprint race or the Olympic race, you don't need the stamina to go for… for 8, 10, 12 hours. Obviously, if you're racing 70.3 Ironman, you do, but even still, there's… there's a limit on how much stamina that you need. You only need enough stamina to successfully and… and complete well 140.6 miles to race Ironman. There's no need for additional stamina to do work beyond that. So, again do create the stamina that you have to when you have to. Spend the rest of the time building the engine. 

Jeff: There's another couple things that I’d add. One is like a hidden limiter there, and then another hidden benefit to focusing, just like we've been talking. Hidden limiter is the ego. A lot of times, people want to post about talk about how long they went. And so, there's this, “Oh, I just got back from my 2 and a half hour run.”

Andrew: Oh, and you see that on Ironman Facebook groups because everybody…

Jeff: All the time.

Andrew: .. I mean you're 4 months out from Ironman and people are like, “Here's my training today. How is yours?”

Jeff: Right? 

Andrew: And it’s like, “Why are you biking 150 miles and then running…?”

Jeff: Right, it’s… but there is some ego, some pride, some…

Andrew: Yeah.

Jeff: … whatever. And that comes at a cost. The hidden benefit is we talked about just… just general injury, not overtraining, but from an efficiency standpoint. When you're say you're running, especially running and swimming too, the longer you do that, the longer your runs are, the more percent of that time you are using poor form. So, if you're running, great runners can hold really good form for, you know, 45 minutes, something like that. So, if you're running these long ones, especially for most age groupers, when you're running long, you're spending maybe 15, 20 minutes with pretty good form and then it deteriorates. 

Andrew: And it’s just breaking down.

Jeff: So, you're spending more time every week running and habituating bad form. So, not only are your threshold fitness coming down or not going up, but your efficiency is deteriorating, your form is deteriorating. And the more you do that, the harder it is to fix later. And so, what running focusing on your threshold, reducing those long runs enables you to develop more power, but also more percent of your strokes, steps, strides pedals, or with that better form. And so, you're habituating and improving your efficiency at the same time. So, there's this double whammy of power goes up and efficiency also goes up. 

Andrew: Yeah, which really reinforces John's point that stamina is kind of a necessary evil. Because it's necessary because you have to have the stamina to finish the day, but, you know, it's… it's evil in the sense that you are breaking down your body, you are breaking down your form, you are kind of losing a little bit your threshold over time. So… so, let's kind of move into this. I know that we kind of talked about how our race schedules are what primarily determine what phase type that we need to be in at any given time, right? We either have a race coming up, or we don't. So, help me and our listeners kind of with some of the specifics here. When we add a race to the calendar, at what point does it impact what training phase we're in?

Jeff: Well, that's it… it depends. So, that's relative to the race distance, it’s relative to the athlete’s ability. It's a relative to the… the amount of increase. So… so, you're taking the, “How long does it take that athlete to finish that particular race distance?” Then you're saying, “Well, how much can that athlete improve from week to week to week?” That's based on body composition, how long they've been doing the sport, whether it's a run or a bike, you can improve, you know, increase more on the bike than you can on the run because there's no impact. Genetics comes into it. So, there's this concept of we use incredible weeks. So, how many weeks between now race day are increasing? How many can you increase? So, you're going to take off those rest weeks, you're going to take off if you have a B race in there, you have a little taper recovery before and after. So, that removes 2 weeks of increase. So, now you need to start your increase sooner. You're back planning from your race day. So, there's all of those factors that will impact what that is. 

So, the… really, the thing is, is looking at, at that time between your race day and backing up to the current time. And it's not just a… it's not… like I think I mentioned right up front, a hard line where this automatically happens on one day from… you don't start increasing on your first week of race prep phase. In TriDot, it's… it's overlapping. You'll see if you add a race that the last… maybe the last 2 or 3 weeks of your development phase, the… the volumes of your run, start going up and maybe your bike stays the same. Because you have to increase more on the run than you do on the bike. You're able to absorb those increases on the bike, and you might start that ramp up at week 8, you know, t minus 8. And on run, it might be, you know, 12 weeks out. And so, that might not be relative to, you know, a pure break from phase to phase. But it's really that the athlete’s ability, the race distance, how many increasible weeks they have? And what is their increased tolerance by overall volume and long session between now and then?

Andrew: Does it matter at all when in the season our A races are? Like… like, will a spring Ironman or 70.3 have a different impact on our development phase than a fall Ironman or 70.3? Or is it all just relative to where you are in the season?

Jeff: It’s relative. It's not really season… seasonal at all, it’s just when is your race and what is now?

Andrew: Okay.

Jeff: How far is that from now? So, if you're saying… if you're… if you're saying, “When should I start training? You know, when should I get serious? When should I start optimizing my training?” sooner, always.

Andrew: Today.

Jeff: Today, yes, because this prepares you. And that's another thing just about the name of the phases. So, whether you're in a race prep or developmental, you're preparing for your race, whatever your race is. Even if your race is not identified, you're still preparing for your race. You're going to be in a better starting spot to start that race. And even if you're, you know, not in a developmental phase, you're in a race prep phase, you're still developing. You're developing stamina, you're developing fitness, form, all of those things, you're still doing both always. But it's just a classification that we use. So, I think the… the thing that matters the most is the time, how much time is between now and that race. 

And there's a benefit to starting earlier because you're in… in essence, shortening your race. So, you get this duplicated amplified benefit, kind of like I mentioned before, when you increase your power and decrease the cost, your drag, your… you know, your poor efficiency, you become more efficient and faster at the same time, there's this double whammy. The same thing that happens the more time you spend in your development phase, you're shortening your race. So, you're getting… 

Andrew: Yeah.

Jeff: … faster, you're shortening the distance that you have to go on your race day. Instead of doing a 6-hour bike, you're doing a 5:30-bike. Well now it's not going to take you as much time to complete that race, so you don't have to ramp up as far. So, now, you can start your ramp up a whole week later, which means you get more time to develop power. And with a shorter race now on your power curve, if say your FTP, your functional threshold on the bike is 300 and you'd normally be doing, I don't know the math here, but you know, 75% of your threshold, well, with a shorter race now, you can do 78%. So, you increase the long tentpole, the threshold, so you have a higher start number. But you also shorten the race, so now you can do even higher percentage of that higher number…

Andrew: Yeah.

Jeff: … and be more efficient and have more time to develop. So, there's multiple 3 or 4 things all being amplified that… that concept of optimizing this time. 

Andrew: And so, the… the concrete example of that, just to kind of, kind of give… give one to give people kind of a little picture of that, because it's such a key principle, that the professional athlete who's going to finish an Ironman in 8 hours, they might… if I'm understanding this clearly, they don't need to start working on their stamina as soon as an athlete is going to finish that Ironman in 13 hours. Because that athlete has to get themselves ready for a 13-hour long race, they're only getting themselves ready stamina wise for an 8-hour race. Is that correct?

Jeff: Exactly. The mileage is the same, but the time is significantly different.

Andrew: Yeah. 

Jeff: And that's really what the body perceives is the time on the course, not necessarily the miles or the distance that's covered.

Andrew: Yeah.

Jeff: So, they're going to go, you know, an hour faster, hour and a half faster on the bike. 

Andrew: Yeah.

Jeff: So, and when you go back to the increasable weeks, and how you determine all of that other thing, they are young, they're fit, their body composition is great. They have a probably a very consistent… their… their injury risk is much lower, so they're able to train more increase more every week. And so, all of these factors are amplified in what they're able to do. There's a short gap, they're able to probably sustaining a little higher volume. And so, there's less… their starting point is much higher, their ending point is much lower, so there's less gap. And a lot of them, I train a number of pros who, throughout the season, you know, their long rides throughout the year were, you know, 2 hours. And then on race day, it was 2 hours. 

Andrew: Yeah.

Jeff: So, they were in the same developmental volume year-round. And so, they were constantly getting their FTP higher and higher and higher and higher without that cost. 

Andrew: So, most triathletes, obviously are not just content with knocking out one race a year. You know, most of us lineups several. Some are our top most important A races. Some are tuneups for those A races. Some are for fun. Some are because they are local and right down the road. Long story short here, how can we know, in between races, what type of training phase we should be in?

Elizabeth: Oh, man, there's… there’s a lot of great things to address here. So, first off, athletes do kind of need to consider what their personal goals are within the sport. So, I know that John had mentioned earlier that, you know, many athletes are looking to be as fast as possible and really kind of go for those personal bests in their upcoming races. And in this case, the athlete needs to carefully consider what they're A race is going to be and how they are going to best prepare for that event. So, adding in a bunch of other events prior to that race preparation phase for an athlete's A race could certainly hinder their ability to develop their functional threshold if they need to kind of exit out of that developmental phase into a race preparation time. Because if athletes are always preparing for a long race event, and they're needing to focus on that stamina, then they're missing the opportunities that are within that developmental phase. 

So, that, you know, the race preparation phase, we've already… we've already talked about, you know, stamina is that necessary evil, it's… it's super important. You need to develop that stamina in order to get to the finish line. But the most important work is taking place before you even begin that race preparation phase. Kind of as, again, what we've mentioned, once you enter that race preparation phase, your finishing time is already large established.

Andrew: Your best-case scenario is already there.

Elizabeth: Mm-hmm.

Andrew: Yeah.

Elizabeth: Yep, yep. I mean, you know, there are small marginal gains still to be made and, you know, that… that stamina is necessary. But at that point, you are really just working to hold a percentage of your functional threshold for the duration of that race event. You're not necessarily making those gains on that functional threshold anymore.

Now, to address you know, the other part of the question there with, you know, the number of races and those local events demonstrate and… and knowing what training phase you're in, you know, knowing what training phase you're in or what you should be in, it's not a guessing game. It's not necessarily going to be, you know, X number of weeks or the same for each athlete either.

TriDot season planner is one of my absolute favorite tools and something that I’ll… I'll frequently reference when I'm working with athletes and we're planning for their goals and the races for the upcoming season. So, the season planner really allows athletes (and coaches too) to assign priority to the events that an athlete is either registered for or they're considering for their upcoming season. And then you can see how those events are going to interact with one another and how that is going to really impact the training phases that an athlete will go through. So, those A races should be assigned first. Then based off of those A races, we kind of determine what else is important to the athlete and how that fits in with those most important events. So, within TriDot, you can designate an A, B, and C priority race. And placing that A race on your season planner is going to generate a race preparation phase.

And then, you know, to kind of address the athlete that wants to do the number of local events and, you know, doing that local sprint race down the road might be very important to that athlete, even if they are in that Ironman race preparation phase. You know that local event might be something that they've supported since the race first began, they may want to include it. And they can include it. But maybe we're going to designate that as a C race so they can participate still, you know, support their local racing community, but not at the expense of, you know, a development phase or potentially their race preparations.

Andrew: They can still do really well in those races. You know, they might… if it's a local sprint, you might be 30 seconds to 3 minutes slower because you didn't taper for that race. But at the end of the day, if you have a more important race coming up, you're going to gain even more of that time back working on your threshold, since you let that sprint remain C race, right?

Elizabeth: Mm-hmm. Well, and you know, sprint races might fit very well within that athlete’s developmental phase. Because we've already talked about too, that, you know, the sprint race is going to be basically at the athlete’s threshold. And so, as they're doing this threshold work, that might fit in very nicely. And the season planner is a great way to just kind of look at how all those things interact. And I probably made that sound a little bit more confusing than it actually is or needs to be, but…

Andrew: I was tracking with you.

Elizabeth: Okay. I mean, the season planner, because it's such a fantastic tool, it walks athletes through that entire process. So, the athlete isn't there left, you know, trying to make decisions about what training phase they're in, or you know, what phase optimization needs to look like, the training is going to be optimized and therefore appropriate for the athlete’s events that are coming up. So, you know, if an event isn't in the near future, if there isn't a race in sight, then you're in that developmental phase. If you're preparing for a race, then you're in that race preparation phase. And the season planner is going to designate all of that. 

Andrew: I know when I'm sometimes looking at, “Okay, I know in the fall, maybe this month or that month, I'll do a 70.3.” And I start looking at, you know, the different races that Ironman has on the calendar, you know, for that time period, and, “Oh, do I want to do this one? Do I want to do that one?” You know, sometimes I'll just kind of go ahead and input those on the season planner just to kind of see, you know, “How does this fit with the rest of my schedule? How is this going to… to change, you know, my training if I pick this race over that race?” And to your point, it's a really great tool to kind of see how certain races being… being certain priorities are going to affect it. 

So, and I think with that though, a lot of athletes, they kind of have the mindset that they start preparing for their race. They start preparing for that Ironman, they start preparing for that 70.3 or whatever their main A race is. They think they start preparing for it when they're a few months out from that race day, a few weeks out from that race day, maybe. I have a buddy of mine that… that he really enjoys running. He does a triathlon, maybe 1 a year, maybe 1 every other year. He likes the sport, it's a… it's an occasional hobby for him. And… and when I started training with TriDot, and he was really interested in it, he asked me one time. He was interested in doing 70.3 Indian Wells, and he was like, “Okay, Andrew, at what… what month do I need to sign up for TriDot to be ready to race 70.3 Indian Wells?” 

And it… and it's kind of this common misnomer we see where people think that, “Okay, I need to sign up onto a training plan,” or, “I need to get that coach,” or, “I need to start preparing for that race 3 months out, 2 months out, 4 months out, what is that time block?” And that's what he was getting at. And it's like, “No, you need to start preparing for that race right now. Because you're… you're going to be getting faster for that race if you start right now.” You know, once you get to 3 months, 4 months out, to your point, you're just building the stamina. So… so, I guess maybe John, talk to me about people that have this misconception, how would you address that mindset of, “Oh, I start preparing for that race at that time,”?

John: I think it is a mindset issue. I think, oftentimes, triathletes don't look at… don't look at their… their… they look much more at their racing than they look at their training, and they allow the races really to dictate what their… their training phases look like. And so, they get kind of stuck in that pattern is that, “I'm training for this race, then I'm training for that race.” And if the race is not say 3 to 4 months out, then they don't really feel like they're training specifically for a race. And oftentimes, what we'll see is they just kind of do random training, they're not really intentional in what they're doing, they're not specific in… in what they're doing. And… and we mentioned, yeah, it's fine to take a couple of weeks here or there just to relax and enjoy the sport. But when we… when we want… when we… when we invest the time in training, we want that time to be productive. And we want that… that training to… to improve our results on race day. 

So, right, you’re… you are going to… your training is going to be very focused several months out, especially when… when we're racing 70.3 and Ironman distance races, which a lot of our athletes are. So, this is obviously where we have to… to be intentional in our planning here. There has to be, as Jeff mentioned, those incremental gains. We have to have sufficient time that we can make safe gains each week so we can build that… that stamina. I kind of dogged stamina earlier, called it an unnecessary evil, but it is absolutely critical to have that stamina on race day. So, we have to… we have to prepare for that. 

So, that's what happens is we see that, and the… the training changes often, especially for those long course races where the training doesn't look like it did previously. So that’s…

Andrew: Yeah.

John: That's kind of how we get caught up in that. But really, every race is the sum of our entire triathlon or even… even prior experience. It's the sum of all of our training. It's the sum of all of our knowledge and experience. It's every race is an opportunity to put together every session we've ever done, everything we've ever learned, every bit of experience we've ever gained. And that's kind of splitting hairs, but… but it really is an important distinction to make in that we are today, the training we do now is absolutely having a direct impact on our next race and really, to a certain extent, every race from here on after.

Andrew: So, John, back on episode 18 of the TriDot podcasts, we talked about triathlon coaching in the era of artificial intelligence. And one of the things that came up on that show was, at what point in the season is it most beneficial for an athlete to have a coach? And, John, you specifically said that you would actually rather work with an athlete further out from their race, while they're in this development phase working on thresholds, as opposed to during a race prep phase, building the stamina closer to the race. Does that have to do with what we can accomplish during these different phases?

John: Yeah, and it's… it’s something that Elizabeth spoke to earlier, and I think we've mentioned it several times throughout is that it's… it's really the… the work done in these development phases that really produces the actual finishing time. And that's so often what… what an athlete is… is after. Most of our time, our goals are somewhat time-based. Even just to finish that's still a time-based goal because you have to make those cut offs. So, we're… we're gauging our success, our happiness, our enjoyment of the sport based on our time. Those times are going to be determined by the work that is done, as we mentioned, not necessarily in those last several weeks or months, but really in… in these development phases where we're able to build that… that engine. 

And… and as I just mentioned, so many athletes do it wrong. They… they misuse this time or they… they don't realize the importance of the time. So, that's why I would say that. I'm just a big advocate of having a coach year-round. And so, I would definitely not advocate for… for picking a 3 to 4-month period. You're going to get your best results from working with a coach through… through both development phases and race prep phases. But as I mentioned, so many athletes just do it wrong. So, I would rather work with the athlete in that very critical development phase, and then kind of let them go on their own to do the race prep. But… but each phase, the development and the race prep have… have unique opportunities and… and challenges that it's really beneficial to have one of the expert coaches guiding you through those challenges…

Andrew: Through both, yeah.

John: … and through those opportunity, sharing their experience and their knowledge. But, yeah, so many times, that ramp up is just either neglected or just not done right. 

Andrew: Y’all mentioned that it's good to stay in the development phase as long as possible before race day. And whether our race is a sprint, Olympic, half or full, can… can impact how long we can stay in the development phase. But talk to me about this. With each athlete being so different, will the timing of how long we can stay in development be impacted by things like our age, our ability, our experience, or is it just more about what race we're preparing for?

Jeff: It's… it's all of those things. It is dramatically impacted by your age, your experience, your body composition, genetics. All of those things impact the swim, the bike, and the run all differently. People that are older, their bones are starting to get a little softer. The impact, they heal, you know, less rapidly. Genetically, the same… same kind of deal. So, you can… you need to ramp that person up slower. Someone else can be very, very durable, been doing the sport for a whole long time. Genetically, they're very… have a very low predisposition for injury. And so, that looks very, very different for all of those athletes. 

And so, all of those things have a big impact to how long those phases are, when they should, you know, add the… even the B races and some other races like that is… it gets to be very important to optimize those and drop them at the right time. So, if you're going to do a half Ironman on the way to a full, you know, don't do it 4 weeks out, because that's right in the middle of the height of your big volume. And so, that half is not long enough to help you improve. But if you can align that at the time when your long sessions would normally be about the same duration as that race, then you're… it’s kind of on the path, you're is not slowing you down any. So, that allows you to have a shorter race prep phase and spend more time in development.

John: Which that's something that somewhat flies in a lot of logic as well. Because oftentimes, those 70.3s are scheduled on the same race course 3 to 4 weeks out. So, it's… it’s very… and I think there's even somewhat of a misconception that these athletes need to do that half Ironman 3 to 4 weeks out…

Andrew: Yeah.

John: … from… from the Ironman race. And in reality, as Jeff said, it's probably most likely, more often than not, it's going to be counterproductive to, not necessarily do the 70.3, there's nothing wrong with that, however, it's that opportunity cost of how are you spending that weekend and the days leading into that weekend?

Andrew: What else could you have done on that weekend?

John: Exactly. 

Jeff: You're giving that up. And not just the weekend, but the weekend before it, you're going to taper, so you're likely missing a long ride and the long run before it because you don't want to get injured going into it.

Andrew: Yeah.

Jeff: And then out of it, you need to recover from just doing a half. So, you're going to miss another long run. So, it can be a 3-week window when you didn't get to improve. And so, your longest ride going into that… the 4th week, the 2 weeks after your… your half, the longest one you could have done before could have been 4 weeks prior. So, that's a big…

Andrew: Wow.

Jeff: … big injury. I don't know why they're scheduled 3 weeks out, 4 weeks out, wherever they are. I don’t know if it's more of a logistics thing, the team started already showing up in town or if there's an advantage that, you know, there could be economic things driving that logistically. But it's definitely better. I've… there are times when people just want to. “All my friends are doing this local.”

Andrew: Yeah.

Jeff: “I want to do the half, but also want to do… you know, I want to do the full, but I want to do the half.”

Andrew: And you're talking about instances like… like Arizona. The 70.3 Arizona takes place 3, 4 weeks before Ironman Arizona.

Jeff: Right.

Andrew: Like those kind of instances, right?

Jeff: Right, right.

Andrew: Okay.

Jeff: So, it depends on why you're doing it, why you're doing the race. I've coached people before, if they really want to do it, they're doing it with friends, it's a non a performance issue. They're not doing it to better their performance, but it's… it's social, it's, “I want to get the jitters out. I want to…” you know, any number of nonperformance-based reasons. To where they go, they might do the swim, and the bike and skip the run. Or do the swim, bike and run, and then get back on the bike. You know, and so they're not missing a long bike.

Andrew: Because… because they needed more bike that weekend.

Jeff: Correct.

Andrew: Okay.

Jeff: And so, they might ride easy for 2 hours immediately after their race. So, there's some ways that you can mitigate some of that opportunity cost around those… those types of weekends. But you're going to… 

John: And it's also going to be more feasible for your more seasoned athletes as well; your stronger, more seasoned athletes. You know, those that are doing and taking on Ironman for the first time, that's incredibly valuable training time. And 70.3 really just is not the same as Ironman. In fact, it's… it's half. But there's a… just a massive difference between racing and 70.3 and even training for Ironman. But, you know, I think that's generally what I say your first time at Ironman, just focus, eyes on the prize. You've got a lot to take in, don't be distracted by… by half now. Your athletes that again, have more experience, more tenure, more years of training, you know, they can… they can afford a little bit more to have that… that time. 

Andrew: So, something I thought was really interesting, again, building up for my first Ironman, Ironman Texas that… and I'm going to bring up one of our TriDot athletes. He actually made an appearance on the TriDot podcast a few episodes ago, athlete Paul Wolf from Texas. He did a humble brag where he bragged on himself for making an appearance in Men's Health magazine, representing the sport… the sport of triathlon. But Paul and I, you know, swim together occasionally, ride together occasionally, you know, we… we've trained together many times, great guy. But… but we're 2 very different athletes. 

I'm… I’m a little bit younger, he's a little bit older than… than I am. He's a much stronger cyclist than I am. I’m a much stronger runner than he is. And so, it was really interesting to me, once we were both hitting that Ironman race prep phase, even just watching kind of our workouts, we have the same schedule, right? So, we have the same long run days.

Jeff: Same weekly pattern. 

Andrew: Same what?

Jeff: The same weekly pattern. 

Andrew: Yeah, same… same weekly pattern. So, same long run day, same long bike day, same brick workout day. And so… so, you could see on Strava, my… when I would have a long run and he would have a long run, he’d go out, and his long run won't be an hour and 15 minutes, maybe an hour and a half. And then we get to the weekends and his long bike ride, his stamina bike ride would be 4 hours, mine would be 4 and a half, you know? And so, you could really see how… how TriDot was kind of tailoring, “This is how long he's going to be on… he's going to be on the bike course shorter, so he doesn't need to… to train at as long as I do, because I want to be out there longer,” and vice versa. And so, it's really interesting in real-time, 2 guys, you know, they're a little bit different in their… their biology, who are a little bit different in their abilities in the sports, and just seeing how TriDot was customizing it to both of us once we hit that phase. It was really, really interesting to see.

Elizabeth: There's so many amazing things about TriDot. But, you know, one thing I kind of want to come back to and really highlight that we've touched on a little bit is that, you know, many coach-written or template training plans are going to prepare an athlete for race by increasing the volume of each discipline at the same time, kind of, you know, that line in the sand of, “Hey, this is when we're going to start increasing the duration based on the certain number of weeks that there are until that event date.” However, you know, kind of like you were mentioning, Andrew, I’d say that a lot of athletes listening today would say that they have a discipline where they're stronger than another.

And with TriDot your long bike and your long run volume may not necessarily be increasing in duration at, you know, X number of weeks out and the same number of weeks out for each discipline. You may be a really strong runner, and preparing in the development phase, you're already knocking out 10 miles for your hour runs. And if you're preparing for the half marathon distance, at the end of the 70.3, there isn't much more that you're going to need to do to extend your run stamina, but you know, that strong runner might be a very new cyclist, and they may need a number of weeks in the race preparation phase to really increase their stamina to ride those 56 miles on the bike.

Andrew: So, let's… let's maybe land the plane here today. The more conversations we have about how to optimize our training, how to do the right training right, how to develop power and stamina and when in the season to do each, it's kind of given me the mindset where I almost celebrate when I can get back to the development phase. Because now, I know that's the training that is increasing my thresholds, making me faster, knocking down those PRs on race day. John, Elizabeth as athletes yourselves, what thoughts are going through your head when you get on the other side of a race and get back to the development phase? 

And we all firsthand experienced this recently, again, because we all just had our spring races postpones because of COVID-19. And so, the day you got that email and found out up, “Oh, I don't have a race in a couple weeks,” I… we all were almost celebrating, “Oh, cool. Yeah, it sucks we're not racing. But we can get back to the development phase. We can get back to building those thresholds.” And I know Jeff Raines, who's on the podcast today, I saw him on… on Facebook, telling all of his athletes, like encouraging them, “Hey, I know it's sucks you can't race. But… but let's rally. Let's work on our speed. Let's work on those thresholds. Let's getting them faster. And when that race day comes, you're going to be even more prepared and you're going to finish even… even faster.” How do you… how do you guys when you see on your plan, when you see on the portal, “Okay, I'm slipping into developing,” Elizabeth, what… what kind of goes through your head?

Elizabeth: Well, like you, Andrew, I have such a great appreciation for the development phase that I didn't have 5 years ago. I absolutely love those long races, and I love the long training sessions. So, I used to dread the time on my schedule when I'd be spending more days at the track doing more interval-based work. But now, I get excited about it. I still prefer those longer workouts, but I know that every time I'm in a development phase, I'm getting stronger, I'm getting faster, and that's, you know, going to make me better on the race course. 

Narrator: Great set, everyone. Let's cool down. 

Andrew: Since I already gave away that this episode was recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to cool down with this today. It's no secret that, during this time, some companies are struggling to make ends meet as folks are visiting retailers less and less and spending fewer dollars with kind of the current uncertain economic climate. Here in the States, folks are doing their best to shop local and support the eateries and businesses that we connect with and enjoy as much as possible. And, guys, there are a ton of outstanding companies in the multi-sport space that I'm sure could use some love. 

So, y'all, let's… let's cool down with this. I just kind of want to go around and have each of you share 1 company whose products are just your go-to, you're a fan, you're a believer, their stuff is your jam. And give them a shout out and encourage somebody maybe to pick up something of theirs to support them during this season. And if someone listens to this episode, and it's 2 years from now, and we're, you know, 2 years removed from… from this and the world’s still a healthy place, okay, these companies are still there, their stuffs still great, you can check out their… their brands and their products. But specifically, during this time, what's maybe 1 company you want to… want to give a shout out to? And… and John, let's start with you.

John: So, for me, it's my… my local Velofix. So, Velofix is a… they're… they're a franchise, they're all over the country. They’re mobile bike mechanics. They've got these super cool sprinter vans that are just decked out with… I love… I love tools, and I like kind of fancy myself as like an amateur bike mechanic. So, I totally am jealous of the setups these guys have. But the guys in my area in Greater Houston, Austin and Jason, fantastic guys. They came out supported a camp that we did a couple of weeks ago. They were doing work on bikes. They supported our riders out on the course. So, yeah, fantastic, guys. It's kind of the evolution of the local bike shop as we're seeing…

Andrew: They bring the bike shop to you.

John: Exactly. We're seeing fewer and fewer local bike shops out there. But this is kind of a response to that. So, really cool that they are being kind of progressive and forward-thinking, and they just deliver a fantastic level of service. They come to your house, they work on your bike, so you don't have any time away. Oftentimes, you'd have to drop off your bike. And I remember one time, I had a broken spoke, and I dropped off my wheel at the… the bike shop, and they're like, “Yeah, you can pick it up in a week.” I was like, “Man, that's a 15-minute job to replace the spoke,” like, “Yeah, it'll be ready in a week.” But, I mean, you call up Velofix or any of these mobile… mobile mechanics that come out to the house, and 15 minutes later, you get your wheel back. So, yeah, Velofix is a… is a really cool company that's really providing some great local service.

Andrew: Yeah. And even with this not having races currently occurring, you know, you need to keep your… your equipment tuned up. You know, your bike benefits from some… some TLC that we all probably don't give it enough of. And so, you know, hit… hit up Velofix, book an appointment with them, and let them take care of your… your faithful steed. That… that’s a great shout out, John. So, Elizabeth, what… who do you want to kind of… kind of plug today? 

Elizabeth: I know that, you know, any nutrition podcast we talk about, I… I reference UCAN and how I use that for my training and racing. One of the things that I feel like UCAN has done an incredible job with during this time is still being able to provide nutrition, not only for athletes as they continue to train during this time, but just nutrition for others that use the UCAN products outside of their athletic endeavors as well. There are quite a few people that use that slow-releasing carbohydrate, just for their personal nutrition and… and for their health. 

And so, for them to continue, you know, producing those products and continue to find ways to serve their customers during this time. I know that you know, they've… they've sent out a number of communications saying, you know, “We're… we're in this together. We're still here to support you. We're you know, waiving all shipping fees, and really kind of expediating the delivery process to make sure that you still are left with nutrition during this time.” Again, just fantastic company and… and their response has not been surprising, just again, continues to… to deliver for their customers.

Andrew: Yeah, I mean they're… they were founded on… on… his name was Jonah, right?

Elizabeth: Mm-hmm, correct.

Andrew: Just this boy that… that with a health condition he had he… his body needs nutrition every couple hours. And so, he relies on UCAN as… as literally to stay alive to just continuously fuel his body. And then they figured out there was application for endurance athletes as well. And so, it's trickled over, but… but they've recognized the mission of, “Hey, there's people that rely on our products day to day.” And even though a lot of companies are needing to shut down right now or take some time off, they're… they're still pressing on with that mission.

So, if you've never tried UCAN before, then now's a great time to do so. And if you're… you've already tried their stuff, you're probably already a believer, like many of us are. And keep showing them some love, keep using their stuff. Because we're still training and you can… you can look to UCAN nutrition for… to fuel your training. So, Jeff Booher, what… what is a company that, in this time, you want to kind of give a shout out to?

Jeff: Mine's not a industry… triathlon industry company. I, you know, see the same guys that John and Elizabeth are chatting, definitely kudos to them. But for me, it was just, really I was struck by our local… is a central market owned by HEB, kind of a regional grocer. And just the thing… things that they did so quickly, I'm sure, you know, across the country, other local stores have done the same thing.

Andrew: Yeah.

John: They just seem to be the first. They seem to be 2 days ahead of everybody else, and they did some stuff. They were… they had a designated person out there sanitizing carts for you. And so, you could come up and just go. And they were just constantly wiping down things and doing all that. They… up at the front checkout area, we had the social distancing 6 feet. They had a floral department, and they just cleared out the entire floral department. So, a whole department was gone. 

Andrew: Wow.

John: And so, they could space everybody out appropriately. And then even at the… their management, they were not out of things. They were never out of toilet paper. All the kind of things that were typically out of other places, they weren't there. And I don't know how they did that, if what planning, but it was just as cool. And then even when you get up to check out at the POS, they didn't require you… they changed their programming not to require some of the validation. So, you didn't have to touch it. You could stick your card in, only touching your card, pull it out, and you're done. 

Andrew: And you're good to go.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: Wow. 

Jeff: And so just… it was just, whatever you could think of, you know, and a couple things you can't, they did it. And so, it was… it was really neat to see that commitment.

Andrew: So, just doing their part to keep everybody healthy.

Jeff: Yep, yep. And just the order, the calm. We have you know so many other things around us right now that are causing anxiety and worry and headache and inconvenience, and not to mention the direct misery of those people that are directly affected. But it’s just to see that, that effort was pretty cool.

Andrew: Yeah. And also, a shout out to our law enforcement. Because I know a lot of stores like Central Market, you know, your… your hardware stores, other grocery are having, you know, police and fire departments kind of help crowd control, you know, keep the social distancing in effect, keep everybody calm and orderly. And so, shout out to their efforts as well. I know my parents live in Florida and they have Publix. And my mom was on the phone talking about how… how well Publix has done some of those similar things that you're talking about. And, you know, it's… it's, you don't necessarily think of how… how much of a hero your grocery… local grocery store can be until you're in a time like this, and then you're suddenly appreciative for them really thinking through those measures. So, yeah, that… that's great.

The one company I want to give a shout out to is De Soto Sport. Emilio and Tracy De Soto are… are the founders. It's based in San Diego, California. I swim in their T1 wetsuit. I really like their skin cooler, short and long sleeve triathlon tops. Really, really comfortable to run and bike in. They are kind of halting all of their production and they're… they're taking their skin cooler fabrics that makes so many of their products great and they're making face masks and head covering protection with… with that fabric. 

Emilio, he saw a need and knew that he had a manufacturing process that he could fulfill a need. And so, they're kind of stepping up in this time and being a local hero. They've… they’ve donated several cases of washable, reusable De Soto Sport skin cooler face masks to their local San Diego hospitals. So, just right now, if you're looking for just a couple of triathlon products, you want a new jersey, you want a new shirt to run in, you're looking for a wetsuit because we're all swimming in open water right now if we get to swim, maybe go to dedotosport.com and check out some of their products. I really like their stuff, and just the way they're stepping up as a company in this time is really, really cool. So, I wanted to brag on them and… and encourage you to check out some of their products. 

Well, that's it for today, folks. I want to thank coaches Elizabeth James, Jeff Booher and John Mayfield for talking to us about the most important training block of our season. When you aren't actively building your stamina for that upcoming race, get excited. You have the opportunity to develop those thresholds and get faster for your next race day. Shout out to our friends at Garmin for partnering with us on today's podcast. Head to garmin.com to see what tri-tech might be the next upgrade for you. And join the podcast, have a question or topic you want to hear us talk about? Go to tridot.com/podcast, and click on submit Feedback to let us know what you're thinking. We'll do it again soon. Until then, happy training. 

Outro: Thanks for joining us. Make sure to subscribe and share the TriDot podcast with your triathlon crew. For more great tri-content and community, connect with us on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Ready to optimize your training? Head to TriDot.com and start your free trial today. TriDot, the obvious and automatic choice for triathlon training.