The TriDot Triathlon Podcast

Getting Real Results from Virtual Training

Episode Notes

Whether it's due to tight scheduling, poor weather conditions, traffic-filled routes, or nailing a specific workout session, many triathletes are training indoors. In this episode, TriDot coaches John Mayfield and Elizabeth James discuss the realities of virtual training. They describe the role various virtual platforms can play in your training routine, provide guidance about incorporating them, and offer recommendations for competing in virtual events. Learn how you can train in a virtual world for real results on the race course.

Episode Transcription

TriDot Podcast .39:
Getting Real Results From Virtual Training

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: Hey folks, glad you are joining us for another great edition of the TriDot podcast. Today we are focusing on the modern boom and opportunities and methods to train for triathlon virtually. With modern virtual training technology getting better and better and the prices of indoor trainers and foot pods and the like getting lower and lower, more folks have access to the tech that it takes to train for our sport virtually. Joining us for this conversation is coach John Mayfield. A successful Ironman athlete himself, John leads TriDot’s athlete services, ambassador and coaching programs. He's 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 what's up friend? 

John: Hey guys, looking forward to another good episode.

Andrew: Yes, I am as well. 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 age grouper to a professional triathlete. She is a Kona and Boston Marathon qualifier who has coached triathletes with TriDot since 2014. Elizabeth, thanks for joining us.

Elizabeth: Thank you. Always glad to be here.

Andrew: And who am I? I am Andrew, the average triathlete, voice of the people and the captain of the middle of the pack. Today we'll get warmed up and then we'll talk about leveraging virtual training platforms into our triathlon training. We’ll cool down today with a tri club feature. One of our athletes from the Toronto, Canada area will be telling us all about the Toronto tri club. Lots of good stuff. Let's get to it.

Narrator: Time to warm up, let's get moving.

Andrew: The sleek lines, the nuanced carbon, the fetching color schemes. I think we all can agree that TT bikes are a thing of beauty. Race weekend bike check-in is truly a triathlete’s parade. We all have much love for our current bike for sure, but that doesn't mean that we don't see a hot new piece of shapely carbon and start daydreaming. So for our warm up question today: If money was no object, you could have any bike in the world, what is your dream triathlon bike? Elizabeth, let's start with you.

Elizabeth: Well, let me just first say that you saying that bike check-in was a triathlete’s parade, I love that. That's awesome. 

Andrew: It's so true though. 

Elizabeth: It’s so true.

Andrew: Because you just look at all the nice bikes. 

Elizabeth: And they're all lined up and you start drooling. You're like, “oh, look at that.”

Andrew: There’s the sleek, stealthy black ones. There's the fun pops of color. There’s everything in between. It's just beauty, it's perfection.

Elizabeth: Bike envy at its finest right there. Oh, goodness. Alright, so thinking of my dream bike, I'd have to say that getting into the sport of triathlon, I always said that someday I was going to own a Trek Speed Concept. That was the dream when I was getting into the sport. And while those bikes are beautiful and kind of still tug at my heartstrings a little bit since that was the first dream, I have to admit that Cervelo has really caught my eye once we launched the TrainX challenge. So yes, kind of hooking our winner up with a new bike--

Andrew: Start looking at what options he had for a new bike. 

Elizabeth: Yes, and I was like, “Man this is nice.” 

Andrew: Like, “Can I be the winner next time?” 

Elizabeth: Right, exactly. 

So the Cervelo P5 with that Dura Ace Di2 disc brakes, that's the dream currently.

Andrew: I love that you add the details on there as well. 

Elizabeth: Yes, you know just in case anyone's listening.

Andrew: Yes. Somebody with deep pockets and a love for the podcast. And also hook professional triathlete Elizabeth James up with a sweet ride. Tim O'Donnell is an athlete I follow on social media. He's a great follow there. A UCAN user.  I know you and I both love UCAN. He always has the Trek Speed Concepts and they're always giving him some really cool kind of red, white and blue. You know, go America, kind of color schemes. And I always like looking at his. I've never thought about adding one myself,  but I understand the Cervelo love. That's a popular route for good reason. So, John, you are a Specialized man right now currently rocking a Specialized Shiv. But what would be your dream bike?

John: I'm not picky, I would take any of them. And I think the thing that kind of catches my eye, the one thing I don't have are those as Elizabeth mentioned, those disc brakes. There's just something about those. They just look cool. So I would take just about anything, and hopefully the next bike will have the disc brakes.

Andrew: Yes, when I was buying a road bike, I had a tri bike and I kind of wanted to add a road bike to the collection. And, you know, I'd saved up and kind of was finally going to do that. I test rode a couple things. I'd always seen people rave about disc brakes, and they make it sound like rim brakes are just so antiquated in comparison. I was like, okay, can they really be like that big of a difference that people rave about these things. And I test rode a bike with disc brakes and the first time I came up to a stop sign and stopped with them, you immediately understand the hype because they just so smoothly bring you to a stop. You're just like, ooh, that was so sweet. That feeling of those disk brakes. So I get that. 

John: I was even noticing on my son's bike, my nephew's bike, they have disc brakes on them now. I'm like, man, I've got this fancy, expensive bike and it's got these old ones, I'm falling behind rapidly.

Andrew: My road bike is a Bianchi and the Bianchi Celeste kind of bluish green color is just such a standout on any group ride or any race course. I really like the ride of my Bianchi Aria road bike. It's just a lot of fun to ride and so I always see the athletes that have their time trial bike. I'm probably totally going to butcher the way it’s said since it’s Italian, but the Bianchi Aquila, those are just really, really cool. They’ve got the classic Bianchi coloring, they have kind of this fun little black kind of design that's built into it. But I'm just the kind of guy that that I would love to just have my brand match, you know, both my road bike and my tri bike to be the same brand to just rock Bianchi, no matter where I'm riding. So if I could have any, I would be happy with the Bianchi Aquila.

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

Andrew: Our main set today is brought to you by our good friends at UCAN. Here at TriDot we are huge believers in using UCAN to fuel our training and racing. In the crowded field of nutrition companies what separates UCAN from the pack is the science behind their super starch, the key ingredient in UCAN products. While most energy powders are filled with sugar or stimulants that cause a spike or crash, UCAN energy powders, powered by super starch, deliver a steady release of complex carbs to give you stable blood sugar and provide long lasting energy. UCAN also offers tasty and refreshing hydration mixes and energy bars for when you are on the go. When I was new to UCAN my first purchase was their perfectly named tri starter pack. It's the best way to discover what super starch powered UCAN products are best for you. So head to their website and use the code TriDot to save 15% on your entire order. 

In June of 2017, average triathlete and future podcaster Andrew Harley signed up for an up and coming virtual cycling platform called Zwift. 5050 miles and 417 pizza slices worth of calories burned later, I'm still on there, using the virtual platform as a way to execute my TriDot cycling workouts indoors. As technology in our sport progresses, there are now numerous ways to train for triathlon virtually. With virtual training rising in popularity, it's time to talk about it on the TriDot podcast. So guys, let's maybe start here. How do both of you personally leverage virtual training into your routine?

Elizabeth: So for me, FulGaz was actually my introduction to virtual training, and I found that as I was looking for ways to replicate riding on the Kona course, before competing at the World Championships event. That was followed very quickly by riding on Zwift, kind of incorporated those at the same timeframe. While training for Kona, many of my training partners were also incorporating some virtual training into their weekly routines. And so our long run discussions together were mostly talking about the comparisons between the virtual training platforms and what was required to kind of set everything up and get started.

Andrew: These are the kinds of things we talk about.

Elizabeth: Exactly, yes. As we're training, we discuss what else we're going to do for our training. 

Andrew: Yes, my wife is always just blown away by our ability as triathletes to talk about triathlon. It’s unparalleled.

Elizabeth: It’s a never ending topic, yep. And so those two guys that I run the most with, they were both really excited about Zwift. And so you know, in typical triathlete peer pressure fashion, I also looked into that. Actually fun fact, well I think I think it's kind of funny, I don't know if anyone else will find it as fun fact as I do- getting onto Zwift and incorporating that virtual training is actually where my nickname EJ originates. 

Andrew: Really?

Elizabeth: I had put my username as EJ so that my run training partners wouldn't find me on Zwift. Because at the time, I was just using Zwift for my easy rides. And being rather competitive, I didn't want them to find me and look at my stats.

Andrew: Because you kind of keep it subtle. Like, we're all on Strava with our names and all of us run with our names and Elizabeth’s like, “Let me be a little bit more under the radar”.

Elizabeth: Yes. I mean, it's still my username now so not as much of a secret. But that's how that all kind of came up to be—

Andrew: Okay. Good to know, good to know.

Elizabeth: So kind of a long about way to say that, you know, virtual training for me has been somewhat seasonal. Not so much dictated by the calendar here but more so influenced by my current training focus. And then the use of the available training platforms, and I'm sure we're going to dive into the various ways that they can be used, changes a little bit too depending on my purpose for the bike sessions. Right now I'm riding almost exclusively indoors. I'm very focused on increasing my functional threshold on the bike. So I'm currently using custom workouts within Zwift for almost all of my cycling training right now.

Andrew: Got it. Got it. John, what about for you? What's kind of your journey into virtual training?

John: So I was actually somewhat of an OG on Zwift. I registered back in I believe it was 2016.

Andrew: You beat me. I was 2017.

John: Then it wasn't for me. And so kind of like Elizabeth, I caved to some peer pressure, actually just earlier this year I think it was back in January. I was like, alright, everybody's raving about this Zwift thing. I need to give it another try. So I pulled up—

Elizabeth: Our team may have had something to that.

Andrew: We may have. Episode four of the podcast, you me and Jeff Raines, we talked about it the advantages and disadvantages of doing your training outdoors on the bike versus indoors on a trainer or taking a spin. All those kind of things, you know, all the different methods of bike training. And at the time you weren't on Zwift then. Correct?

John: It wasn't on Zwift. I didn't have a smart trainer. So both of those have since changed. I pulled up my Zwift app, and it said it had been like over 1500 days since my last Zwift session or something like that. And yes, I've kind of like everybody else just gotten into it, got the smart trainer. I'm still kind of old school. I like the smart trainer but still, I think fluid trainers are still a fantastic tool. And I was really surprised, I watch TV during sessions and I thought that that would help pass the time, but I've really been shocked at how engaging these virtual platforms can be. And actually, I feel like it passes the time better and it's more enjoyable. So yes, it's been a great experience for me as I've finally caught up to the crowd. 

Andrew: You're so emotionally invested in your little avatars life and Watopia that you've just got to keep them fit, you got to keep them healthy, right. You’ve got to keep him cycling around. And I mean, talking about dream bikes, you can use kind of your little sweat drop points in Zwift to buy whatever bike you can afford on Zwift. And so you can have all these bikes, I ride a Pinarello time trial bike on Zwift that I can't really afford.

John: I'm getting close to mine. I'm saving up and I'm close to getting my bike.

Andrew: Alright, well, very good. So there, we've talked about Zwift a little bit, because the three of us are on it. But there are several popular platforms for virtual training. And they all seem to have their niche, they all have that one thing that makes them different from the others. Can you guys maybe walk me through the different options out there, the different major platforms and what makes each of them unique?

John: Yes, so there are a lot. There are some that are well known. Some are not as well known. There are more coming up all the time. Some of the more popular ones are TrainerRoad, Sufferfest, PerfPRO, FulGaz as Elizabeth mentioned, Rouvy, and Zwift as we mentioned. So some provide first person video that are actual course videos where it's actual video and other cyclists out there. Others are virtual, more like a game. And then others are just simple execution where it's more you see your power chart, you see your heart rate kind of a deal, that help you execute through the session. So it really kind of depends on what the user is looking for. Each offers a little bit different experience. 

Andrew: Do you guys feel like one or two of these platforms are maybe better than the rest? Or does it really just come down to what you just said John, what you're looking for in your experience? Or is there one or two that you say yes, they're all great, but these two are really great.

Elizabeth: I think here athlete preference plays the biggest part. As John had mentioned, you know, there are the differences between each platform that make them unique, and depending on what the athlete is kind of hoping to accomplish by using that platform, one might be more appropriate than others. So for example, you know, if they're looking for visual cues on a specific race course, kind of like I was looking for before racing Kona since you know, it wasn't going to be in the budget for me to travel to Hawaii prior to racing there--

Andrew: It wasn’t?

Elizabeth: No, no, that was a one time thing.

Andrew: If you had the budget for that, you would also have the Cervelo you would want.

Elizabeth: Right, exactly. But I mean, for me, visualization is really big in my training preparations. And so prior to racing in Kona, I had always traveled to the races, at least the race site of where I was planning to race. And so I would be able to do a couple training sessions on the course and then have those visual cues for the training sessions I would do prior to going back and racing there. And so for me not being able to travel to Hawaii, I was looking for a virtual platform where I could still pick up on some of those visual cues to use in my training sessions prior to racing. So you know, if an athlete's looking for that, there might be a platform that's better suited for kind of the purpose than others. But other athletes might be looking for a platform that best supports, you know, a structured training session or the opportunity to race against other riders or join group events. So yes, athlete preference, I think is the biggest key thing there. And thankfully, they have some great options to choose from.

Andrew: Yes, well, to your point, if you're really looking to have a certain purpose to those rides, I mean, you might even not have to feel married to a certain platform. Like, you know, me being on Zwift, Ironman and Rouvy kind of made the announcement that they now have that kind of marriage where all the Ironman courses are supposed to be on Rouvy now. And so as I was getting ready for Ironman Texas, and Ironman Texas you know got postponed for the time being. But if it had not been, I was considering, hey, do I want to sign up for Rouvy and try a couple rides on the Ironman Texas course. See what that course looks like to be able to visualize the key moments in that course and where are the hills, where are the turns, where are kind of all those things. And so if you kind of, you know, poke around the different, all these platforms kind of offer a free trial in some way to kind of get a feel for what you like and what you want to stick with, and what you can kind of leverage in your own training. So that's a really great point, that they all have kind of different uses. So, but let's talk about this. What role can these virtual platforms play in our training? Can they be seen really as a viable way to train us for events, or are they more just a way to kind of make the indoor training more fun and engaging?

John: So it really depends on the approach of the athlete. Is it a game or is it training? And really, it can be a combination thereof too. So you can get on these platforms and just ride. Just as you could go outside your door and just go for a ride. But you know, one of the things we always say is random training produces random results. So just by getting on one of these platforms and following a particular bike course or riding with your buddies is fun. You know, it is a version of cycling, it's something to do. There will be a fitness component to it. But if that's all you're in for then great. You know, with our TriDot athletes, obviously, we're looking for specific training to produce those specific results and maximize our fitness and prepare for those events we have coming up. So it's still a great opportunity to do that. In fact, we always preach the benefits of training indoors that indoors provides some unique opportunities for really high quality training execution. And one of the great ways you can do that through these platforms is by uploading your TriDot training session directly into these platforms, and then you have really high quality execution especially with a smart trainer that's going to walk you through your session as prescribed. We see typically really high TrainX scores when these sessions are done with those. And yeah, anything that makes your training fun and more enjoyable, while providing high quality execution really is a win-win. So it's a great opportunity both to enjoy the training. As I mentioned, I feel like I enjoy my indoor training more than back when I used to just watch Netflix binges. And at the same time, it's really high execution. So doing the right training right, and enjoying it in the meantime, it's a win-win.

Andrew: So it's almost like viewing it as these virtual training platforms and TriDot training make each other better. You know, you have your TriDot training, and that's what's preparing us for our specific event we have coming up, and the virtual platform is just a way to help us execute that TriDot training. So as coaches that use TriDot both to coach your athletes, and to train yourselves as an athlete, do you find that all these virtual platforms are compatible with the TriDot workouts?

Elizabeth: I would say yes. They're all very compatible and I've coached athletes that use a number of the different platforms that we've mentioned earlier. I, you know, use a couple of them myself as well. You can get on any of these platforms and execute your TriDot workout. What you're going to see on the screen is going to be different from platform to platform, but all of the TriDot bike workouts can be downloaded in various file types and you know, they're compatible with wearable devices, smart trainers, virtual training platforms for those execution purposes of the session.

Andrew: For athletes that want to integrate their TriDot workouts into Zwift, TrainerRoad, Rouvy, etc. John, can you kind of walk me through how that works?

John: So each one has their own instructions or method of getting the files into it. And as a rule, everything I've seen is really well done easy step by step instructions. So as far as the TriDot site and getting that file, each one has a different file format, or there are several formats to choose from. So it kind of depends on which platform you're using as to which file formats you need. But in the TriDot platform, every bike session offers these different file formats. There's ERG, MRC, ZWO file formats. And again, each one of those is used for a different platform. But because sessions are always subject to change, these bike sessions are only available three days out. So typically, you can see like your next two bike sessions, you can go ahead and download those, get them uploaded into—

Andrew: From the TriDot platform, you download the file that you need. And then you get on Zwift, Rouvy, whatever platform you're on, and you upload the Rouvy with your specific file and open up your workout. And it's there. 

John: That's pretty much it. Yes, from there, it'll walk you right through it. And as rule you pretty much pedal and the platform will take care of a lot of the rest. 

Andrew: So I was a TriDot out user on Zwift before we had that capability. And so I'm asking this, I know the process is there. I've seen chatter about the process. I know a lot of people use that process. Back when I first started on TriDot and was using Zwift, I would just kind of build the workouts by hand. So I would see if I had 3030s you know, I would go on a little create your own workout on Zwift and I would, you know, punch in the warm up like TriDot told me to. I would punch in the three minute, you know, kind of warm up intervals, like TriDot told me to, and then I would create the 3030s and the cool down step. I would do exactly what TriDot told me to, I would just build it by hand in Zwift. And so this whole time, whenever a certain workout comes up, you know, it might be a threshold and hold and the amount of minutes I’m supposed to hold certain zones might change by a few minutes. And so I would just always go back to that particular workout and edit it each time. And so I've kind of made myself be a caveman by continuing to do that process instead of taking the three seconds to figure out the process of downloading the file and uploading the file to Zwift. And so I'm going to verbally commit on the podcast right now, to henceforward be a good boy and actually download the workout like I was supposed to and not use my little kind of ghetto rigged version of the workouts. 

John: So I'm going to sell out Elizabeth and tell you that she does the same thing.

Elizabeth: For the same reason that I started building those custom workouts. 

John: Yes. And I'm the new kid. So it was always It's all I ever knew to have it. So I don't have a library of existing workouts. 

Andrew: But I know because I've done that, and Elizabeth you can maybe agree with this or disagree with this, because I've done that I know that I don't have the workouts in there exactly how TriDot gives it to you. I know I there's certain ones where my warmup is probably too long. There's certain ones where I've probably plugged in some Zone 2 downtime in spots where it probably shouldn't be. There's times where TriDot will tell me to run at a certain cadence and I just don't take the three extra seconds to program that cadence in. So I know it's going to be a more exact file and a more on point workout experience if I'll just go through the process to download and upload the file, to do it correctly.

John: So I will say personally, I had gotten a little lazy over the years on my cadence. I got comfortable with just kind of riding a steady cadence. And I used to, coming from a cycling background, I had a great ability to vary my cadence, pretty big delta between my low cadence and my high cadence and I could easily move between. I kind of lost that skill. And it wasn't until I started downloading the files and uploading them into the platform, and this like flashing on the screen to like spin faster, spin faster, and I was like, I got to spin faster because I can't have this thing screaming at me to spin faster. And I'll tell you, relatively quickly, I kind of gained that skill back and now and I'm when I’m even out on the road it's helped to kind of dial in that ability again. So even training for all these years and even training with TriDot, honestly, some things just kind of get comfortable and lackadaisical with, but it's been one of those things that kind of held me accountable to that. So yes, I would suggest that you do the same.

Andrew: So we got a question from one of our podcast listeners named Daniel into the podcast email. And he asked, “Using a smart trainer, where would writing a course profile or following the power profile for a certain time for a bike course fall in TriDot training?” And I think what Daniel is getting at here comes down to workout execution on these platforms. Will certain course elevations on Zwift, or different routes on Sufferfest, TrainerRoad or Rouvy help or hinder our ability to do the prescribed workout?

John: So not following a specific route, especially with that smart trainer is going to hold that power. So downloading that file and uploading it to the platform is going to follow the prescribed power regardless of the course. Now your speed may be different. If you're on a 12% incline and you're at your Zone 2 wattage you're not going to be going real fast. But that doesn't matter. That's not particularly pertinent. What matters is holding that prescribed wattage for that period of time. So in that case, you can do any session that you like, especially if it's a course that you're racing, I think that's great intel. I'm a big advocate of knowing the course prior, like Elizabeth mentioned, going and seeing the course, I'm a big fan of that. So this is a great way to be able to go and do that. Not spend the money, like Elizabeth mentioned, but then also have the opportunity to do it for months in advance, as opposed to maybe just once or twice as you go and do it. I think the more you know about a course the better. So I think that in and of itself is kind of a unique opportunity to know the terms, know the climbs, know where the challenges are, and no surprises on race day kind of thing is great. So I think that's a big advantage of even doing these courses, even if you don't do the whole course, do it piece by piece each session kind of tackle a different section of the course. And in that way over time, you get to know it and it's one of those things where I feel like knowledge is power. And I think that is a great kind of fringe benefit of being able to go out and do any course from your own garage.

Andrew: Yes, and when you have this smart trainer like Daniel specifically mentions, you know, and I know these platforms have ERG mode, right, or ERG mode, where the smart trainer will actually change the resistance for you in concordance with the power zone that TriDot is prescribing. So I mean, I can, you know, have my glasses off contacts out, watching a movie on my phone and it's going to change the power for me and all of a sudden you feel the power increasing like, “oh” you know  you don't have to pay attention and it's going to make sure you follow your workout. But to your point, you know, we're here at lunch today, recording some podcasts, the whole team's together. And at lunch today we were talking about Zwift and we were talking about the Everest challenge. And on Zwift there's the if you climb, you sign up for the Mount Everest challenge and over time, you know, once you climb a certain amount of meters, it tells you hey, you just claim the equivalent of summiting Mount Everest on a bike. And then if you keep going past that, you earn a little Tron lightspeed, whatever looking bike that everybody wants because it lights up and you look cool and it's kind of a little status symbol on Zwift, right. And so we were talking about that. You can do your TriDot work out and you can be in zone two, zone four, zone two, zone four, zone five, whatever TriDot having you do, and follow the workout and your little guy can be climbing uphill and the profile of the course doesn't matter for your workout. When you're in ERG mode you just might be in zone two going 6mph up the hill because you're trying to get the little light Tron bike right. So at that point on the smart trainer that the profiles don't matter because ERG mode is keeping you in the right zone. But if you're not on a smart trainer, and you're on Zwift maybe you really have to pay attention to trying to be a little more intentional about staying in your zones as you're hitting elevation although certain courses. So I'm pleased to announce that I do in fact have the light Tron bicycle on Zwift. So I'm pretty cool, do you guys have that? 

Elizabeth: I do not.

John: I have two of them.

Andrew: You don’t have two of them.

Elizabeth: Whatever. 

Andrew: It’s not even possible.

Elizabeth: Mister “I started again in January”.

Andrew: All of our Zwift listeners are rolling their eyes at John implying he has two Tron bicycles.

John: I have the Zwift TT bike. 

Andrew: You may not have the Tron bicycle but of all of us here at the table you actually have a part of the Zwift course named after you. 

Elizabeth: This is true. 

Andrew: The running track, and we're going to talk about virtual running in a little bit, but the running track on Zwift is called Mayfield because of the one of the founders of Zwift, I think we've talked about this on the podcast before, his name is Jon Mayfield. Same exact name as you just he doesn't have the H on the John like you do, which I think makes you the better John Mayfield personally. I'm partial to you but I'm going to give you that nod officially on the podcast right here right now. So you at least can claim that. I might have the Tron bike but you have a part of Zwift named after you.

John: Yes. So there's that.


Andrew: I'm like defending you for you. I'm like giving you ammo. Ok.

Moving on. 

So let's talk about the opportunities that some of these virtual platforms. Since we've talked about how okay, you can effectively train on these platforms, you can integrate your TriDot workout. All these platforms have great integration with TriDot. But let's talk about the opportunities that these virtual platforms offer that don't exactly mesh with structured triathlon training. If someone wants to participate in a Zwift race, or if they want to hop on Rouvy and write a specific course and act like they're kind of in race mode and not worry about staying in a particular power zone, or maybe they want to do the virtual Ironman races that are being offered right now on Rouvy. Are these virtual outlets just totally incompatible with structured training and should we just avoid them, or is it okay to incorporate some of those fun asides to these platforms offer in our training? 

Elizabeth: I would say that they're definitely not incompatible, but certainly important to plan for. You know, so working with a coach to incorporate virtual events in a similar fashion to in person race events, or using the atmosphere of those kind of virtual races to push a little harder in a challenging workout session can be very beneficial. But I think it's really important to establish what the purpose of those sessions is going to be for an athlete. You know, if they're joining us with race or virtual event, is it for participation, is it for a training purpose, is it to execute your best ever race performance as you would on an outdoor course. And I think those considerations are going to influence how often an athlete may incorporate these events and kind of how that would fit in with the compatibility with the rest of their training.

Andrew: Have either of you ridden a specific course on Rouvy or done a Zwift race? I know Elizabeth on FulGaz you rode the Kona course, you referenced that was your introduction to virtual training. But have you done anything since then on Zwift?

Elizabeth: I'm trying to think of what the name was. 

Andrew: One of the tours. 

Elizabeth: Tour de Zwift or something a couple of years ago. 

Yes. So I participated in a number of those races and completed the tour. And so I've joined in on a couple different Zwift events. 

Andrew: I always register for them. And then I kind of lose track of actually, like hopping on at the right time. 

Yeah they always end up falling by the wayside. But eventually, I do plan on hopping on one. I know a lot of our TriDot athletes, just as a community on Facebook will kind of pre-plan, “Hey Zwift is offering this, is anybody going to do it?” You know, a couple of our athletes will hop in together on a certain Zwift race and kind of make a cool community out of it. So even beyond the quality training, a big plus for virtual training is this social aspect. On some of these platforms, you can get a little bit of a group ride kind of socializing vibe going online. What are some ways that athletes can use these platforms to interact with other athletes? 

John: So the easiest kind of basic common denominator is you can hop on your trainer, any location at the same time as your training partners that may be across the street or they may be across the world. So I think that's just something that's kind of cool, lots of ways to communicate through them. So some of the platforms offer the direct communication or the direct  connection through the platform itself. You know, it may just be texting back and forth, which is kind of old school. We've been doing that for years to pass the time and stay in touch. One of the really cool things is we have over 300 Zwift users right now that have TriDot added to their username, so it makes it super easy to find and follow fellow TriDot athletes. I know it's super cool. Every time I hop on Zwift I get a whole bunch of ride ons, which really helps, especially when the sessions are getting tough and you’re getting towards the end—

Andrew: It really does.

John: And it's so motivating for me and it's like I want to slow down, I want to back off and then boom, there's a TriDot athlete's ride on. 

Andrew: Such a reminder of how many other people are out there that are with you on this journey, that are with you in this thing, that are doing the day to day training, that are improving themselves for that race day. And it's a little nod that you're not alone. A little nod that there's other crazy people like you, who are doing the right training right each and every day. I was on Zwift the other day and one of the guys with a TriDot name him in his handle. You can join somebody on a ride, right. So when you first fire up Zwift, it'll show you okay, you can ride in New York today, you can write and Watopia today, or you can ride in London today. And you can see “Oh, these 10 TriDot users are riding in London and these six are riding and Watopia.” And you can actually join somebody for a ride. And I had never done it before. But I was riding in London one day, I was doing 3030s so I had 30 seconds really hard and 30 seconds in zone two. And a TriDot user, his username on Zwift was ARossTriDot, joins me. And out of nowhere this little avatar appears next to me and he's riding with me and since I was doing 3030s, I'm sure he was doing a more constant workout. You know, he would pass me when I had my zone two stuff and I would pass him when I was in my zone five kind of 30 seconds burst but to be out there on course with somebody with TriDot in their handle and just knowing that they were plugging away their thing I was plugging away at my thing. We gave each other a ride on, it was cool. It was really cool to like, kind of have that community even though you're riding in your living room or in your study or in your garage. So have you guys ever had a professional athlete sighting on Zwift?

John: I've not. I'm like the only one who's never gotten the celebrity nods. 

Andrew: Hey, do you have anybody go by you. 

John: Other than Elizabeth James. I've ridden with Elizabeth.

Andrew: Professional athlete Elizabeth James, that you've ridden with. Elizabeth who have you seen out on course?

Elizabeth: Oh, gosh. A number. 

Andrew: A lot. 

Elizabeth: Yes

Andrew: The two I have Mark Cavendish pro cyclist. One day I saw him on Zwift a long time ago. But more recently a couple months before Kona in 2019. I was on Zwift and at the bottom you see J Frodeno you know you see the list of names that are people that are catching up to you and on my Mac I took a little screenshot. I pressed the little screenshot buttons and held it there and then once he like rode and he's right next to me took a screenshot and then he kept going. Because he blew by me and like a minute right. Or just a couple seconds but seeing your Jan Frodeno out there going by you was pretty cool. I know. Jeff Raines mentioned earlier today. He saw Mirinda Carfrae on Zwift the other day. So it's really cool just seeing other people and being a part of the community. 

Elizabeth: Yes, I feel like I have similar screenshots and I maybe don't do the right training right when they're nearby or see how long I can hang on just for fun.

John: So it's not me but rumor has it that the other Jon Mayfield, the Zwift creator Jon Mayfield, actually is the only person who every person he passes automatically gets a ride on. 

Andrew: Really?

John: So if I pass you—

Andrew: If J Mayfield passes you. 

John: And you don't get a ride on just don't be offended. It's just the wrong John Mayfield. 

Andrew: The TriDot John Mayfield not the Zwift Jon Mayfield.

John:  But I like to give out right on so especially at the end, that's kind of I always try to spend like my balance of time in zone two. That's kind of how I kill those last minutes is give out as many ride ons as I can. 

Andrew: Now we've talked a lot about cycling, obviously. And that's kind of where a lot of the focus on virtual training right now is. There's just a ton of breakthrough. There's a ton of people hopping on virtual platforms for the bike training. But we have three sports here. And running has some opportunities to be trained for in a virtual way. 

So Elizabeth, what options exist for virtually training to run?

Elizabeth: Well, I mean, for many years, you have had treadmills that will show various terrains on the display. So you can pretend that you're running on a wooded trail or in the mountains—

Andrew: Or on Mayfield track. 

Elizabeth: Yes.

So you know, a little change of scenery there. Other treadmills, kind of the fanciest of them can simulate specific courses. What I'm thinking of are some of the marathon majors. So you've got like Boston, Berlin, New York, and the treadmill is going to automatically adjust to the elevation profile of those courses. So you know, we're talking about wish lists for bikes earlier in the warm up, just saying, you know, that fancy treadmill that I can simulate the Boston Marathon on that—

Andrew: Your bucket list treadmill would be able to simulate the courses for you

Elizabeth: Yes, so we'll put that on the wish list too. And I know we've mentioned quite a few things with Zwift for cycling, but there's also Zwift run and you know, there's a number of athletes that use that and find that as a great way to do some of their run training indoors as well. 

Andrew: If an athlete listening wants to take their TriDot training, and take some of their real world training sessions into the virtual world whether it's bike or run, John, what equipment do they need to get going?

John: So a great thing about all these different platforms we've mentioned is they all offer free trials. So it's really easy to get in and check them out. See which one works for you, which one meets your needs, which one do you enjoy. So I would even recommend before committing to one to try them all and see which one works. So you'll need some kind of electronic device, laptop, tablet, something like that, that you're able to execute the actual sessions on. From there a smart trainer I think probably works best. You get the most out of the smart trainer and the most out of the platform from that interaction. But from there a power meter would be next. That's what I used initially before I got my smart trainer and I was still able to use the platforms and execute the workouts. It connects with the power meter. Now obviously the smart trainer and the platform are going to adjust power automatically whereas you still have to shift and adjust your power yourself but you're still able to get the power and execute training by power. But then even if you just have a speed and cadence sensor that can also be used and they basically calculate power based on body weight and speed that you're doing. So, just as simple as a fluid trainer with a cadence sensor can still. So most people have the equipment already, so for most it's not much of an investment to get into the virtual platforms.

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

Andrew: Here at TriDot, we love introducing you all to the triathletes and triathlon clubs that make our sport great. The multi-sport community has a lot of clubs out there offering a variety of clinics, camaraderie and race day support. John, Elizabeth and I will all tell you that we would not trade our local tri training crew for the world. I've developed some great friendships with the folks that I train with and encourage you to do the same. So today I am thrilled to have Anna from the Toronto Triathlon Club joining to tell us all about the community they have built in the Toronto area. 

If you are in that part of the world and are not plugged in with a local tri club, I would encourage you to look them up on social media or find them online and look this group up. They have a ton of great stuff going on to educate and encourage you on your triathlon journey. Here is TriDot athlete and TTC board member Anna to tell us more.

Anna: Thanks Andrew for having me on and hello to the TriDot community. I'm a TriDot user and also on the board of directors for the Toronto Triathlon Club which is a proud partner of TriDot. The Toronto Triathlon Club officially started back in 2006 when a group of friends and training partners decided to take their love of the sport to the next level and create a not-for-profit to support athletes of all levels in pursuing their athletic goals. We have since grown to be one of the largest triathlon clubs in Canada. We have hundreds of members across the Greater Toronto Area and beyond, whose experience and skills range from absolute beginner to advanced podium chasers. We try to support all levels by offering a wide variety of training opportunities, clinics and social events. In pre COVID times, we offered multiple swim, bike and run training sessions each week, led by one of our many certified coaches. We also offered a number of clinics and seminars on everything from bike maintenance to race day fueling. And we organized two training camps each year. One in nearby Collingwood, Ontario, and one in Arizona to escape Toronto winters of course. We've had a great presence at local races. We partner with the Toronto Triathlon Festival where over the past few years we have sponsored the Club Challenge. This is a mid-July weekend of races in the city. And there are lots of other races nearby in Ontario and beyond that many of our members will regularly attend. It's always fun to see others wearing our TTC kit on course, and to get or give that extra boost of encouragement to a fellow member. And maybe the most exciting place we've seen our kit was on TV. 

Last year, two of our members competed in The Amazing Race Canada. We were so excited to have them represent the club and further push their endurance in this new way. Like most organizations, we've had to evolve to our new COVID reality. And it has been so amazing to see how our club has pulled together to continue supporting each other. We've worked really hard to develop a robust virtual training schedule. So for several weeks now we've been offering two or three virtual sessions each weekday. We've included a variety of content in these sessions. We of course have lots of training sessions with our coaches from dry land swim, virtual bike rides, run drills, strength, yoga and mobility. But we've also hosted clinics with our coaches and partners on topics like run mechanics and post workout nutrition. And we've wanted to continue to promote the incredible sense of community within our club. So we've also held discussions with our members on things like destination racing, or work life balance, and we're planning more informal virtual socials going forward. I've loved joining these sessions. It's been an amazing way to stay motivated and connected with others, even if we are all doing workouts at home. So I'd encourage anyone to check out our website,, or our Facebook or Instagram, both at Toronto Triathlon Club to learn more, or to join the club and take advantage of our virtual training and member sessions.

Andrew: Well, that's it for today, folks. A big thanks to coaches John Mayfield and Elizabeth James for talking us through training for triathlon virtually. Also big thanks to Anna from the Toronto Triathlon Club for introducing us to the fantastic group of athletes and programs they've developed in the Toronto area. Shout out to UCAN for partnering with us on today's episode. Head to to find out what super starch products are right for you. And during the podcast, have any questions or topics you want to hear us talk about?

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Narrator: 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 and start your free trial today. TriDot, the obvious and automatic choice for triathlon training.