With smart trainers, cycling apps, club rides, and spin classes all becoming increasingly popular, there are a lot of ways to get in our bike training. But what works best? What are the pros and cons of each? What are the best practices for making the most of your bike training in these different formats? Warm Up: Best “bike fall” stories and Cool Down: “Race Recon” of Ironman 70.3 Waco.
TriDot Podcast .04:
The Ins & Outs of Bike Training Indoors & Outdoors
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 podcast, everybody. We’ve got some great stuff for you today. With me in studio is coach, John Mayfield. John has coached literally hundreds of Ironman finishers in his illustrious coaching career. Did you know that most TriDot coaches also have a coach? That man is John Mayfield. He’s the coach’s coach, and one of my favorite people to sit down with and talk about triathlon. John, so excited to have you with us today.
John: Andrew, you’re my favorite too.
Andrew: My heart, be still. Next up is coach, Jeff Raines. Now Jeff has a master’s of science in exercise physiology and he has raced, get this, over 120 triathlons in his racing career. Jeff has directed everything from middle school to high school and collegiate triathlon programs and has coached numerous Kona qualifiers all the way down to beginners. He’s a fantastic coach who’s been coaching triathletes for over 10 years. So, I’m excited to see what he has to say today. Jeff, welcome to the show.
Jeff: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here, Andrew. Can’t wait to dive right in.
Andrew: All right. We’re going to get warmed up today by putting Jeff and John on the spot with a super random and potentially embarrassing triathlon question. Then we’ll get to our main set discussion about bike training these days. There are a lot of different ways to train for the bike leg of a tri. You can train indoors, you can take a spin class, or, crazy thought, you could actually take your bike and head outside. Now, Jeff and John will walk us through the best way to incorporate some of these approaches into our training. Then we’re going to cool down with a race recon of Ironman 70.3 Waco. So, if you’ve ever dreamed of racing in the heart of Chip and Joanna Gaines country, stick around, we’ll be talking about it in just a little bit. Lots to cover. Let’s get to it.
Time to warm up. Let’s get moving.
Andrew: Jeff, John, for our warmup today, I’m going to have you guys take us on a little training ride with you. Because, no matter how experienced you are as a cyclist, we all have failed to unclip at some point and fallen over. So, gentlemen, what is your very best-forgot–to-unclip and falling over bike story? John, we’ll start with you.
John: So, mine was a very opportune time. I was –
Andrew: Perfect, I like where this is heading.
John: Yeah. So I was leading a pretty large group ride, probably had 30 cyclists in this group ride. And we rolled up on a pretty major intersection stoplight and I pulled to the side just to communicate with everybody personally. I unclipped my left foot and, that’s what I usually do, but for some reason my weight just went to the right. And so I did not forget to unclip –
Andrew: That can happen so easily.
John: Yeah, I did not forget to unclip but I just leaned the wrong way. So, not only did I not tumble down, I fell into three people on my way down. And took them down. And it was very much a domino effect. I think at the end of the day about five people ended up going down all because I –
Andrew: Like a NASCAR wreck.
John: Yeah, yeah, it was a five-bike pileup.
Andrew: Caution flag came out.
John: Yeah, exactly. So, fortunately, my ego was the largest injury, but that’s not a bad thing every once in a while.
Andrew: Now, the most important question after a pile-up like that, were everybody’s bikes OK?
John: Yeah, lots of chain imprints on the legs but, other than that, yeah, the bikes were OK.
Andrew: All right. Jeff Raines, over to you.
Jeff: Mine, unfortunately, I did actually forget to unclip on this one. So, we all know coming up to a big intersection, we kind of try to beat the light, so to speak. So, I was trying to rush –
Andrew: No, we don’t do that. What are you talking about?
Jeff: Yeah, yeah. I was trying to rush to beat the light and at the last minute realized I was not going to make it. So, huge intersection, lots of cars. I finally come to a complete stop and fall over. Huge intersection, very embarrassed. A couple cars honked, I don’t know if they were laughing or what.
Andrew: They were acknowledging that they saw it, at least.
Jeff: Exactly. I tried to play it off. Well, one of the vehicles in the intersection was my preacher, and he did recognize me.
Andrew: No. Your pastor saw it happen?
Jeff: Yes. And I didn’t know this at the time but that next Sunday rolled around –
Andrew: So, he really slow-played this.
Jeff: Oh yeah, that next Sunday came around and he brought that up in the middle of a sermon. Oh my God! And that’s probably one of the most embarrassing moments in my entire life.
Andrew: So, it was embarrassing twice.
John: Yes. I had to relive that. I thought nobody knew. Yes.
Andrew: Oh man, this is making me feel better about myself. I trust it’s doing that for the listeners at home who also have their story. Don’t act like you haven’t done it. The one I’m going to share, most of mine have been fairly uneventful, you know, it’s been, John, kind of what you said, OK I unclipped, I just leaned the wrong way and either no one was around, or maybe my normal training buddies were around and they didn’t give me too much grief. But the one that really embarrassed me was actually the first time I did it. And I was fairly new to cycling, I was on my first road bike, and I was coming back to the apartment complex from a 20-mile ride, which at the time was like my ceiling, like the 20 mile ride was, just man, that was something to me at the time. And the apartment complex we lived in, it had a real big parking garage, and it was a Saturday morning, which for Saturday morning in the fall, so it’s a real popular move-in date. So, I’m coming back from the ride, there’s a couple moving trucks there, new people to the building, movers helping those people move in to the new building. And so it’s just this big parking garage. There’s a lot of people there because there’s people moving in and out and I come rolling in and I come to a stop and just completely forgot to unclip. Probably a little dehydrated, probably a little tired for my long 20-mile galavant around town, and I just fell straight over with probably a good two dozen people around that were brand new to the building. And they were all very concerned. They all came, a couple of them came and checked on me, and as a new cyclist first time it ever happened and swore it would never happen to me. Surely, right, and it did and it happened right in front of a lot of people that were my new neighbors.
John: We only get one first time, so you made it a good one.
On to the main set. Going in 3, 2, 1.
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The bike leg of a triathlon is far and away the longest portion of the race. So, triathletes of all abilities can benefit immensely from capitalizing on their bike training time. With club rides, indoor trainers, and spin classes all becoming more and more popular, there are a lot of ways to get in the bike training. But what works best, and how can TriDot training be incorporated into each approach? Those are the questions Jeff and John will be tackling with me today. So, guys, let’s dive right in. On a personal level, what are you guys doing for your own bike training?
Jeff: I personally like to cycle indoors throughout the week, maybe Monday through Friday, and get outside on the weekends and kind of put my indoor training to the test out in the elements. But I will train following power using a smart trainer. Typically, Tuesday, Thursdays, and then ride outside as much as I can weather permitting on the weekends.
John: I’m pretty similar. Even when the weather’s nice I tend to do trainer during the week. Get those, the quality sessions, recovery sessions in on the trainer, especially the shorter sessions. And then for me it’s generally getting out when I can to ride with friends, get the social aspects, so get in the high quality training, but I like to do that in somewhat of a group setting. The one thing I’ve done a little different this past summer is snuck in one extra ride in the evening. It’s been kind of nice. Sometimes I’ve gone with one or two buddies, sometimes it’s just by myself. In fact, last night, I snuck out for kind of an easy 40-mile ride, so I’ve been enjoying that. But with the time change coming up I guess those have to wait till next summer.
Andrew: Getting a little harder to get in now. Yeah. I personally am super similar to you guys. I really enjoy the trainer ride. I myself, I’m up on Zwift and I’ve got my TV where I can throw on a Spotify podcast. I highly recommend listening to the TriDot triathlon podcast while you train on the indoor trainer. But sometimes I’ll throw on a church sermon, sometimes I’ll throw on a sports podcast of some sort, or sometimes I’ll thrown on Netflix, but I really enjoy the indoor training. And for me, it’s not necessarily just, “Oh, the weather’s bad.” Sometimes there’s a lot of traffic outside, and there’s a lot of motorists and the more I can keep myself off the road, the safer I feel. I really like to, on the weekends, like you guys said, get out with those friend groups. And I will say that a lot of the guys I ride with are a little stronger on the bike than me. So, I’m still able to get in the efforts I’m supposed to get in on those weekend sessions with them outside. So, that’s what I do. But let’s move more into talking about what folks should be doing in their bike sessions. When we set up for a ride, what should we be looking to accomplish on any particular training ride?
John: So, the purpose of training is to improve your results on race day. And there are several different ways we can accomplish that. So, I think the first thing is to be intentional and have a purpose. So, even if that purpose is just to enjoy a ride. So, something like I mentioned, like the ride I went on for yesterday, it was really just kind of to get out and enjoy riding. I didn’t go particularly hard. I had a couple little sections there that I just rode fast, because fast is fun. But that wasn’t my key training session, I’ll still get those in. Those will be over the next couple days so –
Andrew: And you probably didn’t ride so hard that it’s going to impact those key training sessions, right?
John: Right, I’ll still be able to get in those quality sessions that are higher intensity when those are prescribed within my training plan. I’ll still get in those recovery sessions as well. So, be intentional, know what your objective is, and then set out to achieve that objective. So, at certain times, we’re looking to increase power on the bike which will translate to faster speed or the ability to climb elevation. Others, it’s developing stamina, so the ability to go long. And then others are recovery sessions. So, the purpose is to allow the body to recover, and they’re achieved in different ways. They’re different sessions, different results, but they’re all a good time on the bike.
Jeff: Yeah, I’ll have to agree. No matter how long you’ve been in the sport, I would say each week I learn something new about myself as an athlete, or even about the fun gadgets and just ways to bike train that are out there. So, the sport is always adapting. So, when saddling up for a ride, I would look to accomplish the specificity that is prescribed in your workout, but also knowing the gadgets that you have, and utilizing the most that you can out of those. If you just have a heart rate monitor, how will you train effectively just following heart rate during that workout? We all know that gearing up for a ride takes the most time. The most time spent in triathlon racing is on the bike. And also just training, cycling, in general, there’s a lot that goes into it. Setting up your indoor trainer, customizing your workout, setting up all of your gadgets, throwing your bike in the car, traveling somewhere to start a ride. So, just make sure also that all of your gear is safe, and all of your toys and gadgets are charged up.
Andrew: So, Jeff, tag along with that, because I think this is important to get at, because both of you guys kind of talked about having a purpose to the training session, having something you’re wanting to accomplish. And John, you talked about some training sessions being there to help you increase your power and some to increase your stamina. And in doing that, things like power meters, and heart rate monitors, and the indoor trainers can really be helpful in that. Jeff, how can people kind of leverage those training gadgets, for lack of a better term, to help capitalize on their time on the bike?
Jeff: All of those toys and gadgets are definitely super effective tools. We see Olympic swim records being broken every year, just due to the greatest advances in technology, training plans, and coaching methods and all sorts of things. And so a lot of those extra toys can and will yield better improvements. But I still think it is important to listen to your body. You will always need a human element, you will always know your body better than anything else. But there are times in workouts where it is safe to put the toys and gadgets aside to just go out and learn a little bit about your body without a watch or a monitor telling you when and what to do. But as far as being very specific and hitting particular intensities, power and heart rate and some of these extra technological advances and technical skills of the sport, just knowing what cadence to hold and crank links and all sorts of stuff about the tools that you have, will yield and can mean certain outcomes.
Andrew: So, some people have the bike but they don’t have any of those extra toys or training gadgets. And so they literally train based off of trying to hit a particular mileage or hit a particular amount of time on the bike or maybe they’re just going by rate of perceived exertion. John, is it still possible to train effectively without a power meter or a heart rate monitor or a way to tell how hard we’re actually pushing numerically?
John: Certainly so. However, when we are able to quantify our effort level and provide or have a measurement of the amount of output, the amount of effort that we’re doing, your training becomes that much more effective. As Jeff mentioned, when we train specifically, we’re able to achieve specific results. So, specific training produces specific results; random training produces random results. So, the great thing is, the cost of these items has come down considerably over the years.
Andrew: They really have, yeah.
John: That has always been the barrier to entry for these, the cost. Especially heart rate monitors are very affordable. So, it’s really investment in yourself and it’s a return on time, where you’re going to make your training that much more efficient so you can spend that much less time training. So, even just, I would say 100 to 200 bucks you can get in an entry level heart rate monitor, great investment. That’s going to produce better results, more efficient training, you’re going to be able to know exactly how your body’s responding to the training, and your training will be that much more effective. Beyond that, a power meter is also a fantastic tool that’s going to provide that objective feedback. It’s going to take a lot of the guesswork out and really allow you to dial in your training and racing so that your training and racing can be that much better.
Andrew: So, John, for people who maybe don’t have those toys, but are interested in making the investment right, and maybe they have the budget for a training gadget, maybe they can get the watch. maybe they can get the heart rate monitor, maybe they can only get the power meter, maybe they can only get an indoor trainer. How would you prioritize purchasing all of those things? What’s really the most beneficial for our bike training?
John: It goes in order of cost. So, I would say the first thing to invest in as a heart rate monitor. It’s the lowest cost, and that’s going to allow the athlete to see how their body is responding to the stimulus, to the training. It is a more of a measurement of the output. So, you do the work, put the work in, and then you see how the body’s responding, what is the output. From there, that middle-of-the-road cost is the power meter. And that provides that other side of that equation, the power is the input. That’s the work you’re doing. The heart rate is then the output to see the result of that. So, the power meter is going to be more objective than the heart rate. So, heart rate is influenced by a host of things: temperature, rest, sickness. There are tons of things that can influence heart rate. Power is what it is, it’s objective. So, the heart rate is a delayed response, whereas the power meter provides instantaneous response. Direct response. So, you will increase your intensity and your heart rate will respond over a period of time. So, there’s a delayed response until your heart rate truly matches your intensity. The power meter has the advantage of being real time. It’s instant. So, as soon as your intensity increases, you’re going to see the heart rate go up. And vice versa. Your heart rate is going to take a period of time to come back down after you reduce your intensity, whereas the power meter’s going to provide instantaneous feedback for that. So, it’s a great tool and, partnered together, they work great. So, you’re really able to see what is the input, what is the output. And then the smart trainer, those are great for integrating with the training platforms that I think have really helped athletes enjoy the indoor training.
Andrew: Yeah, like we talked about at the beginning.
John: For years, so many people dreaded the trainer because it was boring, it was monotonous, the scenery didn’t change and really, it takes somewhat mental stamina to do that. Trainer workouts, especially for going longer than 60 minutes, that’s kind of been my experience. Whereas the smart trainers are able to provide power. So, those that didn’t have the power meter now can train with power, and it provides for a very efficient training session. And then when integrated with the different platforms, it provides the entertainment as well, even social and all those things that those platforms can provide. So, I would say in order of cost, get the heart rate monitor first, add a power meter, and then potentially integrate in with a smart trainer.
Andrew: Yeah, what’s great about power meters now is so many companies have put out versions that you can invest in stages, right? You can get a power meter that is single side only at an entry level cost. And then if the budget increases or once you can afford the other side, then you can add the other pedal or other crank arm or whatever. So, the barrier of entry on the cost like you said is now at the lowest it’s ever been for power meters. So, I agree with that very, very much.
Jeff: And I would even take a step back. As far as budget constraints, you could even look at it as a time constraint. If I’ve got a little bit of extra spending money, how far away is that A race? If I’ve got nine months, do I spend money now on an $8,000 bike instead of a $2,000 bike? Or do I invest in some of these tools and gadgets that are going to make a more immediate return on my investment?
Andrew: Make you able to train smarter on that bike.
Jeff: Exactly. I would say that some people tend to want to go buy that more expensive bike thinking that a $10,000 bike versus a $6,000 bike is going to make them faster. If you’ve got a lot of time, I would definitely invest in heart rate and power before upgrading your bike if you have time. Also, I would actually recommend an indoor trainer utilizing power, a smart trainer before even putting power on your bike, if you had to choose one or the other, and you know you wanted power, you can automate workouts. A lot of people have power on their bike but don’t necessarily know how to use it.
Andrew: And maybe even put it in terms of if a triathlete out there knows they really enjoy the outdoor rides, they really don’t enjoy the indoor trainer rides, they try to avoid those if they can, maybe you invest in the outdoor actual bike power meter. But if, you know, “Yeah, I’m down with training indoors, I’m down with being inside on those program platforms,” maybe they bypass that power meter and get the smart trainer first like you’re saying.
Jeff: Or maybe you live somewhere where the next four months are winter and you know you’re not going to be riding outside. So, for the next four months, exactly, you may want to invest in an indoor smart trainer that utilizes power and workout automation, whereas you may want to save your outdoor power for later on in the season.
Andrew: No, that’s great stuff, guys. And I would say this, I would say one of the best triathlon related investments that I’ve made is my indoor smart trainer. I can still get my training in regardless of the weather, the amount of traffic outside, what’s going on at home. But like I said, I like those sessions, so I don’t dread being indoors on the trainer. And now both of you guys also mentioned that you use these in your training as well. And so, do you feel like training indoors on the trainer can actually be a replacement for riding outside? I know there’s tons of people who are purists who think they kind of snub their nose at the indoor trainer and think that riding outside is the way to go, you’re not actually in your aero bars having to balance yourself indoors. You’re not in that position in the same way, battling the wind and the elements like you are going to be on race day. Can riding virtually inside be a replacement for the bike training outside?
Jeff: I think the industry is showing that the majority of triathletes are doing more and more percentages of their weekly volume indoors. Like you said, it is safer, we can get very specific in the effort levels, heart rate zones, the workouts can be automated now to where you just don’t stop pedaling and you will complete the workout as prescribed as these smart trainers adjust for you. You don’t have to always change gears or adjust your cadence accordingly to a particular power zone. The smart trainer will do that for you. So, it’s good and bad. If you get too caught up in that, I find that it can be hard to translate some of those efforts to the road. It is safer. I read an article not too long ago that approximately 90% of all pros are doing the significant and majority of their weekly bike volume indoors now.
Andrew: That’s higher than I would guess. I would think a majority, but 90% is a substantial amount.
Jeff: It is safer, it is more specific, but at the same time getting out regularly when it is safe and translating those efforts outdoors is key. We can’t lose that aspect of the sport. So, maybe as you’re approaching a B race or a couple months out of that A race, you might want to translate a little bit more of that outdoors.
Andrew: Make sure you’re getting outside. Yeah, because I had a period of time for a little bit where I was really heavily training on Zwift, really heavily training on my indoor trainer. And I went out for a ride outside for the first time in maybe two, two and a half months and like my back muscles, my shoulder muscles, all those, you know everything in your neck from holding that aero tuck, and I would hold the aero bars quite a bit on those indoor sessions. But being out on the road is different, right? So, Jeff, I think that’s super key to say: hey, before your race, make sure you sharpen those skills up again, because you are going to be outside on race day.
Jeff: Absolutely. And if you perfect those skills indoors when it’s calm, you don’t have bumps, unsafe roads, wind, bugs, stuff like that. So, outdoors, your heart rate tends to ride slightly higher as you’re a little bit more on edge in the elements. So, too much training indoors can be negatively impacting, honing in too much on those lower heart rates.
Andrew: There are several virtual cycling platforms that people are using these days to make their indoor training, I guess we can say, more interesting. John, do you think that things like Zwift and TrainerRoad and probably the handful of others that I’m failing to mention, can benefit our bike training?
John: I do, simply because they increase the quality of the execution. Where now, generally, the sessions are specific in what they do, they have a specific warmup, a specific main set, a specific cool down. So, the –
Andrew: Much like the TriDot podcast.
John: Exactly, that’s strange how that works. So, the athlete can be very intentional in the training that they do. So, I think it’s even increased the amount of quality that these athletes are doing. Now one thing to keep very much in consideration is that the amount of quality is unique to each individual. So, it’s very important to have those sessions that are created specifically for each individual given their objectives, their limitations, all those things that go into creating training specifically for each individual. But these execution platforms allow them to complete those sessions as intended. So, they’re able to execute those quality sessions at a high level. I’m kind of old school, I actually I’m not on these platforms. So, for me, kind of Netflix is my –
Andrew: What do you do? What are you watching? What are you binging right now on Netflix on the trainer?
John: Oh man, the greatest one ever. Actually, I just ended up, I’m kind of sad, I haven’t had a new one. “Southland” on Hulu. Great show, great for passing the time on the trainer.
Andrew: I’ve heard of that one, and I do think that this is a question I see periodically on the TriDot’s Facebook group, right? People are like, “Oh my gosh, I just finished ‘Breaking Bad,’ what’s a new show I can binge?”
John: That’s another good one, “Breaking Bad” is a great one. If you like “Breaking Bad” you’ll like “Southland.”
Andrew: My favorite one so far to binge watch while training on the bike, and Jeff, just heads up, you’re next on this question. This is not scripted people. But my favorite thing I’ve watched so far Netflix put out, and I’m totally forgetting the name off the top of my head right now, but it was a series on Formula One racing. And so it was 10 episodes that were, I want to say 40 something minutes long. And each episode took you behind the scenes of a different race in the Formula One racing season. And so you’re seeing the behind-the-scenes stories and you’re seeing the drama with the racers in their pit crews and each other, and you’re seeing them in qualifying and practice trying to sharpen those cars up for race day. And there’s just something so fitting about being in the aero position on a tri bike, watching guys zip around a Formula One racetrack that just really made the time pass well. But unfortunately, like they’ve had one season, it was 10 episodes and I binged through that pretty fast. But that was my favorite one so far. Jeff, what’s been your go-to, binge-watch show in your training time?
Jeff: You know, I bounce around every now and then but I’m actually going to be a little bit dull and say that as much as I love power and indoor training and smart trainers and Zwift, I’m not a huge [fan of] listening to music, running or biking or watching shows. I will listen to a sermon or a random podcasts, but I don’t always specifically watch or listen to something. But I do enjoy things like Zwift where I can get a little bit of camaraderie. I can have my friends log into the same course and they do their own workout, their own specified workout. I do mine, but I can see them there, my little avatar on the screen. It’s pretty accurate and precise as far as efforts and pacing. So, your avatar will do on screen very, very similar to what the response would be outside.
Andrew: And one of the cool things I will say about it, right before Kona, this past go around, I was doing an indoor trainer ride and I’m on Zwift and you can see the names of the people that are around you, right? And so I see Jan Frodeno pop up on the screen a little bit beneath my name. And that name started slowly climbing up the charts, and all of a sudden before I knew it, Jan Frodeno is passing me on Zwift and I had to take a screenshot because I’m a big Jan Frodeno fan and so I had to text my step-dad and show it to my wife who didn’t really care. But I was super pumped, right, Jan Frodeno. There’s another time I was on and Mark Cavendish, pro cyclist, was on and so it’s cool that you see these people in real time, also doing that training on Zwift. But for us, TriDot actually gives us a very specific bike workout that’s prescribed for us on each individual day that we have a bike training session. So, Jeff, for somebody who’s on Zwift like you and I are, what’s the best way to leverage these platforms to do our tryout workouts?
Jeff: Yeah, I mean, we have all these tools, we have all these gadgets to create specific workouts. But how do we integrate our workout using these virtual cycling platforms? So, we can export our workouts from our training plan straight to these smart training devices. And we can custom automate these workouts to fit our individual needs. But on top of all of that, we could even do our own particular workouts, side by side, so to speak. You could log into your living room, in a different state for me, to the same platform, let’s say using Zwift, and we can both do our own individual workouts, but we can ride the same course.
Andrew: And our little avatars can be training buddies.
Jeff: Absolutely. And this is an effective tool. One, obviously exporting our specific workouts to these smart trainers but, two, there are a lot of people out there that are afraid to ride out in their community because they might get dropped, they might get lost, they feel intimidated. And so what they can do is now get a little bit of camaraderie.
Andrew: And so whether it’s Zwift or whether it’s TrainerRoad, or whether it’s another similar platform, on TriDot, they can export their particular session for that day, import it to their training platform and do the workout as prescribed. And actually folks, I will say if you choose to do this, if you follow the workout, to a T, you’re almost guaranteed that coveted 100 TrainX Score from that session. So, if you have not given that a shot, I highly suggest you do it. You’re going to feel great with all the 100s you start raining down, and all the gains you start making on the bike. So, hey, let’s talk about this though. A lot of triathletes, they really enjoy sweating through their bike sessions in a room full of other people with an instructor hyping them up, and music pumping the good vibes straight to their soul. It’s a spin class, y’all. Do you guys feel like a local spin class can serve as a bike training session?
John: So, it can but –
Andrew: You say that like you’re skeptical.
John: Well, spin class is not going to be the best resource or the best training session to translate to your triathlon race results. So, really the focus of a spin class that’s usually put on by a gym, really the focus of that is more of a calorie burn. It’s general fitness. It’s not the same type of training that you’re going to do when we’re getting very specific in increasing functional threshold and increasing stamina, increasing all those things that are going to make us faster and perform better in a triathlon. Really, the session is different. There’s different things going on, different movements. Yeah, you’re pedaling and your feet are spinning. It looks a lot like cycling, but really, when we get into these classes, and really what they’re doing up there, the instructors generally are focusing on a calorie burn and maximizing that. Really, where the goal is, is often fitness and weight loss.
Andrew: They’re not trying to help you increase your functional threshold on the bike.
John: Right. Now, it might increase at a kind of a slow rate, but there’s just much more efficient ways of doing those. Even, yeah, there are times where they’re going harder than other times. But as I mentioned before, it’s pretty random, so that random training produces random results. We want to get very specific in what we’re doing and that’s why we’re prescribed very specific sessions every day to each individual athlete to maximize their potential. One opportunity is for those that do enjoy it, you can go in and do a session that closer mimics what’s being prescribed specifically for you. It’s pretty easy to go and get just a recovery session in, so you don’t necessarily have to do the ups and the downs and all those things that the –
Andrew: And maybe like you said, I mean, you even just as recently as last night, went on a ride by yourself with some friends, and it wasn’t necessarily prescribed. And so you kept it at a nice, leisurely fun, get-out-there-and-ride kind of pace. If someone wants to go to a spin class and maybe do that, they can still get the social aspect but not maybe count on it to serve as a triathlon workout. Is that maybe a good way to think about it?
Jeff: Yeah, to kind of follow up on what would be John’s skepticism, this might be a good way of putting this all into perspective, at least for me.
Andrew: Because there’s people out there that want to be good at triathlon, but they don’t want to give up their spin class.
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. I will say this that let’s just say cycling three to four times a week, for the last six months, pretty much straight for me, I have attended two spin classes at my local gym –
Andrew: Two individual spin classes.
Jeff: Two. One was an accident, I wanted to just get out of the house, do my zone to easy kind of more recovery day, and it just happened to be a spin class going on, so I jumped in. The other one I just straight up just wanted to get perspective, I wanted to change things up. As cool as you know, all these automated workouts and all this technology is, I couldn’t ride outside that day and I didn’t feel like logging in and getting my smart trainer all set up. So, I just went to my local gym, I went to a spin class. And if you want to really get that fulfillment in or you just really like that, I sat in the back row and it was supposed to be an easy day and I just kind of fake turn the knob 10 out of 10, let’s go out of the saddle –
Andrew: You faked it?
Jeff: I turned my wrist really hard, but I only moved it up to two out of 10 so I kept the integrity of my prescribed workout.
John: I’m sure you weren’t the only one.
Jeff: And actually looking around, I think a lot of other people were doing the same thing.
Andrew: And what’s funny to me is if you know Jeff Raines’ capability on the bike, was it one of those classes where they had the actual like watts that you’re putting out on like a leaderboard or anything like that?
Jeff: Not this particular one.
Andrew: OK, all right.
Jeff: Thanks goodness.
Andrew: So, there was no temptation to show off how many watts you could put out in a particular workout. So, I know those certainly exist and people get tempted to make the Strava workout look good. They get tempted to make the spin workout look good. But guys, that’s a super helpful perspective on that. But let’s move on to this one because there’s another thing people like to incorporate into their training and it’s group rides. It’s always fun to get out and ride with other cyclists. But joining a group ride can sometimes make it hard to ride at the intensity that we need for our individual training sessions. So, how can folks go wheels down with a group but still optimize their time on the bike?
Jeff: That’s a really good question. I’ve worked with a number of different teams and rides that I have put on or lead myself or rather, just random workouts that I’ve participated as an athlete to other groups or entities rides. There are always different fitness levels. There are always people that want to race. They’re always timid, more beginner riders. And then some people are training long course, short course, some are training to win, some are training just for –
Andrew: Some might be close to the A race, some might be in their offseason.
Jeff: Absolutely. And so knowing the integrity of the workout or the integrity of the day, and how you want to approach that ride, you can fulfill your own surges throughout that workout. I always created routes that are shorter where maybe we do repeat out and backs. Or we would find a 15- or 20-mile route, where people who want to ride short can do one loop, two loops and be done. People that are getting their century rides in can do multiple loops, but everybody, whether they’re going long or short, or super elite or super beginner, no matter what –
Andrew: They’re still out there together on the same stretch of road.
Jeff: Exactly. It’s safe. People who have a certain prescribed set, maybe you want to push for 20 minutes, and I only have a bunch of repeat, three-minute sets. We will always see each other periodically through that ride. So, people who want to go fast can still go fast. So, being strategic and knowing the group that you are training with, Is it a fast group, elite group, is there 20-plus-miles-per-hour and a slower group? And just knowing which group you want to be in for that day. But now you can even write your workouts on your devices or your watch, and so they remind you mid workout when to do your surge. But what I do is just, regardless of using the tools or not, I just know what sets I have for that day. And I’ll even let some of my riders around me know that, “Hey, I have a couple hard five minute pickups.” I’m not trying to be a hero, but I have a very specific workout, and at the end of that stretch, I will slow back down and we can regroup and slap some high fives or whatever. But at least knowing that if something did happen, there will always be another teammate minutes away.
Andrew: Yeah, out there on the road.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah, yeah. My only regret for today’s podcast is that we did not record this episode while on our bike trainers in a sauna because I just feel like we could have YouTubed it, we could have filmed it, and we could have thrown it out there, and folks could have seen you guys giving all this great advice while really sweating it up in a really random place on the trainer, maybe even on Zwift. Although John’s not on Zwift.
John: It’s a shame, maybe next time.
Andrew: Well guys, let’s wrap it up with this. With all of these different ways to ride a bike, we’ve talked about a lot of them, is there a most beneficial way if someone’s like, OK, yeah, there’s all these things, what is going to get me the fastest on race day? Is it doing a little bit of all, is it getting outside as much as possible? Is it honing in on a trainer as much as you can because the pros are doing it? What would you guys say is the most beneficial way to train for the bike split?
John: So, the thing that’s going to produce your best results on race day is executing training created specifically for you in a quality way. So, whatever that means for you. We’ve kind of discussed that the smart trainers and the execution platforms make it a little easier or safer. So, obviously, we’re very much in favor of that. We see the trend in cycling. Going that way, a lot of triathletes are opting for the indoor training in lieu of being out on the road. We see the pros doing that. So, obviously, there’s something to that.
Andrew: If it’s good enough for them, Surely it’s good enough for me.
John: Exactly. Now, one thing that those guys don’t have to worry about so much is dialing in the bike handling skills. That’s one thing I would just kind of caution those that do go exclusive, the indoor training, is make sure you’re outdoors enough to be proficient in cycling. So, there are those things that we need to know how to do: to corner, to clip in, clip out as we discussed earlier. You want to be confident out on the road and so I would say do at least enough time on the road so that you are confident in riding on the road. Because we’re riding on the road in our races. So, be safe, be confident, but do what you need to do to execute your training at a high level.
Great set everyone. Let’s cool down.
Andrew: No good workout is complete without a proper cool down and today we have TriDot coach, Elizabeth James, joining us to do a little race recon of Ironman 70.3 Waco. Have you dreamed of racing in the shiplap capital of the world and visiting the famous Waco Magnolia silos? Well, Elizabeth and Jeff both raced Ironman 70.3 Waco, and are here to share all the hot details on racing that course. Now, I have to start by bragging on Elizabeth. She placed second overall age group female and qualified for 70.3 World in New Zealand. Elizabeth, Congrats.
Elizabeth: Thank you so much. It was a fantastic day out there in Waco.
Andrew: Now, Jeff Raines also had a heck of a race himself finishing as the 19th overall age group male and sixth in his age group. Jeff, congrats on your great result.
Jeff: Thanks a lot. It was a great day, fun course for sure.
Andrew: Briefly, guys, talk us through this course especially if there’s somebody listening who’s maybe considering signing up for Waco next year. Waco is becoming a really popular town to visit. What should they know about the course itself?
Elizabeth: Waco is a great course. So, the point-to-point swim is how athletes will start their day. So, you’ve got kind of a nice mile warmup walk from the transition area to that swim start area. Then you will go ahead and hop in the Brazos river and swim downstream.
Andrew: How would you describe the water of the Brazos river?
Elizabeth: Well, very cold this year, low 60 degrees. It varies year to year, but certainly, I would describe it as cold and not as much current as was advertised for us.
Andrew: OK, so it’s not the downriver swim that they kind of teased a little bit.
Elizabeth: Oh yeah, nothing like Chattanooga. Not as much help. But still, I mean point-to-point, straight shot, great swim start for all athletes on the day. And then the bike course is a beautiful, rolling course that goes through the Texas countryside, if you can call it Texas countryside there. And then the run is great. Along the river is where it starts, it goes into Cameron Park, which is where there’s some elevation, some challenging hills.
Andrew: I’ll say that calling it elevation is a little bit of an understatement because a lot of run courses have elevation and you think of kind of rolling hills, but those are some steep hills in Cameron Park.
Elizabeth: There’s some punchy climbs there. Yeah.
Andrew: They’re not long. They’re not for long, but they are quite steep. Right?
Elizabeth: Yes, I would agree. Now, that’s just a couple miles of the course, then you come back over the river, and you get a little reprieve there before you have to do it a second time.
Andrew: Now, if someone is working on their race calendar for maybe the next season, or just kind of keeping some races in mind, and maybe they’re considering several different 70.3s, how would you recommend this race in comparison to others? Should this be at the top of the list or maybe, you know, once you’ve done a couple others? Where would you rank this in terms of priority to put it on the calendar?
Jeff: Very good question. It’s not a super, super challenging course, but at the same time, you get a lot of different road quality. You will get in and out of the saddle, you will not be aero for 99.9% of the bike course. So, you’re going to be getting in and out of the saddle. So, it is more of a, I would say, slightly beginner-focused course. But at the same time, you still get a lot of challenging aspects. So, fast athletes can go out there, and elite athletes will still get their fair share of unique terrain and stuff like that. But it is a great course. I would say that if you’re new to the sport, and you’re wanting to work your way into harder and harder courses, this one should definitely be in your top, your first, second or third half Iron ever.
Andrew: Oh, very cool. Elizabeth, do you kind of agree with that assessment?
Elizabeth: Yeah, absolutely. Particularly with the point-to-point swim. I know the swim is of kind of a large concern for many athletes that are getting started in the sport. And this is very beginner-friendly, very easy to sight. You’ve got just one straight shot. So, that kind of relieves some of the anxiety that maybe trying to navigate a swim course or do a lot of sighting. Some of those features make this more beginner-friendly on the swim. I would say that if somebody is really looking for a fast PR course, this might not be it. But as we’ve described, you got a lot of neat features and some good variety with the different terrain that you’ll encounter.
Andrew: Now, tell me about the logistics of getting ready for race day in Waco. How was it as a host city and where would you recommend future athletes stay?
Jeff: The good thing about Waco is that anything that you’re trying to find is probably within a 15-minute drive. Traveling, you can fly into Austin, Dallas.. It’s a short drive. I would be prepared maybe to rent a car. It’s an amazing city to stay at, to race at. Baylor down the street, maybe stay for a football game. Chip and Joanna Gaines are right around the corner from race site. It’s all right there, it is all close, you will have a blast.
Andrew: Well, it was a beautiful country course and on a beautiful sunny day, so I’m sure there were lots of good memories for the both of you. But what would you say before we close was your favorite moment from your race, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: My favorite moment was when I was on the second loop of the run course and I saw coach John, he was out there coaching and spectating. And he, as I’m coming up to him on the run, he’s like, “All right, you’re third.” And I was like, “Oh, OK. Like age group?” And he’s like, “No, overall.” And I just, I could not believe it. I mean, I went –
Andrew: It’s not what you were expecting?
Elizabeth: No, no, that was much better than I was expecting. We kind of went in with the goal of winning my age group, and kind of punching my ticket to the 70.3 World Championships. But I had no idea how well that could potentially place me overall. And just to kind of share that excitement and that moment with him, just as we’ve continued to work together and better myself as an athlete was a really cool moment for me.
Andrew: Jeff, for you, what was maybe a standout moment that you’d like to share from race day?
Jeff: I have a couple quick wins, actually.
Andrew: A couple quick ones? Woo!
Jeff: One, being that I did get to see coach Elizabeth on the run course and –
Andrew: Always nice to see a familiar face when you’re all dying a little bit on the inside.
Jeff: It was great. Yes, secretly dying on the inside. But it was great to slap Elizabeth a high five during the run portion, and it was just great. I felt good on the run course and I could tell she was having a great race, so that was a great moment. Also, one in particular, a great moment for me was when the dog that was chasing me out on the bike course finally let up, and I could sit down and relax a little bit.
Andrew: A dog was chasing you on the bike course?
Jeff: Oh man.
Andrew: Those are, we’re not joking when we say some Texas country roads, right?
Jeff: Yes. So, when you see my huge zone six spike in heart rate –
Elizabeth: That spike in heart rate.
Andrew: That was the dog?
Jeff: Yes, absolutely. But it’s a great course. Everybody shared this same moment and that you finish across this beautiful bridge that crosses the Brazos river.
Andrew: Right over the river right by downtown. Yeah.
Jeff: I remember being under the bridge, I see the 13-mile mark on the run. And at that point, I knew that all I had to do is finish the point one and I had to turn the corner and then go up on the bridge, and I got to run along that bridge seeing that finish line with such beautiful scenery. It was an abnormally cold year. We had a winter, a little mix come a little early this fall. And so it was an abnormally cold water temperature, and an abnormally cold air temperature. But seeing that sunrise on the bike and getting a little bit of warmth was my final and one of my favorite little memories, just having that relief of warming up a little bit.
Andrew: Well, that’s it for today folks. I want to thank coaches John Mayfield and Jeff Raines for talking us through our bike training. Shout out to our friends at Garmin for bringing us today’s show. Next time you are looking to upgrade your tri tech, head to Garmin.com to find what Garmin device can take your tri gear to the next level. Enjoying the podcast? Have any triathlon questions or topics you want to hear us talk about? Email us at Podcast@TriDot.com and let us know what you’re thinking. Again, that’s Podcast@TriDot.com. We’ll do it again soon. Until then, happy training.
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