Since its origin in 2011, The Preseason Project has been a powerful triathlon training research environment and a catalyst for continuous improvement and innovation. The participating athletes themselves have made this possible. Training data and direct feedback from more than 15,000 triathletes has driven significant measurable improvements over industry norms in training efficiency, race results, and overall athlete experience. This has fundamentally changed how athletes train and how coaches coach. Today we look back on the history of the Preseason Project and the milestone findings, results, and events that have defined its continuing influence on triathlon industry.
TriDot Podcast .13:
TriDot’s Preseason Project: How Athletes Helped Revolutionize Triathlon Training
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 show, everybody. I am really excited for today's episode of the TriDot Podcast. I mean I always am but today's a little extra special. Today is a little less triathlon how-to and a little more TriDot storytelling. As we take a look back at the Pre-Season Project, how it has evolved over the years and how TriDot has applied the data received from Pre-Season Project athletes to revolutionize triathlon training. Let's get Going. First up joining me today is TriDot Founder and CEO, Jeff Booher. Jeff is the chief architect behind TriDot’s insight optimization technology that powers TriDot training. He's a multiple Ironman finisher who has coached dozens of professional triathletes and hundreds of successful age groupers since he began coaching in 2003. Jeff, thanks for joining me today.
Jeff: Absolutely. It's going to be a fun one.
Andrew: Next up is Coach John Mayfield. A successful Ironman athlete himself, John leads TriDot’s Athlete Services, Ambassador and Coaching Programs. He has coached hundreds of athletes ranging from first-timers to Kona qualifiers, and professional triathletes. John has been using TriDot since 2010 and coaching with TriDot since 2012. John, you excited to talk about the Pre-Season Project?
John: Always excited to talk about Pre-Season Project.
Andrew: And who am I? I am Andrew, the average triathlete, voice of the people, captain to the middle of the pack, and Pre-Season Project alumni year 2019, I think. 2018-2019. So, we're going to get going today with the warm up question before moving on to everything you could ever possibly want to know about the Pre-Season Project. And then we're going to get cooled down by hearing a little from crowd favorite, Coach Elizabeth James. She's gonna tell us how she went from a Pre-Season Project athlete to TriDot coach to professional triathlete, that's the dream to come in and go pro. So, she's gonna tell us her story. Lots of great stuff. Let's get to it.
Time to warm up. Let's get moving.
Andrew: With all the hours triathletes spend outside training and on the racecourse, tan lines and sunburns are basically a rite of passage into the sport. For the most part, we all end up with a fairly defined line showing where our socks and sleeves came to an end. But beyond that, we all have at least one story of a more extreme tan line or sunburn that was just a little extra special. Guys, for our warm up today, tell me about a time you got a memorable mark from too much time in the sun. John, I'll start with you.
John: So, yeah gosh lots of opportunities and lots of sunburns and funky tans over the years. The one that really comes to mind though, was gosh, long time ago. Actually involved, so everybody knows Cindy, athlete support Cindy. Everybody knows and loves Cindy.
Andrew: If you've ever had a question to TriDot support, Cindy hooked you up, helped you out.
John: Exactly. And if you did an orientation, chances are it was with Cindy, so everybody knows and loves Cindy. Cindy and her husband Ronnie were instrumental in getting me into triathlon many years ago. They had one of the first Tri for Him chapters and was in the area where I was. So, I connected with Ronnie and Cindy years and years ago and I've ridden literally thousands of miles with Cindy's husband, Ronnie. And this was back, I don't remember what we were training for, but this was back when my kids were little and we're doing Saturday morning activities. And so this particular day, Ronnie and I went out by ourselves, it was later in the day, and we live on the Texas Gulf Coast, just north of Galveston Island. And our usual route was basically riding down to Galveston. So, pretty typical winds. We had a headwind on our way out and a tailwind on the way back. On this particular day, it was an excruciatingly high wind. I could only guess as to what it was. It was probably 50 plus, that's an exaggeration, but that's what we do.
Andrew: No, I'm sure that's exactly what it was.
John: So, we had 50 miles an hour headwinds and it was also in the middle of summer very, intense sun. So, we were-- the two of us were working together, took everything we could, we were doing like three-second pulls and just trying to stay vertical. I think we were probably doing like 12-13 miles an hour in the draft and just doing like three seconds pulls because that was all we could do. So, anyway, it took us a really long time to get down to our U-turn. And back then, I will say this kit design has improved a lot in the last several years. Back then, your traditional triathlon jersey was barely long enough to meet the short, so if you were bent over in aero position, the lower back-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: Is this turning into a triathlon tramp stamp story?
John: Yes, yes. So, you've-- spoiler alert, that's what it is. So, I remember this day it was just incredibly difficult, it took us forever to get down to our basically 20-mile turnaround. It was a lot of fun on the way back. I think I hit like a flat speed record. We were doing over 40 miles an hour on the flat because we had again, a 50 mile an hour tailwind at that point. But man when I got home, I had the worst sunburn on my lower back. And ironically, as confirmed, my TriDot physical genomics data when I did my ancestry, I am very Nordic. I'm very Western European. That's pretty much all I am.
Andrew: Blond hair, blue eyes.
John: I do not tan. So, this should have been a sunburn, been comfortable for a couple days and then faded into oblivion like every other sun exposure I ever had. But for some reason, this odd-looking as you would call tramp stamp, stuck with me for probably several years literally like months later, maybe a year later I still had kind of this like half moon right above my pant line from that one ride. Might still be there. I haven't looked.
Andrew: I haven't either, so--
John: We'll just go with it's still there. I still have it, probably.
Andrew: Yeah. I wonder if triathlon tramp stamp could be a good relay team name.
John: Absolutely. So, Jeff, what about you? What's your best suntan/sunburn traveling story?
Jeff: I don't burn too much usually. I guess I’m a little different there in the genetics.
Andrew: Not as Nordic.
Jeff: Not as Nordic [crosstalk] But some of my worst sunburns, though have been coaching primarily our junior team, where you're out there, they're doing multiple laps, draft legal round and round and four races a day. So, you're out there seven-eight hours just not thinking about it, and then the neck and the ears and all that. But-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: While you're taking care of multiple youth athletes, you’re not thinking about the sun you’re thinking about your athletes. Yeah.
Jeff: Yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. And then like holy cow, you know, pretty red. But tans pretty quick. Actually my story though, I thought that was the funniest just relating when you were just asking that question about a rite of passage and kind of that sentiment. You've heard the joke, how do you tell an Ironman, how do you pick an Ironman out of a group?
Andrew: Yeah, out of a crowd.
Jeff: Yeah, you don't have to. They'll let you know. It's kinda like Ironman are vegans, they'll work it in somehow. But that starts at a very, very early age. So, our junior team again, they're exceptional athletes all elite, you know, top-ranked-- one of the top-ranked teams in the country. But I noticed that when they were down there, racing they would have their TRITATS on their arm, and they would leave them on even after they've raced and the next day and get a suntan. So, they try to get tans so that when they get back to school people are asking them even when the numbers are gone-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: What’s that?
Jeff: They leave the numbers on but then there's a suntan there this for two weeks and the numbers, “What's that? [crosstalk] in Iowa.” [crosstalk]
Andrew: I didn’t realize that was still there.
Jeff: ...whatever...nationals. So, it's just like you know, Ironman tattoo on your calf, it's pretty cool. Just excited to be there and just kind of that distinction, I guess.
Andrew: For a few weeks they're able to suntan race tattoo onto their arms.
Jeff: Yes, absolutely. So, I thought that was pretty cool and definitely hit home with me.
Andrew: Yeah, that's great that the inspiration for this question, I was thinking back to my first half Ironman. When I run like a lot of people, I like to wear a hat. And frequently, I'll turn that hat around backwards. Well, I've done half marathons that I've done long training sessions and for whatever reason, I don't know if just the sun was super intense this particular day, but I was wearing my hat backwards-- [crosstalk]
John: Did you have a half moon on your forehead?
Andrew: So, literally, like-- [crosstalk]
John: Spoiler alert, gotcha.
Andrew: John and I are spoiler alerting each other.
John: Been there.
Andrew: But no, so I finished the race, you know, go back to the hotel room, grab a shower and I get out-- we’re about to head to dinner after the race and my wife just starts laughing. And she's like, “Have you looked at your forehead?” I’m like “No.” And it was so deeply ingrained from the sun like the little half crescent moon just what you talked about just same mark different location. And so on my forehead for weeks, like I went back to work, this was before I worked for TriDot. So, I have a regular non-triathlon day job. And so I'm going to work at the television studio I worked at, and I'm wearing hats and I looked ridiculous, just very proudly on my forehead was this very deeply suntanned mark of exactly where my hat had been placed on backwards during that race.
John: I think at this point, we would be remiss if we did not remind the listeners that sun protection is very important and skin cancer is very real. So, lather up with some sunscreen and avoid the embarrassing tan lines and don't get skin cancer.
Onto the main set. Going in 3, 2, 1.
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It's for sure a bold statement to say that TriDot’s Pre-Season Projects athletes have helped revolutionize triathlon training. But once you've begun training with TriDot, you’ll quickly find this statement to be true. TriDot’s training structure changes the way training plans are generated. It changes the way athletes train, and it changes the way coaches coach, all for the better. And the best part of it all that we're going to focus on today is this, TriDot does all of this with your data and your feedback. Today, Jeff and John are going to show us how TriDots athletes through the years of Pre-Season Project are the ones empowering the TriDot training revolution. So, John, why don't you kick us off by describing for those who don't know what TriDot’s Pre-Season Project is in the form we know it today?
John: So, Pre-Season Project is a year long research study that we do every year. It runs from the pre-season, which is generally defined as late October, through February and then into the race season. So, qualified participants get two free months of TriDot training. So, qualifications are pretty simple. You have to have raced a triathlon before, you have to be racing, at least an Olympic distance race in the season to come, not be a coach and not be a pro. And all those things are put in place to maintain quality of the research that we do. That helps us standardize the data so that we can evaluate and have a legitimate study here, and draw meaningful conclusions from it. So, the purpose of Pre-Season Project is again, it further optimizes the TriDot training. And then we're also able to demonstrate the incremental gains of those that train with TriDot and compare those to those that do not.
Andrew: Well, I'm excited to hear a lot more about this. When I first came on as an athlete, I still remember the day, about a year and a half ago when I first saw the ad on Facebook for TriDot training, you know, Pre-Season Project, get two months TriDot training free in return-- in exchange for your data. And I remember seeing it, my first thought was like, oh, that has, like-- I was excited about it because I actually, at the time was looking for a structured way to train. And when I saw that ad, I was like, okay, like, I'm going to try it for two months. That's a very generous amount of time to tri training program. But I thought it was kind of a marketing gimmick, right? I'm like, okay they're saying they need my data, but they just want me to try their training for two months, so that I like it so that I'll be willing to pay for it after the two months. And then I got involved as an athlete, and I started learning oh, man, like, there's-- just what you said, John, there is so much benefit for TriDot in the athletes’ data that we receive from the Pre-Season Project. So, I'm really excited to dive into this, talk a little more about that. I have all sorts of questions like, why do this is in the pre-season? How and why are the athletes qualified? How can you afford to give your product away for free for two months to so many athletes? How does Pre-Season Project help TriDot improve and quantify things like training effectiveness? How many athletes have participated in the Pre-Season Project? I have tons of questions, John.
John: Yeah, that’s a lot of questions. So, man, that last one is one of the really cool ones. So, as I said before, this is a research program in the triathlon space. So, you're-- and there have been lots of those over the years. But your normal sample size, if you go in and read a triathlon related study, typically you're in is N equals 10, N equals 12, your sample size, how many people they're testing and drawing conclusions and then applying them to everyone, typically is fewer than 20. I would say your standard sample size is anywhere from single digits to maybe a couple dozen.
Andrew: And you would think on the generous end of what you just said would be 100. And within 100 different athletes there might be four or five that are like you or like me to learn from.
John: And even then generally, what they're doing is they're qualifying their participants. They're looking for athletes that meet a particular definition or demographic. And then they're doing research on them.
Jeff: It’s 20 highly trained cyclists or 20 untrained cyclists and they do this study. So, it’s at one end of the spectrum or the other.
John: And then they apply the findings across the board to everyone. So, one of the things that really differentiates Pre-Season Project is the sample size. So, we have actually had over 15,000 athletes participate in the Pre-Season Project over the last several years.
Andrew: That's a big group.
John: Yeah. And that equates to over $3 million in value of the training that has been given away.
Andrew: So, in all those two free months of training and that many athletes, that's about $3 million of free training TriDot’s given?
John: Yeah, because the training program that we give away for two months, there is a known cost to that. It's $99 a month. So, each athlete is receiving $200 in benefit, $200 worth of free training. So, yeah, $3 million in free training that's been given out.
Andrew: I mean, that's absolutely an astounding number, like when you hear it, quantified, right.
John: And so based on that, what we want to do is recognize the contribution of all these past participants, these 15,000 athletes that have made TriDot better. We want to acknowledge that and pass along appreciation-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: All the athletes who are alumni of the Pre-Season Project.
John: Yeah, and then give our current Pre-Season Project participants an appreciation for all that's gone into it. So, this is based on more than 15,000 athletes. And we've had 15,000 in the Pre-Season Project. And that's not all the athletes that have provided data. So, again, we have thousands of athletes that are providing data. So, these athletes that are new to Pre-Season Project and new to TriDot training, they're able to see this is actually what their training is based on. Their training isn't based on one person's theory or one person’s philosophy or education or experience. It’s actual analysis of data from thousands of athletes. So, we’re not looking at a small sample size, or one person's opinion, it's actual data from thousands of triathletes.
Andrew: I mean, that's one of the things that I've, you know, the more I learn about TriDot, then the more I get excited about you see the numbers on the website of about training with TriDot will help you improve this many times, and all that. I mean, this is the data that is quantifying those types of statistics. So, just as an athlete, you love seeing that there's actual learning, and there's actual science and there's actual-- a quantified way of figuring out that data, that it's not just empty claims, right?
John: Yeah, and we can highlight some of those milestones and results and really how those benefits have changed the way that we train, the way we race, and the way that we coach triathletes.
Andrew: Yeah. So, let's get into it. Jeff, why don't you just start by describing how it began. I would love for you and John to just walk us through how the Pre-Season Project has emerged into what it is today. So, take me back to day one. Where did this all come from?
Jeff: Yeah, actually, it started before it started. So, there was an origin that we built on later that became-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: It started before it started.
Jeff: --Pre-Season Project. Yeah, back in 2011 and back then, all have the training analysis, the sample sizes were bigger, they were hundreds, not thousands. And it was a very iterative process. So, we do training phases or periods of time where we'd have the algorithms and the thresholds and you know, all of the things that we did to optimize a training set, and then you watch a big cohort of athletes, go through the training, measure results, make adjustments, and then do it again. And so we started in 2011. It was just a continuation of that normal process, but it was really benchmarking and measuring the effectiveness of TriDot at that time. We'd spent six-seven years at that point normalizing all the iterations, doing the standardization, adding context, abstracting the algorithms, based on different demographics to affect the training decision. made. And that would later lead to the full scale. So, this is kind of all the preparatory work leading to the big data stuff that we do today. So, before there was a project at all, per se, we were just doing this. And the focus of that time was really measuring the off-season we called it because it was just an extremely important time of the year to do the analysis.
Andrew: And so why is that? Why is that kind of a more important time of year to do that?
Jeff: Well, you might recall from Episode 10, the power stamina paradox, during the off-season, when you're not training for another event, another race, you're able to focus on the training that needs to be done to increase functional threshold or work on form, and it doesn't have the influences of someone doing a race in three weeks. So, they can't really do what they should do to improve their performance. They need to either taper, get ready for the race or recover from a race. And so it's that time several months, where you can get a big group of athletes that's gonna have very pure training and with one objective. So, that was real important. So, it removes that racing impact on your schedule, allows you to isolate based on FTP and form improvement. And the challenge then was finding athletes that were serious. A lot of athletes quit and stop training consistently during the off-season. And so we really tried to impress upon the athletes the importance of that off-season training and improve how much you can improve-- prove how much you can improve during that time-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: Yeah, I mean, that's a distinguishment when I came in. I mean, I think most athletes view that time in the winter months when there's not races, they view that as an off-season. Whereas here at TriDot, we call that the Pre-Season Project.
Jeff: Originally, is off-season and exactly right. And so we changed it and that'll kind of come in the future years, that recognition and the way-- how do we communicate that? So, this was not named at the time, it was just a thing we did, but it was the 20th. We retroactively look back for years, it was the 2011 off-season. And so we had that time was just very precious and priceless.
Andrew: So, how big was that group of athletes that you really started looking at?
Jeff: It was right at 100 athletes. They're all, 30 to 55 was probably 80% of them, 90% of them.
Andrew: I make the cut, 31 years old, I made the cut.
Jeff: And that was ones that were-- the training had to be-- the average was about 14 weeks, give or take a week or two, we normalized it to have consistent results. And then the other thing is, they couldn't be doing a half or full marathon. A lot of people do marathons in the fall. So, we had to filter out those people-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: Because then that would skew...getting ready for that marathon.
Jeff: Yeah, because their training objectives would be different and so we ended up with about 100 at that time.
Andrew: So, how did it go with that first study, with that first hundred?
Jeff: It was, back then, we did the 800-meter time trial.
Andrew: It was an 800-meter time trial?
Jeff: 800. So, we didn't do the CSS.
Andrew: An 800, oh, man. I’m never going to complain about the 400 ever again.
Jeff: So, here's the time trial results. So, for 800 it was a two minute and 23 second improvement over that 14 weeks. For the 15 mile bike time trial it was three minutes and 11 seconds faster. For the 10K was three minutes and 20 seconds. [crosstalk] So, that’s 14 weeks. A little more than three--
Andrew: I mean that’s significant.
Andrew: I mean, if you're taking off, I mean, 32 seconds per mile off your run split. That's, I mean, for that 50-mile bike, I mean, three minutes. I mean, just for perspective for folks, that's adding two miles per hour. I mean, all of us would dream of adding two miles per hour to our functional threshold.
Jeff: Yeah, I guess the rates are a little easier to understand at 800, that's 17.8 seconds. So, about 18 seconds per hundred faster on your threshold, 2.1 miles an hour faster, and 32 seconds per mile on your 10K pace. So, those are very, very significant.
Andrew: Yeah, I mean, I would call that super successful for all of those athletes. So, was that kind of the results you expected?
Jeff: It was. It was-- we didn't-- This was the first time with a bigger group. Like you said, when you have 20-40 and then none of them were the same. So, we're already seeing some little groups within the groups of who's improving more and why. But we needed to scale this further. So, the results were great, we needed to scale it and we needed to figure out how to communicate the results. Because when we say this, we did a lot of webinars and different things telling people, and they just didn't believe you. So, that was a challenge coming out of that year. So, this is going into 2012. During 2012, how do we communicate it and then how do we just get more athletes through this. Now we refine even further, make adjustments based on that. And so we move forward to 2012.
Andrew: Yeah. So, with the fresh lessons that you learned from that very first year, I mean, what happened in the sophomore you know, 2012 campaign of Pre-Season Project?
Jeff: Well, that was a big year going, actually it’s 2012 going into 2013, we were struggling to find a way to share it with more people. Like how do we get more people to experience this? One, we want it for them, but two we want more people because we need more data, more data we can eliminate more noise, we can get more granular with the training, the measurements. Back then so many athletes just relied on the education level of a coach or a success of a pro or just really accomplished athlete. “Oh, they must know how to train even though I'm nothing like them or maybe like them, they did whatever.” So, it was very hard to communicate what we're doing and where's our credibility come from? These results but then, you know, and in the cool thing was like we could repeat the results, we knew it. We could. We did it. We do the same things from year to year and we're getting better and better and better because it's a repeatable process based on the data. So, when we went out there we try to highlight, well, you have these experts, a world champion here, and a world champion there. They're both very successful but they're telling you two different things about your training.
Andrew: Oh, very-- two very different things.
Jeff: And they're not repeatable, so how-- If what they're saying is the best way to train, then all of their athletes should be doing better, but they're not.
Andrew: And pro athletes, start telling you how they train, it's like “Well yeah, well you're a pro.”
Jeff: Yeah, different genetics, different age, different-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: You should be training differently than me.
Jeff: So, that was kind of the battle that we're-- how do we explain and share, so we're trying to educate. We thought about sponsoring a big-time Pro. But you know, we didn't want to go that route. So, explain it to them and say, here's how it works and let them use it. Again, we were-- the algorithms were certainly fast enough for a pro. We’ve had 3:50 half Ironman times and 8:30 full Ironmans. So, it's real fast but we're gearing toward the age grouper that wants to improve. And if you care about a goal, I don't care if it’s a finishing goal-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: If you want to get faster on less time with fewer injuries.
Jeff: That's our sweet spot. That's who we wanted to go after. So, we didn't want to go plus just the ethical issue, I don't feel comfortable relying on someone else's past accomplishment and somehow trying to transfer a relay because they were a world champion back in the day or even currently, they didn't do that using TriDot. They didn't get here using our product, I don't want them to sponsor and promote it. I’m happy for them to say “Hey, this is great, looks good.” But not in the sense of trust me because I'm so fast then you use it. They didn't use it.
Andrew: I'm a pro. I'm being paid to endorse this, so you should use it, like--
Jeff: But we're left with still the problem exists. All the traditional routes other than just trying to educate people and explain and get the attention to you know, how do you [crosstalk] explain, how do you understand? So, when people take time and pause and understand then they go, okay. Or if they heard word of mouth from a person, they’re understanding. And that's a very slow process and we needed more data. So, we really had a breakthrough. I was working with a consultant on just a number of things strategic. And after several months, we're just really struggling, and he called me or text me super early and say, “Hey, I got it. Let's talk.” And so he saw and he came up with this is brilliant model. He goes, actually, he's a new parent. I had a couple young kids want to raise him right and just be a good dad. And he said, “I heard this thing on the radio. They said that if you buy their kid programs, like 350 bucks raising kids, you pay your money, you get it, you go through the first two chapters, fill out the work at the back, they give you a little assignment, do this with your kid and whatever, you fill them out, send them in, we’ll give you all your money back. So, you get this training program for free.” He goes, “It's so cool. I think that'll work.” Because when it gets-- you have skin in the game. Okay, I'm committed and if you're not committed, then that's on you, not on us. We're doing our part, we're making it available. Anyway, so that, we worked through it. We spent probably two full months working through the details. We actually found the lady that set that up for that company. And she was gracious enough to work through some of the-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: And kind of talk through how to create a program like that for TriDot.
Jeff: Yeah, Operational things, practical things you never think of that becomes a problem. Here's how you make it clear to athletes. You know, everyone's skeptical coming in, so here's how you present it in a very transparent way so there's no surprises. But it was extremely costly. We spent two months, he and I literally almost full time just putting that together, the infrastructure, how it works, how do we market it? So, there's a whole lot of cost, a whole lot of risk in the time. What if it flops? And the fear at that time was like we’re like, we're bootstrapping, we don't have a lot of cash. So, we spent all this time, all this money, promote it, then what if everybody out there does it and get their money back and quits? Like okay, now that was a very-- The data is good, but if they're not continuing-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: Because you're promising that option.
Jeff: We need some portion of them to continue. We're willing to make the investment up front, and for the long game that's always been, we're playing the long game. In the feedback that we got from it, so it wasn't just the data, it was actually their feedback. And he said the probably the most valuable thing that's going to come out of this is not their data feedback, although that's that is valuable, but their comments of what did they understand? Why didn't they adhere to the training? What was confusing? What did they not understand? And we started-- we learned a lot from all of that just baggage that they're coming in with.
Andrew: So, you came up with a program and you work through it. I mean, how did you get word out there to athletes that this was now available?
Jeff: Well, when we started, we started looking at that, again, either doing webinars and all these different things. He actually told me when I was dealing with some of those fear things, he goes, “Well, do you believe in the product or not?” It was kind of a, okay. Well, I know it's going to do what it is, and that was kind of what pushed me over like, okay, let's commit all this time and money to do this. Because I knew that some would continue and I knew that for years I was again passion-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: And we're all here today because we continued.
Jeff: Correct and so just, you know, took the plunge. So, I partnered, I had a lot of friends in the industry with you know, Terry Laughlin, TI Swimming, Effortless Swimming, FCA Endurance, Endurance Films, Bobby McGee, folks at UCAN, just people we've been working with for a long time and say, “Hey, let's do a co-promotional webinar on a specific topic, and just give some value out there and talk about swim form improvement or nutrition or whatever it is. And at the end, I want to throw this thing, we figured out this name for it, it was called Free for Feedback.
Andrew: Free training in response for-- in exchange for your feedback on the program?
Jeff: Yeah, you give us your feedback, your data, and your comments. And they had a little survey, they fill in, send it to us, and then we give them all their money back. When we did it, we kind of got the infrastructure in place. We had I think, 200-228 that year, and the feedback was just incredible. We went through-- we have a team and they went through every single packet that got sent back all of the questionnaires, all of the answers, so that not, only do they give us a scale for the algorithms on that side, but the most impactful stuff that year was their feedback and their comments of what was confusing and what thoughts and beliefs did they come into it with, that we had to either re-educate or overcome or somehow get them to look at it a different way and see that, and have the aha moment.
Andrew: Yeah. And so the sample size, just from year one to year two, I mean, already more than doubled. What did those new athletes see their results?
Jeff: It was the same, it was kind of crazy. It was-- and it’s funny. Every year, they're about the same or a little bit better. And so it's gradually moving. The big thing there because we didn't change a whole lot from the first to the second, it was really great. And the other thing is that we didn't have that comparison group. So, this was the first year we're going to have a comparison group where we had some people that continue to use TriDot and other people that didn't. And so that was a benefit in future years, but that came out of this year. So, the biggest objectives in that year going into, I guess it was the year after 2013-14 was to demonstrate the improvement based on their feedback. So, any negative comment that we got, any confusion, any friction point, our goal going into that next year leading into 2014 was to eliminate the friction. So, we had people that had this huge three-minute increases in their bike or their 5K run, and then we'd see a comment, “Yeah, but my eight mile, you know, slower now.” And we had to educate them, okay. You don't need to be doing eight miles in January when you're doing a half marathon in August. And back to that power, stamina paradox and understanding, there's different types of training. If you're out there trying to push your eight miles you’re not that fast of an athlete, that's a very long run, and you’re not gonna get that much faster your threshold. And then during that year, we're also working on our Race X. And so we had these athletes coming in, and so that extending the study in the research, how we track that first year, it was only the off-season by itself. And so we were trying to quantify the benefits of racing in the off-season compared to only in-season. So-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: Training in the off-season versus training in-season?
Jeff: Correct. So, being diligent off-season, been diligent in-season, being diligent in both and measuring that. Another big change during that year is based on the feedback was we added-- back then we had gold, silver, bronze levels of how much-- Everything was all coach, there's no non-coached option for TriDot at that point. So, TriDot handled the algorithms and optimization of the training, training design. But you also worked with a coach to handle a lot of those questions, and to work with the athletes as a person. And then in that year, we had a whole bunch of people, that was part of the decoupling point that we've mentioned, on other podcasts where we're separating the necessity of a coach to optimize your training. So, the training can be optimized by technology. You don't need a coach for that. Coaches can help, they can tweak, they can do other things, and there's a whole lot of things beyond optimization of training that coaches do. So, we're not suggesting at all. But that's when we first started offering what we called then a copper subscription. There's a little less better price point help more people have access to quality training.
Andrew: So, this is now a year 3, 2013-2014 season that you're starting to kind of go workout the program of what it was like to train with TriDot?
Jeff: Yep, correct. Yeah. So, it presents challenges so now you don't have a coach to help educate. So, now we're having to put systems and educational things in place to help educate the athletes who don't have access to a coach for budget or for whatever. But we have more athletes, so that's increasing our numbers, so we have more data and more feedback.
John: So, this is one of the things we've always wanted to accomplish through Pre-Season Project is get that very valuable feedback from the athletes, that original title of Free for Feedback, and that intent has never gone away. So, there were athletes that were asking for subscription options without the coach and a lot of it revolved around budget. So, again, we were [and personality] able to respond to the customer desire, customer wish and create that subscription. So, this was something that enabled TriDot to reach more athletes because now we're able to offer a lower price subscription option and that's something that we've continued to do, and continue to innovate throughout our history, and it's always been a priority and something that we wanted to do is provide an affordable option for athletes of any budget to be able to have individualized, optimized training. And this is really where it came from was way back many years ago responding to feedback from athletes that were participating in the Pre-Season Project.
Andrew: So, John, how did it go with, you know, you got the feedback from athletes, and you guys kind of came up with those new objectives on, “Hey, based on the feedback we're starting to get, these are the things we want to change.” How did it go with that first objective, that you wanted to improve from the 2013 feedback?
John: So, the feedback was actually really encouraging. 83% had either a four or five on their evaluation, on that five-point scale, 97% were three or higher. So, what that told us was we were doing things right. But there was room for improvement and--
Andrew: Most people, they liked it, they loved it, they were on board, they had some thoughts.
John: Yeah. Like anything, it was still new, it was still under construction. A lot of it was still what we thought was clear or what we thought was explained or what would work for us kind of a thing. And when we found out that what we thought was good was maybe not good for everybody. So, something we've always done and to this day is his resolve to improve. And that's still one of our core values.
Jeff: Yeah, one of the things, John, I'm sure you can elaborate on this more because you tell me more often having more interaction with our athletes is we found that the higher the ranking, the more engaged the athlete was, and it was a-- when they didn't understand, didn't have question that it was a lack of it, generally correlated with a lack of engagement on their part. They hadn't entered the race. They hadn't entered assessments. They didn't engage somehow.
Andrew: Higher the ranking being the more they liked TriDot, the higher they were ranking TriDot?
Jeff: Yeah. If they did something, that was skin in the game, where, you know, look, some of them were just filling out the paperwork, sending it back, but they didn't do anything. They didn't listen to a webinar. They didn't engage in their training, but they still wanted to get their money back, so they did that. So, we saw the high correlation, and we knew that engagement was the key. And I still think we see that today quite a bit.
Andrew: So, people are getting out of it, what they put into it. The more they put in, the more they were reaping the benefits.
John: But that continues to be valuable feedback for us that we want to improve on. We want to make it easy for athletes to engage. So, we continue to thrive off the feedback that we're getting from thousands of athletes every year. And that we want our product to be approachable and easy and enjoyable. We know the training works. So, we want to remove any barriers that we can even like I mentioned a minute ago, the financial aspect of it. We want to provide subscription options that are affordable for every budget. And we want to make it clear and understandable, whether you're internet savvy or whether you're not so much, whether you're resistant to technology, we don't want that to be a barrier either. So, again, we thrive on this feedback. And we have a commitment to perpetual improvement and just continuing to make the product and experience better. Both the training is better from the data that the athletes provide, and then the user experience is better from the feedback that is provided as well.
Andrew: Jeff, you mentioned that another objective from that third year of the Pre-Season Project was to measure the impact of the value of training in the off-season versus just training during the racing season. What was kind of the results of looking into that?
Jeff: Yeah, again, so the understanding of this and kind of where we're going, is really important that you understand that power, stamina that you have times of the year where you have to develop that going long capacity. You have your threshold that you can push early in the season, pre-season off-season and-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: Like a few months after an Ironman, you gotta focus on stamina, you gotta focus on going long.
Jeff: Correct, you gotta go long. You’re going long and so much of your ability to absorb training and improve fitness is going longer, which is at the expense of something else.
Andrew: So, when you're farther out, you can in the off-season, you can focus on power.
Jeff: And so we're breaking that up. So, that's the key this year. So, in that 2011-12 study where there's these big improvements, but then well, how does that relate? Does that mean I'm going to race faster in four months? Five months? So, that was kind of the focus here. We do a whole lot of little studies, but this kind of an highlighted one from this year. And I call it subset seven, it’s about-- This one was 89 athletes that only did 70.3 races. So, they didn't do another running, they didn't do a sprint. So, it was just pure period of time where they started, they did assessments, they trained, and then they did a race, that I think the average was about 168 days, 168 days 24, weeks--
Andrew: Getting ready for that 70.3?
Jeff: Correct. And the ages were 18 to 76, average was 44, 63% male, 37 female. So, we had what-- and this was the first like I mentioned earlier, the baseline groups. So, we have a group of people who gave us their assessments, they tell us what races they're doing, and they didn't ever start. So, we have this did not start--
Andrew: They never started training with TriDot? So, that's the baseline group you're comparing TriDot training-- [crosstalk]
Jeff: That’s one, so that's baseline group one, did not start. Baseline group two is the ones that come in the off-season, that training period was about 58 days on average. So, that's the two months, all right. And then we have another group, that-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: And then they stop after two months?
Jeff: And then they stop. They go do their own thing. And then you have another group that was not part of Free for Feedback. And they just come spring three months out, “Hey, I'm gonna start training for this race,” and they started using TriDot. So, they started and that's what most people were doing, still do, at the time about three-four months out, they start getting serious about the training.
Andrew: And so you have big enough sample sizes in each of those groups to start comparing how are they progressing in their training based on how much they're doing.
Jeff: Correct. And then we had the other group that started during the off-season and the Free for Feedback, and then they kept doing it all the way up to their race. So, now we have people that-- we have assessments and race results for people who didn't start, those who only did the two months free, those that skip the two months free, only train during the in-season, and then the fourth group, the ones that did it all. So, it was pretty good and that was for 70-- Actually, the Ironman Group, we didn't have anyone that stopped using TriDot. So, that was great. They started doing in-season at three and they go, okay. So, that was pretty cool. But for the 70.3 group, everything's pretty proportional. I mean, the improvements and so they translate very well. So, the baseline group, we learned that the off-season training was more impactful on race results than in-season training.
Andrew: We’re summing in so many athletes like they just kind of you know, they're a little-- they train in the off-season, they-- probably a little inconsistent, they think they're resting up and they really think that when they get three, four months out from race day, those are the key sessions and so you're telling me that-- [crosstalk]
Jeff: And they're not, they've already created their ceiling. So, now they're just getting to do their stamina, their 70% or whatever percent.
Andrew: So, off-season training helps you raise the ceiling.
John: That's really a misunderstanding of that power stamina paradox, that’s what that really comes down to.
Jeff: That’s exactly right. So, the numbers, so that off-season period was 58 days, those athletes improve their race results an average of 18 minutes and 39 seconds.
Andrew: Over a half Ironman?
Jeff: Over half Ironman. Those that did the in-season only, that period is 75 days. So, it's-- what is that 25% more time, is a longer period is only 18 minutes.
Andrew: Yeah, it’s very marginal.
Jeff: So, the ones that did the free two hours and then did their own thing--
Andrew: The free two months?
Jeff: Yes, the free two months and then did their own thing improved more than those that did more time leading up to their race, but did their own thing in the off-season. But if you put them both together, and the group that did both, they improved 34 minutes, so it’s almost twice as effective. So, it's not like they got there's so much gains and you're either going to get it early, you're going to get it late, it was a cumulative effect. So, they improved their power for that first period of time is efficiently optimized possible, and then they build stamina, maintaining that threshold.
Andrew: And so when people see the claims time gains that TriDot training can give you I mean, it's from studies like this where it’s very scientifically put-- laid out. Fans of the scientific method will love this podcast episode, right?
Jeff: Yep. So, that's huge. So, those who use both in-season and the off-season improved 34 minutes and 58 seconds. So, 35 minutes improvement is huge.
Andrew: So, did you guys look at the Ironman distance?
Jeff: For the whole distance. We didn't have any that only did the Free for Feedback that period and quit. But those that started for the whole off-season and the in-season period, they improved an average of an hour and 17 minutes and 36 seconds. And that was more than the DNS group, those that just did assessments but they never finished but they did go race.
Andrew: So, that gets us through where you guys really established the groundwork for using the Pre-Season Project to just learn about triathletes, and how they improve, when we improve, at what rates we can improve in our training. So, now we're getting into kind of the middle of the decade. You've established it in the years 2014, 2015, 2016, year four, five and six of Pre-Season Project. Now, these were kind of transitional years for TriDot. There were some new technologies that were developed, you tried some new things, talk to me about what came out of these middle years?
Jeff: The middle years were pretty cool. There's a lot of growth, so we're you know, institutionalizing a lot of our stuff re-revamping--
Andrew: Because now you've done a lot of learning.
Jeff: A lot of learning. So, we're trying to increase the numbers but not grow at a rate beyond what we can serve. So, I mean, the first year was 2014, I think we pulled on 220 athletes in the month of January, new athletes. So, that was crazy having-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: In one month?
Jeff: Yeah. And now we'll do that in a day, easy. But back then, it was retooling you know, learning how to handle that and not let anybody fall through the cracks. So, we improved on the Free for Feedback again, the questionnaires, the feedback. We instituted new things, we're just again fanatical about the feedbacks, so reading every single one, and really learning on that. That was the 2014 and 15. Just improving upon that, increasing the scale most of the growth, the same webinars, and word of mouth. So, it wasn’t huge growth, but it was good growth. And each time is another iteration. You have an off-season, in-season, we're looking at different groups, different parts of the year. Those that are starting in June and racing and--
Andrew: Just gaining more data points.
Jeff: Yeah, and doing it quicker. So, just the systems in place. 2015-16, I can look back now and it was a promotional pause, basically. It was a strategic time. During that time, late 2014 is when I pulled on some outside investors to really upgrade and enhance our toolset and to get an organization that had done some big optimization engine, custom work for United Airlines and PG&E and some just big-time capability. So, we spent 10 years now working on threshold standardizing normalization, all the stuff, the preliminary work--
Andrew: The training.
Jeff: We have the data, yeah, the athletes have gone through a thousand thousands athletes push through so we're very confident. Now, we can build a thing and know that it's going to work and know where we need to put the hooks to turn the levers of volume, frequency, and duration and intensity, all those things how to make that granular decision making and the optimization engine. So, that optimization engine was supposed to take about six months to build. And so we said okay, we'll just pause a little while, let's focus on getting this right. And--
Andrew: And to be clear, when we talk about the optimization engine, that's what drives TriDot training?
Andrew: That's the--
Jeff: The insight optimization.
Andrew: --the technology that is generating what worked out I should do on what days?
Jeff: Correct. Correct. So, that's everything; it’s the data set, it’s the algorithms, it's the normalization, it's all the now today, the PhysiogenomiX, the--
Andrew: And so this is where that was developed?
Jeff: All of that. A lot of it was already developed to that point, but it's putting it in a thing where we're not-- We still have databases, of course, but we're more doing regression analysis and stuff offline. It's not doing machine learning. It's not doing AI. It's not doing-- It was just these big algorithms that produce the plan, and that's where even at that point, the developers were doing that. I've mentioned this on another podcast when a training phase was designed. He said he was just-- he goes, he was Indian, in his accent, he said, “This is just magnificent.” Because I was just curious on how many calculations were happening. And so I just-- I don't know if it's a query I don't know what he did exactly. But he checked the number of simultaneous decision threads, the things that are happening. And he says 11,000 calculations at once going on. And so that had been developed over 10 years. So, we need to put that into something that can learn and adapt as we go, as we grow and being able to not and to do things more real time learning. So, we have different versions of the rule sets, we need to look at all athletes and apply that rule set to athletes of all time. So, we put that pause on in retrospect, it was a lot more costly. We did develop a lot of cool stuff and make it more presentable to athletes, the training stress profile, the bike to run factor. But instead of taking six months, that development effort took more than a year and a half. So, it kind of wiped us there. We had a lot of athletes who weren't spending anything, who weren’t don't doing any promotion. And so we're kind of flatline right there growth-wise. [crosstalk]
Andrew: So, the middle years weren't growing years, they were developing years on giving-- [crosstalk]
Jeff: Correct. We kept doing what we were doing, we kept learning, but the focus was on this, just really enhancing the optimum, it’s the true optimization engine at that point. Before it was data and algorithms and a lot of technology, but not in this whole next generation that we’re in now.
Andrew: Yeah. But that did though is it really lay the groundwork for TriDot to then just surge in its growth in 2017, 2018, 2019, and where we are today. And then here's what I like to think of it because I came on at the end of 2018. And so we're starting to get into the more modern years here. I like to think of it as you were setting the stage for TriDot to really hit its stride just in time for me to join.
Jeff: That's right. It was all preparation for you,
John: It’s the primary objective.
Andrew: Yeah. You knew I was coming. So, let's start talking about 2017, we're getting a lot of the athletes listening in these years will have recognized, “Hey, that's the year I came in.” So, what started happening in the year 2017 once all this was developed?
Jeff: So, one of the biggest changes that we've been thinking about for then is just changing that-- Before it was the off-season project. It was here's off-season project and Free for Feedback is the way you can do it for free in the study of the off-season. And the years back then all of the things we were talking about would have been 2011 off-season, 2012, 13, 14, 15 off-season. Now, we advanced a year and it was now instead of the 2016 off-season, it was the 2017 pre-season, because we were really focused on and develop the technology to carry the pre-season work through to race and showing impact on race from what they did throughout the season, including the pre-season. So, restructured it, renamed it, we change-- a big change was from the rebate feedback model. So, they give their feedback, they pay up front and then get a rebate after, after they pass some stuff in. That was a big, big thing, risk wise. One is we're giving it away up front. So, now it's not them getting the money back, it's 100% free up front. Good things is more people, anyone that skeptical, they're more likely to do that, which is a plus.
Andrew: They just removed the barrier of entry. Yeah.
Jeff: But they didn't have skin in the game. And so there was a drop in some of the people that did anything with it. So, we have more people signing up and coming in. But some of them they don't have to do anything to get their money back, so there's no incentive, no focus. And so we did see that. But all in all, it was great, it’s very beneficial for us to do that. So, we added some of the qualifications, kind of enhance that.
Andrew: So, when you talk about qualifications, and I think it was when I was throwing out all the questions I want to learn in this podcast, what makes an athlete qualify for the Pre-Season Project?
John: So, one of the things is race distance, and the athlete has to be racing an Olympic 70.3 or Ironman in the next season. The reason that all the time is “Well, I'm a sprint athlete, why am I excluded?” And really, it goes back to the purpose of the Pre-Season Project. Pre-Season Project is about evaluating the effectiveness of TriDot training. The reason we all do TriDot triathlon training is so that we can perform on race day. In order to evaluate the effectiveness on race day, we need to have standardized metrics that we can look at. And really, the biggest challenge in evaluating sprint races is we have thousands of athletes from all over the country, but very few of them are racing in the same sprint race. And so we don't have a large enough sample size of athletes racing the same race. And then sprint races are notoriously random in their distance. There is no standardized distance that we could even say, well, this athlete raced in a race in California and this one raced-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: Especially in the swim and the bike. The swim and the bike distances are all over the map, if they're even measured correctly.
John: Exactly. It's a race of a certain distance is basically your sprint. So, there's no way to standardize and normalize that data so that we can draw meaningful conclusions. And again, we have very high standards of the data that we use. Whereas with the Olympic the 70.3 and Ironman distance, those are known quantities. Obviously, there's a certain level, a margin of error on those distances, but that's accounted for. So, now when we have Olympic 70.3 and Ironman distance, we can compare races from anywhere, whether that race be in California or in Florida, we standardized the data and normalize it for things like environment. So, if it's at elevation in a cool temperature in Northern California versus at sea level in the heat in Florida, we can still normalize those results to where we can draw meaningful conclusions from that. And that's just not possible in the sprint race. So, that's pretty common question we get why not sprint? I personally love sprint races. That's kind of where I got my start.
Andrew: Sprint races are a ton of fun.
John: We are absolutely not anti-sprint. But really, there are certain challenges that lie in drawing these meaningful conclusions and meeting these high-quality standards based on the sprint racing.
Jeff: So, that non-standard distance is absolutely, that was the first thing. They're not training stamina, they're only training functional threshold because their normal workouts are longer than the actual race effort. So, there's that whole missing piece of the data where we get to measure and evaluate both. But the other like John said, is that sample size and anyone, a big sprint race might be four or five 600 people. We might have half that number, we've had, I guess, several different Ironman races where we might have three or 400 athletes doing the race. So, when you have that many athletes doing the exact same race on the same day, normalizing and all that doesn't even come into play. You can do within the single race on that exact day. And so that's even better and better, better data. And then when you're comparing for normalization standards, if you can have 250-300 people racing this race, 250-300 there, now you can evaluate that normalization between two different locations and different elevations, temperatures, humidities. And so yeah, that sample size of doing the same race is huge.
A couple of things on the qualifications, the reasons for them. One is you can't have used TriDot on the past certain amount of time and that's obviously so people are already doing this. We want to measure the incremental difference that it makes, not a continued difference over time. So, you're getting people with a big break, they're all coming in fresh and then you've done at least one triathlon before is a requirement. And that is because some people come in, they're learning the sport they don't understand maybe training and there's a lot of beginner gains going from sedentary, you have gains, and that’s people who've never-- they've gone from not active to active. And so we want to get people who are in the sport doing it already and then take them from an even footing there and watch them throughout the next season.
Andrew: That just helps ensure the data is just quality when we're looking at all these-- [crosstalk]
John: And that's also the same for the pros. The pros are going to have very minimal gains in any given time. You know, we're talking about measuring gains over pre-season periods and over race seasons. The professional athletes are at the top of their game, they've already arrived at really close to where-- Their gains are going to be very incremental, very slow. And that's kind of the opposite of the first-timer that's going to have just massive gains by doing something. So, again, it's all about controlling the quality of the data. We love first-timers, we love pros, but in order for this, that's why we keep it to seasoned athletes.
Jeff: Yeah. And so when you look at the stats that I mentioned earlier, and even the ones in this year and 2017, those don't have those beginner gains in them. So, gains we're talking about are from athletes that have been racing, they’re triathletes, they're engaged in the sport.
Andrew: So, we're getting this quality data, we've retooled and rebranded this now as the Pre-Season Project, which is what we know it has today. With all the new technologies that have been rolled out in those developing years, and with the new rebranding; did the objectives change at all of what you were trying to learn from Pre-Season Project?
Jeff: They did in some ways, it was really cool because now we could increase the scale, we could learn faster, the decisions were more granular, we had better and more baseline groups, so we could measure and demonstrate groups. And we still needed a lot of new users to compare against that basically group. So, as we continued to do the program, we had that, we're able to look at these different athletes in different ways. One of the things that we started to do was when athletes came on, ask them if you don't use TriDot, if you're not using TriDot, what are you gonna do? You gonna be coached by, you know, or you’re gonna train yourself, you're gonna buy a coach designed custom plan for you or you’re gonna have a coach design plan and monitor with you? So, we started now we have four buckets not only use TriDot, not use TriDot, when did you use TriDot. But when you didn't use TriDot, were you self coached by a custom plan, or work with the coach ongoing, or you used TriDot to all the way up to your race?
Andrew: So, you establish those four groups, and what were the results that you saw from all the participants in the modern-day Pre-Season Project?
Jeff: Yes. So, it’s the same stats and it’s very uncanny how similar they are from year to year, you know, slightly-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: From that original group of 100 in 2011,
Jeff: 100 to 228, you know, continue to grow. So, this year, I'll - one group of that, and this is again, the 70.3. Those doing only the 70.3 coming in through Pre-Season Project. This year 2017, was 837. Their average training period over the whole time was 16 weeks for 70.3. So, they’re not doing other things, the group that did their training themselves, designed their own plan, they improved an average of three minutes and 16 seconds.
Andrew: So, over four months, somebody that decided to just kind of do their own training by themselves, right. And per three minutes over four months.
Jeff: Correct. Exactly. But in their mind, they're not realizing that because they don't have the benchmarking-- they're not real-- They think I couldn't run-- couldn't do a half at all, and now I can. [crosstalk] So, they went from they have no, they’re not measuring the threshold and stamina and all these things, their stamina-- their threshold probably stayed consistent, didn’t improve that much. And they improve their stamina over a 16 week period, and-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: They may have hit their time goal and they didn't realize that they could have done it so much faster.
Jeff: They have no idea of the potential because they're a sample size of one. But they went from not being in shape, actively training or able to do half or whatever to doing it. So, that was an improvement, they couldn't do you know 13 mile half marathon and 56 miles.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. So, bucket two passed that was people that purchased a custom plan but didn't have a coach?
Jeff: So they now have a quality training, you know, good principles and theories. This is the principles theories--
Andrew: Yeah, on paper, it tells them what to do-- [crosstalk]
Jeff: And so they improved nine minutes and 35 seconds. So, the first one, I can give you some of the rates of comparisons in a second. So, they improved nine minutes and 35 seconds. So, almost what? Three times better than the self-designed.
Andrew: So, pass there bucket number three, is people who have a coach, a coach plan, and they also are paying for the coach to help them with that plan.
Jeff: So, they're making those adjustments along the way. So, that one instead of just the custom plan, 9:35 improvement, they improved 12 minutes and one second. So, more than 12 minutes. So-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: Which that honestly if you're an athlete, you're probably expecting that much--
Jeff: 30% more.
Andrew: You're probably expecting, oh yeah, if I train myself I can improve 12 minutes over a baseline group.
Jeff: So, that's a 30-- So, a custom plan, adding a coach to help them, that shows the level of changes and optimization, I use the term loosely, they're not doing statistical optimization, but a coach working with that plan, they're going to improve 30% more. And that's just these ongoing decision making again, from theory, common practice, experience of a coach that was the average improvement.
Andrew: So, about three minutes for somebody self-coached, about nine and a half minutes for somebody who purchased a plan, but didn't have a coach. And now we're saying 12 minutes for somebody who had a coach help them. And so then we get to TriDot, somebody who stuck with TriDot, how much more did it go up?
Jeff: This is an average, again across a large sample size 28 minutes. So, that's eight and a half times more than someone coaching themselves, 2.9 times more than someone purchasing a custom plan, and 12 minutes or 2.4 times more than the 12 minutes, then a coach working within the whole time to optimize their training. So, that's-- and the stat, there's another stat out there, the injury, they were 2.9 times less likely to get injured, injured to the point that it interrupt their training.
Andrew: This gets into the I mean, TriDot’s-- I don't want to say claim. I mean--
Jeff: Brand promises, they’re promises, here's what you will have.
Andrew: TriDot is promising you're going to-- [better results] you’ll have better results, well there it is, and less time with fewer injuries. And so 2.9 fewer times fewer injuries.
Jeff: And that's where that all the numbers came from, from the stats. We bear them out year to year.
Andrew: So, now we're starting to get like super caught up to the present day. And we're in just the final years here. And the year I came in as an athlete, talk to me about the changes to the Pre-Season Projects in 2018.
Jeff: So, the structure didn't change, we’re still the Pre-Season Project, the qualifications were the same, so that was all working really good. The biggest things here it was again, it was the feedback. So, you notice like from year to year, it's like a very data-centric testing new things, doing different things. You know, just the off-season, off-season to the in-season, now different groups of how they train. So, that's changing kind of not exactly every other year, but kind of. And then in the other years, we're looking at feedback, education at just different aspects of how-- now that we have this, how do we re-educate or educate athletes for the first time and get them engaged in their training. So, that was a big focus of optimization, the education, and then building community. And that was really what John was instrumental in the education community side of things.
John: So, this is where we really began to expand our social network, communications, and community. What started off as just a small support group for Pre-Season Project athletes has now grown into a community of thousands of athletes that is well beyond Pre-Season Project, where they started as Pre-Season Project participants and really, it was the intent to have the opportunity to ask questions and share experience, that sort of thing now has really grown into a very valuable portion of the TriDot community. It's kind of the Monday through Friday extrapolation of I Am TriDot. Whereas on the weekend we're out on the racecourse, Monday through Friday we're communicating and engaging and having community through the Facebook group. [crosstalk] So, actually the I Am TriDot Facebook group that now has thousands of members and hundreds of posts a day and it's a great place to connect and ask, and do all those things that we do, actually started off as a group of Pre-Season Project athletes, there just to ask questions and be able to communicate with TriDot, ask questions, that sort of thing. So, that's been really exciting to see where initially our focus was all around, training in software and technology. Once those things were kind of scaled, we were able to branch out and now provide, in addition to excellent training now, we have excellent community as well. And it's probably a toss-up as to what people really appreciate more. Do they love the training? Do they love the community? And I would argue both.
Jeff: Yeah, I think that's just another chance to underscore. I've been talking stats and numbers and groups, but those are real people.
Andrew: Real athletes.
Jeff: Yeah. And so we're kind of summarizing milestones going over a decade of stuff. But every single one of these has been athletes engaging in their training in the off-season and listening and caring and doing something different, and learning about something, going with a Free for Feedback and taking the time to fill out things and give us specific feedbacks of how we can improve. And what John's talking about now, and asking for the non-coached option; all of these things have instrumentally not only changed our algorithms, but our infrastructure, the way we educate, the way this community, that can't-- We didn't say “Hey, let's create a community.” The community created the community. We said let's help them and then they started engaging, answering each other's questions encouraging each other, just trusting here's what happened to me. Here's what my success, just trust the process believe these slogans are not our slogans, they came from the athletes. The pricing structure came from the athletes, the non-coach option, the data. TriDot, this one of the things that I've set out from the very beginning in 2005 when I was looking at the research and saw these expert coaches and pros and all of these different people that had books and videos and all this stuff, and they were conflicting. So, that's one of the things back in 2005 that I noticed is you have experts and coaches and they'd written books and they were kind of really dedicated, had to live by what they wrote, what their name was on the line, the reputation and they were all conflicting. And I said I want to build something that's not constrained or conflicted to the way I see things--
Andrew: If we learn something and it's different we can implement.
Jeff: Yeah, if an athlete comes in and says one thing and four more people say yeah, let's... then we're going that direction. If their data comes in, you know, what works is what the data says works. Not what I wrote a book about or someone else wrote a book about or hey, this is my mentor. It's not about any of that. It's the data-- it goes, where the data goes, algorithms go where the data goes, community goes where the athletes go. So, when they-- So, that what you see and what the athletes benefit from today is those 2013, 14, 15, 17 Pre-Season Project athletes, Free for Feedback athletes that are online sharing and encouraging and lifting them up is just, it's awesome. I get more passionate about that than I do the data.
John: And that's saying something because he gets excited about data.
Andrew: He really gets excited about that.
John: And that ties back into the I Am TriDot story, in the I Am TriDot mantra of TriDot is based on actual data from real people. And these individuals are the building blocks of TriDot. If it weren't for these actual people doing actual training, [actual results] then we would be no different than anyone else.
Andrew: We would be guessing at what could improve at athlete
Jeff: ...theory, philosophy.
John: Exactly. So, that is perhaps more than anything what sets TriDot apart is that it is based on real people, real athletes. I am TriDot, we are TriDot, that's what it is. TriDot is nothing without athlete data.
Andrew: And that's something that we're excited about, and this is getting a little ahead to this year, but for 2020 Pre-Season Project for the first time is now going out into Europe. And so if you're listening to us or you're a triathlete in Europe and you found the podcast and hey, go catch the Pre-Season Project and be one of our first batch of European athletes that start growing TriDot training and contributing to this movement contributing to this data set that improves us all from Europe.
Jeff: Absolutely. We have probably-- we've had athletes from about 20 different countries and it's just spilled over, word of mouth or they just found us, I don't know how. And we've had hundreds in different countries but we've never marketed there, we’ve never publicized there. So, it's been super exciting, very well received. Cindy, all of our coaches running the orientation calls and different coaches, it's just been great feedback.
Andrew: Yeah, we have the Pre-Season Project Europe Facebook group that's gone up. I see every single day dozens of athletes joining and super excited to see the data and the personalities and the athletes that come out of Europe. I know for me, it's going to be a problem John, seeing all of them post about what races they're doing. It’s just gonna make me jealous. I'm gonna want to fly over and people are already like, “Oh, I'm doing I Am Barcelona,” and I'm doing this half and that half and it's all like, “Oh, those places sounds so much cooler than Texas.” So, without getting too far ahead, that was a little aside, let's talk about 2019 because 2019 did bring some new developments to the Pre-Season Project. Tell me about that year, Jeff?
Jeff: Well, that was really facing, we've always been from the core, from the insight optimization engine out, that course first, and then we improve everything out where there's education, this year. The 2019 was more about the new website, the progressive web app where you can download on your app, and a more intuitive onboarding process, that guided the athletes better, fewer questions more. And that led to more engagement. They got it, they understood. So, that was a big that was about a year effort to go back and do the studies and focus groups and kind of figure that out, a lot of thanks to a lot of our beta testers on that. And then just improving the results continued to improve adding some different things, a big thing was really taking a lot of steps forward with our machine learning. And then going into 2020, if I can jump ahead a little bit, and the work actually started as a genetics work. And that actually started the research back in 2014. So, a lot of things that, well everything that we see on the website, it didn't just get hatched there. There's years of pre-work that came to lead up to that point to introduce it. So, that started in 2016. And then we had some beta testers go through, earlier beta athletes, not so much testers, but just using the software. And so I'm super excited, that's a 2020 thing being able to based on athletes actual genetics, optimize your training and then you know as we've done take those results and build on them and further improve and optimize as the years go on. So, again, athletes participating in that upload their genome and track and look and learn and improving more staying healthier.
Andrew: And if you want to hear more about that, go check out?
Andrew: I was gonna say Podcast Episode 7 where we talked all about it, but yeah, the website’s good too.
Jeff: Yeah, the podcast-- What was it harnessing your DNA?
Andrew: Harnessing your DNA to unleash your?
Jeff: Training potential.
Andrew: Yes, your training potential. Yeah, very good. Very good. Guys, we take our podcast naming very seriously here. We want to man those names. Yeah. So, that really gets us where we are today. So, all the athletes listening who have come on over the years of Pre-Season Project, they probably got to hear oh, that was the year I came on. Just knowing that TriDot listens to athletes, takes their feedback to heart, wants to just put out the best product possible. It's something that we're also bleeding over into the podcast. Because I gotta tell you, we get athlete feedback, we want to push up questions and topics that people care about, and feedback that I've been getting that I want to just-- while we're talking about athlete feedback, I've gotten some notes, I've gotten a Facebook message or two where people are like “Andrew, love the podcast, you're doing a great job. I'm learning a ton.” For the love, can you stop saying tri-athalon? It's two syllables, triathlon. And what's so funny about this is like you hear the little intro at the start of the show that just kind of talks about us as a brand. Like we made sure that voiceover artists knew to say triathlon and not tri-athalon. Because in his first draft, he said tri-athalon. And I was oh, that's not right. Then viewers started saying, “Hey, Andrew, you're saying triathlon.” I was like, “Oh, no, am I?” So, hey, apologies to all the listeners. If that's been driving you nuts, I'm doing my best. I'm trying to fix it. I'm listening to the feedback of the people. I will say this. We have recorded a bunch of episodes that have not been published yet before I started getting this feedback. So, from time to time, you're still going to hear it.
Jeff: So, be merciful.
Andrew: But I'm working on it. John, Jeff, Elizabeth and Jeff Raines are keeping me accountable. There's been once or twice where Jeff Raines has been like, “Hey, you just said tri-athalon, you need to re-record that. I’m like, “Oh, my gosh.” So, thanks so much for your feedback. If you have any topics, comments, things you want to hear us talk about on the podcast, shoot me an email Podcast@TriDot.com and huge shout out to all of our Pre-Season Project athletes over the years for contributing their data.
Jeff: Yeah, thank you. It’s a privilege.
Andrew: And we're gonna keep it going.
Great set everyone. Let's cool down.
Andrew: If you are a longtime TriDot podcast listener, you have heard Pro Triathlete and TriDot Coach, Elizabeth James share a ton of her Tri tips and expertise. But today I've asked her to come on and share a little bit of her experience with entering into the TriDot community through the Pre-Season Project. Elizabeth, take it away.
Elizabeth: Well, I really appreciate this opportunity. Thank you so much, Andrew. And what I'm going to share now is certainly not to be boastful but instead to try and demonstrate the value of TriDot’s training and just how much I would have been missing had I never heard of TriDot’s Preseason Project. In late 2014. I signed up for TriDot through Free for Feedback, which was an earlier iteration of Pre-Season product after registering for my first full Ironman event. At that time, I had completed some triathlons including a 70.3 distance event, but would very much still be considered a beginner. I had just purchased a road bike and was swimming all of my triathlon events using the breaststroke for the swim portions because I didn't know how to freestyle. And I knew that after signing up for Ironman Wisconsin as my first full distance event that I was going to need some support, some structures, some guidance to really reach the finish line and actually achieved my goal of becoming an Ironman.
One of the first things that I noticed coming on board with Pre-Season Project and really appreciated about the training with TriDot is that it met the needs that I had as a stronger runner, a newer cyclist, and then basically a non-swimmer. Even after just a few months, I was really impressed with the progress that I was making in each discipline. And since the training was personalized to my current level of fitness and experience in each discipline, I found that I was training less than I previously had been, and yet at the same time was making better gains. This was especially important to me because I was working full time and attending evening classes to earn my master's degree. So, that time element was incredibly valuable. I continued to train following my training plan throughout 2015 and then that September at Ironman Wisconsin had finished in about 13 and a half hours, placed 22nd in my age group. I accomplished exactly what I set out to do that day, become an Ironman. And after crossing that finish line then the question soon became, “What's next?” In fact, I distinctly remember John asking me that exact question and encouraging me to set a new goal for myself. And I had told him that I had secretly dreamed of someday racing in Kona. And as we discussed my performance in Wisconsin and my long term goals within the sport, my sights were really set on that Kona qualification.
So, over the next, I'd say a year and a half, I diligently followed TriDot training and gain speed and strength in each discipline. In April 2017, I raced Ironman Texas and dropped almost three hours off my previous Ironman finish time. That was a huge win for me, but coming in third place in my age group, I had missed Kona by one slot. So, while it was temporarily disappointing, it also provided me that motivation to know that I was close and I was capable of reaching that goal. So, in September 2017, I raced Ironman Chattanooga, won my age group and punched my ticket to Kona. 2018 was kind of focused on my Kona performance and after a fantastic, albeit humbling experience in Hawaii, I was eager to seek another world qualification and set my sights on winning my age group in a 70.3 event for 2019. So, accomplished that goal in October 2019 at Waco 70.3. And, somewhat ironically, I won't be competing in New Zealand at the end of 2020 as I journey into competing as a professional.
So, really you know, whether you got your sights on racing on the Big Island someday or you're looking to do your first triathlon, PR your next event, tackle a new distance, I could not encourage you more to look into TriDot. I'm proud to say that while training with TriDot I've achieved athletic accomplishments that I truly thought were not possible for myself. And now I have the joy of sharing this with others. I'm so thankful for the Pre-Season Project as it was my introduction to TriDot, and really my future in the sport.
Andrew: Well that's it for today folks. I want to thank TriDot Founder, Jeff Brewer and Coach John Mayfield for taking a long walk down memory lane to teach us all about the Pre-Season Project. Also, a big thanks to coach Elizabeth James for sharing her personal story of becoming a part of TriDot through the Pre-Season Project. Shout out to TRITATS for partnering with us on today's show. Head to TRITATS.com to get the tats you need to show up race-ready for your next event. Enjoying the podcast? Have any triathlon questions or topics you want to hear us talk about? Email us at Podcast@TriDot.com, or head to TriDot.com/Podcasts to let us know what you're thinking. We'll do it again soon. Until then, happy training.
Thanks for joining us. Make sure to subscribe and share the TriDot Podcast with your triathlon crew. For more great tri content and community, connect with us on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Ready to optimize your training? Head to TriDot.com and start your free trial today. TriDot, the obvious and automatic choice for triathlon training.