a journal - cycling, sociology, social media

Sunday, 18 October 2020

The tri trilogy - Episode 2: Training

A couple of things about this post before you start reading: It's Episode 2 of 3 of the story of a top level cyclists switching to triathlon and racing over the 70.3 distance in the space of just 3 months. So if you missed the first one you might want to hit this link The Outlaw before carrying on, also this post is a bit longer than normal, that's because there is a lot of  detail included, so take your time or read it twice or both.  

 Jack Rees getting really aero with help from Wattshop and the IPhone skills of Hannah Farran, you can see an action shot of Han taking this picture if you make to the end.

The idea for the post came out of a number of conversations over coffee at The Devenport, Middleton One Row during the last few weeks at the which the main topic, apart from Covid of course has been triathlon training. So to keep the cafe theme going I came up with the brilliant idea of using pictures on the blog that were taken either at the cafe (above) or on the way back from the cafe, although the real reason is that I just didn't have any suitable swim or run pictures to use. 

Be aware that this is not intended as a training plan or an approach suitable for everyone, that's because most people don't have the volume and consistency of training that Jack has accumulated over a long period, hit this link to see what one of his typical weeks looks like 7 Days training. For at least the last ten years his training on the bike has been between 550 and 700 hours a year which would include around 75 race days on average, so he starts his triathlon training already an extremely well conditioned endurance athlete. So over to Jack to fill you in on the details.

Following on from the last episode where I explained a bit of the background leading up to my first triathlon, here I touch on some of the ideas, sessions and structure, that I used to prepare for the race. In June when I started to think about incorporating swimming and running in to my schedule, I had completed around 400hrs of training in the first half of 2020 but it had all been done on the bike. JR

Leisurely Monday morning cafe rides became a thing of the past as things started to get serious. Jack's TT rig and my aero 'Cafe bike' with Scribe 60D wheels parked at the The Devenport 

Swim - Phase 1: Although I swam competitively for two years in my early teens, since then, apart from holidays, I haven't swum at all and I have never done any structured run training. During the first three weeks I was training to train, I just focused on getting a feel for the water, building up the length of the sessions from 800m up to around 2000m. I had some shoulder fatigue during the first phase but it only took three or four sessions before I started to feel OK in the water again. As a cyclist my upper body is not particularly strong so I did a lot of work with paddles to get the most from my fairly low swim volume and build specific swim strength. Drills were also important, and I paid a lot of attention to swimming with good technique, single arm drills, breathing to both sides, working with a pull buoy to isolate the arms and a kick board to isolate and improve the kick. JR

Swim - Phase 2: In terms of swim development things progressed quite quickly. I used CSS (critical swim speed) to track my progress, basically my time for 100m. At the start of phase 2  I was around 1min 45sec CSS and by the last week pre-race that time had gone down down to around 1.33. I swam three times a week, focussing on speed, strength and endurance, swimming between 5000m and 6000m which is very low swim volume compared to serious 70.3 athletes. JR

This swim session was 400m warm up, 40 x 25m off 45sec, 600m warm down

Future: Through October and November which I am defining as the transition phase (Periodisation) I will continue to swim around 6,000 mtrs a week over six sessions before building to 10-15,000 mtrs over four sessions from the end of November. If you read the first episode of this trilogy you may remember that my lack of open water practice and cold water acclimatisation was a major failing in my build up and resulted in a sub par swim on race day, this is a key issue that I will definitely be addressing in the spring. JR

Talking triathlon over alfresco coffees at the The Devenport Jack, yours truly and @hannah_farran  rider and Team Manager at elite women's cycling team Boompods ... and former GB triathlete.

Bike - Phase 1: For me the approach to triathlon bike training can obviously be slightly different than for most people. My plan was to reduce my weekly volume from 14-16 hours a week to around 10 hours a week once I began incorporating running and swimming in to my programme, to allow time for the other two disciplines but also for more recovery time. One change I did make right away was to ride the TT for 75% of the overall bike training time. 

During the first phase of my new bike regime I underwent some aero testing with Wattshop to optimise my position and reduce my CdA to get more aero. CdA is the coefficient of drag multiplied by frontal area and is a representation of how aerodynamically efficient the rider is, simply put the lower the CdA the more aero you are and the faster you will go for a given power output. Following some positional changes my result was a CdA of 0.192 which represented a significant improvement. To put this number in to context an average road cycling position would be around 0.4. JR


As I mentioned earlier a lot of this post is based on conversations in the cafe which Jack rode to on his TT bike. Inevitably these chats reminded me of my own approach to triathlon bike training back in the day. One of the fundamental and most obvious mistakes I made was to not ride my triathlon race bike enough, nowhere near enough. 

    Two of my tri bikes from back then looking good, probably because they didn't get much use. 

When I thought about it I didn't ride them at all in the winter and only once a week or so in the summer. I had several decent triathlon bikes over the years but I never really felt great riding any of them and probably didn't run that well off them either, especially at Ironman ... hindsight - a wonderful thing.

Fortunately for me half way back from the cafe we have to cross a busy dual carriage way, which gives me a chance to catch up, get my breath back and snap a picture for Instagram. 

Bike - Phase 2: Once the other disciplines were embedded I focused specifically on training for the demands of the event. This involved spending a lot of my training time right at my aerobic threshold, the intensity I intended to ride the bike section of the race at, this roughly translated as 150-155bpm, 250-258w. Alongside that I completed a weekly session focused on short intervals above lactic thrshold/LT2. I continued to spend 75% of the weeks training on the time trial bike. The only times that I didn’t ride theTT bike were for the sessions that required efforts above LT2 as the nature of the position on the time trial bike can be a barrier to producing power at the higher zones. 

(above) Aerobic threshold/LT1 development cycling session. 3 x 30 minutes at LT1 during a 2hour 20minute ride. JR
For those readers who like me prefer imperial, that's 56 miles at an average speed of 24.4 mph - solo ! 

Future: My main cycling objective is to improve power and function at my aerobic threshold, whilst maintaining my cycling strength and at the same time maintain my training volume and intensity distribution to compliment the other disciplines. As well as racing triathlons I also want to remain competitive at a national level within cycling, which I have had to factor into my approach. My plan is to balance a season of 70.3 races with 15-25 bike races, which hopefully with careful planning should be achievable. JR

Above Jack's bike at the cafe and even on the easy days it's still all about getting as aero as possible. Apart from the very obvious there are some details in this picture that you might not notice at first glance, like the aero nutrition box on the top tube, the aero brake calipers, the aero cover on the valve stem and aero skewers, details are important in the aero game that's for sure. I featured aerodynamics on the blog a couple of times back in 2017 (although things have moved on significantly since then) so if you are interested in reading a bit more here is a link to an interview I did with the man behind Wattshop 'Mr Aero' himself Dan Bigham and also here a post On getting aero based on a day of testing at Derby velodrome.

Run Phase 1: As well as the mistake of not doing enough open water swimming my other major mistake was in my initial run training. Fairly predictably my enthusiasm to get stuck in prevailed over patience and I increased the load and intensity far too quickly (30km, WK 2).This led to an injury that forced me to take a two week break from running in July. On reflection one thing that I did well in this period (pre-injury) was to include short runs directly off the bike to embed this from the start. JR

Above a run workout from Phase 1 – too fast and too far for my ability at the time. The average heart rate for this run was 168bpm, After two months of consistent run training I could run this distance at this pace at around 150bpm. JR

Run progress - slower speed but controlled HR 151bpm average. JR

A Phase 2 brick run combined with a key bike session that was ridden above Aerobic threshold/LT1 intensity.JR 
Run Phase 2: After recovering from injury I built volume and intensity gradually. Starting at 50 minutes per week over three sessions, and increasing that by 10% each week. I scheduled the run workouts into the weekly plan with a minimum of one day between workouts and spent 80% of the overall run duration under my LT1/aerobic threshold, regardless of pace. Over the five weeks of structured work my running developed well, peaking at a maximum of 34km per week.  
Future: Running consistently all winter is going to be really important, following the transition period I intend to build  up to consistent weeks of 50-60km. I want to be able to run fast, whilst working to build running economy and develop a solid aerobic run foundation. JR

On the way home from the cafe and another opportunity for me to catch up as Hannah takes the 'position analysis' picture that's at the top of the post.

Thanks for sticking with it and reading to the end, in the the final episode coming in a couple of weeks Jack takes a detailed look at some 'big ticket items' the crucial things that make the difference, the stuff that any cyclist or multi-sport athlete who wants to optimise their performance really should be thinking about.



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