A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In-Season Training - Dos and Don'ts

I had an interesting little conversation with someone the other day about training. And it has to do with training during the racing season.

To give you a background, most triathletes will have a multitude of triathlons during the summer months because these are the only months when we can swim comfortably outdoors.

The problem comes when triathletes try to train through the racing season. Most are still trying to either build up their mileage or their speed through this season.

In most cases, it doesn't work.


When I tell people this, the next question is, "But Pete, how am I supposed to gear up for this race at the end of the triathlon season if you're saying I can't be in peak condition for it?"

And I respond, "Well I didn't say that you couldn't be in peak shape, did I?"

And then they look at me like I have 2 heads or something...

Listen, racing is great. I love this season when you have races coming up either this week or next week, and you have another race coming up the week after that. It makes you feel so alive, knowing that the fruits of your training labor are about to be realized.

But races are a major disruption to any training that you do.

Think about it. Every time you go out there and lay it out there 120% on the line and finish these races, you will need at least 3 days or more to recover from it. With long course events like 70.3 triathlons or other races that take 3 or more hours to do? Definitely more than 3 days of recovery. Maybe even more than a week! By the time you're ready to train at 100% again, most of the week has already past. And if you have another race coming the next weekend, well, your training regularity is thrown out the window.

Listen, I know you want to really build up toward your big races. But building volume and speed doesn't happen at this time. It's supposed to happen during the 4 to 5 months BEFORE the season starts. THAT is where your big gains are going to be, not now, during the season.

That is why I emphasize that the Base Phase is THE most important part of your training plan. There are little or no races in the way of your volume build-up and that is where the most gains will be. Your Build Phase, in which speed is incorporated into your training, is the next important. The Build Phase happens after the Base Phase in the 2 months preceding your first race in which speed is incorporated into your training. It finishes your build up and gets you ready for your big race and your racing season.

"So why do I train at all during the racing season". you might ask.

Simply put, the Racing Phase is just there to try to maintain your peak fitness as long as possible. What I find is that if done properly, you can get a good 8-10 weeks of peak racing done during this phase before you start to see evidence of de-training.

And when the de-training happens, you'll need to back off the volume and the speed for a little while before you can start to build back up again. At that point the body is tired. Any hard training is only inviting injury. And you will never see any gains at that point. The body needs a bit of time to recover before you see any gains again.

So before you even start planning your races in 2013, you'll need to keep this 8-10 week window in mind as you plan your "A" races. As you plot your "A" races, you can then set your 8-10 week Window of Opportunity to cover as much of those races as you can. Then you can set your whole training schedule around it so that you can build up at the right time toward that Window. Oh, you can still plan "B" races outside this Window of Opportunity, but you'll need to keep that these are your "B" races and that you're just training through these races without the interruption of a taper or a huge recovery (you don't go "all out" on these races).

As for triathlon season in 2012, don't try to build volume now. The best thing to do is to maintain it by slightly lower your weekly volumes from week to week to give your body time to recover from the burden of the races you inflict on it. And don't even think you're going to improve your peak fitness now. That should have been done during the spring.

Maintenance is the key for in-season training. Once you get it through your head that you cannot build any more fitness during this season, you can properly schedule your training so that you have a great season the rest of the way.

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Our Wednesday Night Trail run is tonight, of course, and I'm baaaaaccckk! Moses Mtn. is the goal for today. Come on down to the Carousel at 7PM at Willowbrook Park.

This Saturday is our run at Wolfes Pond Park. Note the new time and location for this Saturday only...7AM at the Wolfes Pond Park Parking lot. There will be an adventure race at 8AM in the same park (Two If By Land, One If By Sea), so it'll be nice to give Matt and NYARA a nice show of support. See you there!

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