Coaching Nuggets!

In case you missed last nights informal Q&A with the club coaches, here’s a quick roundup from Brendan of the key discussion points.

Generic Theme: Data & technology as part of training for & racing triathlon

Coaches Contributing: Trevor Mahoney, Brendan O’Neill, Noel O’Regan

Tri Leaders Contributing: Kevin Curran

Topic 1: Chest strap HRM vs Garmin Wrist HRM

Consensus all round was that the chest HRM monitor was far superior to the HR that is given by the Garmin wrist monitor.

A couple of additional notes in relation to HR:

Heart rate lags behind the effort compared to a power meter.  When producing an “effort” on the bike the power meter will give the power as it is being produced.  If using a HRM it will take a while for the HR to get to the maximum for that particular effort.  This can be a bit confusing if doing intervals on the turbo using a HRM

There was a supplementary question on the value of getting a power meter for a road bike being used in training for a 70.3.  General opinion was that a power meter was a very useful training tool.  There was a warning about setting the sampling interval of the PM readout.  If the interval is set too short (for example 1s) the readout can be jumpy or unstable, it is better to set the sample interval at something like 5s where you get a smoother more averaged readout.

Topic 2: Use of data such as power output for training and racing

General opinion was that data such as power output on the bike was a very useful training aid.  There was mixed opinion on the use of such data for racing.  Summary would seem to be that RPE, Rate of Perceived Effort, was better for shorter races, sprint and Olympic but it was very useful as a guide for the longer races such as 70.3 but particularly for full Ironman.  Noel felt for the longer races is easy to put too much effort into the bike and have nothing left for the run.  If people are familiar with and know their FTP, Functional Power Threshold, they can plan to do the bike section at a certain percentage of FTP and the power meter will enable them to hold to that plan.

There were also warnings about how conditions such as weather, course difficulty etc., can affect the power output on a given day and to make allowances for that. 

Topic 3: Using the data

Very good comment from Trevor about actually looking for progress.  Don’t just accumulate data look for progress across a training period.  No matter what data you choose to gather look for improvements, it could be power FTP on the bike for turbo session, times for a route that you are running, times across a run or swim interval session.  Don’t just gather the data, look at it or plot it against time and look for improvements.

Topic 4: What data to gather?

Some key metrics

There are huge numbers of other metrics that can be gathered and are accumulated by default if using some of the modern technology training aids, Garmin, Polar, FitBit, Apple etc.

Topic 5: Importance of RPM (cadence) in cycling training racing

A lot of (pure) cycling training information would recommend a high cadence cycling technique (90-100 RPM).  General opinion from the coaches and particularly from Kevin, probably with most cycling experience, was that the best cadence was whatever someone felt most comfortable with.  There was a general feeling that most triathletes operated in the 70-90 RPM zone.

One warning from Trevor was about very low cadence 40-50 RPM, that this is a very specific type of training for the bike not a cadence that should be used for general training or racing.  It is like weight training on the bike.  It would be a common training technique to do very specific low cadence hill climbs as part of a bike programme.

Topic 6: Mental preparation for a race and race visualisation

Question from John O’Connell with a good deal of comment and discussion.  Brendan commented that it was important to take time out from the buzz and the greetings that happen in transition setup on race day.  Not to avoid this as it is an important part of the social side of triathlon but to take a little time away from the buzz and go through a pre-race routine.  This can be different for everyone but could include:

  • A well-rehearsed warm-up routine
  • Walk the route from swim exit to bike location
  • Walk the route from bike location to bike out
  • Walk the route from bike in to rack location
  • Walk the route from bike rack to run exit
  • Jog the last km of the run route as part of the warmup
  • When doing the mechanical check of your bike ride the first km of the bike route
  • Ensure your bike is racked and left in the correct gear for the bike start
  • Look at the swim course for hazards, currents and be aware of tidal effects
  • Look for suitable land markers as sighting features for the swim 

Other issues discussed here were decisions on the type of bike to use for hilly courses, if you have a choice, TT or road bike.  Some people felt if the course was very hilly a road bike was more suitable others felt that if at all possible stick to the TT bike because of the gains on the flat sections.

Topic 7: 70.3 Training programme during COVID restrictions

This was on what looked like a relatively well structured training programme for a 70.3, main question was in relation to the missing swim training because of current COVID restrictions and the replacement of the swim with something else.  Because swim is low impact what would be the best replacement.  Trevor said to hold the training hours as per the programme but replace the swim with weights, pilates, body weight exercises, yoga, stretching, etc. Still low impact but maintaining training hours.