Jana's Rev3 Race report - coach perspective - part 1

Last June 5, 2001 took place the Half Ironman distance race Rev3 Quassy; one of the fastest growing racing series and Revolution 3 is quickly earning a spot among the top triathlon production companies in the country. (good news for us triathletes!). The event also offers an Olympic distance race the day before and both take place at the Quassy amusement park in Middlebury CT which makes it an ideal venue for families as well as earning a reputation of one of the toughest races in the Northeast with a hilly bike AND run course.

Many E3 athletes participated either at the Olympic and Half Ironman distance and all enjoyed very much the event, the challenge and they achieved great results with podiums and personal records. Given Jana Richtrova (aka the Czech Chick) was the athlete I've been working with the longest and the one I have more data compiled, I decided to do a simple race report from a coach's perspective.

I hope this help you illustrate some of the preparation considered for each of our athletes, present you some of the many features our programs include and teach some of the things each of you should consider for your next race.

Let's start with a quick training summary: I've been working with Jana for a little less than a year now, last year she had a solid racing season with podiums and PRs at the Olympic and Half Ironman distance ending with her trip to the 70.3 World Championship in Clearwater, FL. The focus last year was to improve her fitness as much as possible while already in the middle of the racing season. This made challenging to address her weaknesses (her swim primarily, run secondarily) which forced us to focus on her strengths (cycling).

For this year, the focus changed to address her weaknesses while consolidating her strengths in the early part and later focusing on race specific fitness. Is no secret that her swim speed has been her Achilles heel ever since we began working together and we have taking a long term approach to improve it. We have seeing speed gains already but now we have to make those a reality in race conditions (open water). Rev3 posed a challenge as due to the nature of the weather in New England early in the year, Jana didn't have much opportunity to do open water swims and it showed in the race (more on this later).

Nevertheless Jana's Critical Swim Speed (CSS = the maximal speed she could sustain for roughly 3000 mts swim) has improved from 1:58 min/100 yds to 1:40 min/100 yds in 8 months. I actually think her CSS is faster but we'll confirm that in a coming test soon. Even though the Rev3 swim time didn't showed any improvements, I am certain was due to lack of open water swim practice and skills and for RI 70.3 things will be better. Still, it is important that her CSS is improving and you'll see why below when talking about critical power and critical velocity, not to mention the other benefits it might have provided, even when the swim time didn't reflected it.

In terms of cycling, her fitness which was good to solid to begin with has really improved at a very satisfying rate and has set her apart from her competition. Over the past 6 months post 'off-season', Jana's Critical Power ( CP = the maximal power she could sustain for roughly 1 hr) increased over 12% to roughly 240watts, all while riding less than 2/3 of what she rode the previous year.

I mentioned this to illustrate a point (and to poke a bit of fun to the base training crowd). Training gains are a function of training load which equals to volume plus intensity. To only focus on volume is to only address half of the training load equation. In addition, each athlete has particular needs and limitations, for the majority of the athletes I coach with other life priorities (work, family, social, etc.) the biggest limitation is time available for training/recovery.

I wish all my athletes had the luxury of having 20+ hours for training every week and still be able to be productive on other phases of their lives. But that is usually the exception, hence peak training weeks happen sporadically through a periodirized season plan. In Jana's case, time availability is a limitation, that plus her need to focus extra time on her swim and run fitness limited her time available for bike training.

Since I made her a convert to training with power when we began working together, it allowed me to have a lot of data from 2010 and helped us to manage her load more efficiently. Since riding hours and mind numbing miles at steady pace (base training) was not an option, we focused on endurance, race specificity AND intensity, all mixed together week after week. This allowed her to maximize her time and fitness gains with almost half of the total volume she did a year before.

Jana's power distribution Jan-May 2011
AR = active recovery, E = endurance, TE = tempo,
TH = threshold, VM = VO2 max, AC = anaerobic capacity
For comparison, from Jan to May 2010, Jana rode ~1900 miles mostly as 'base training' before we worked together. For the same time frame on 2011 she rode ~1250 miles, mostly with a variety of intensities though with emphasis on her CP. Also most of her riding was on the trainer on 2011 vs 2010 due to time limitations.

Still, I wish I would have data from her intensity from 2010 because I can guarantee her intensity (completing the training load) was a lot higher in 2011.

For reference, on the chart above you can see how out of all the miles Jana has rode on 2011, most of her time has been spent on Tempo pace (80-90% of CP) which is race specific for a half iron distance and she spent almost as much training at her threshold and VO2 max than at her endurance ('base building') -- check her 2010 data here -- and 2011 data here --

This methodical approach yield Jana great critical power improvement, it allowed her to increase her power to weight ratio to 4.11 w/kg, which means for every kilogram of body weight she can produce ~4.1 watts. This is up there with some of the strong cyclists in triathlon races including male athletes!

But how is it possible that Jana improved her critical power without doing much "base training"? Better yet, how is possible that Jana increased her CP and endurance at the same time? It is simple, it was because she is a great athlete, she works very hard and because together we formulated a plan addressing her own needs. There was no trying to fit her into a one-size fits all plan, there was not forcing her to match my coaching beliefs and certainly there was no forcing her to mold into any kind of 'system'.

That and of course understanding why improving one's critical power should be a focus for any endurance athlete. To illustrate this see the graph on the left. It shows how her CP increased to around 240w on 2011 (from ~210w on 2010).

Considering most athletes will race a half iron distance between 80-85% of their CP, it is easy to see why Jana's mixed training allowed her to go faster with seemingly less volume (which is not to say less training load). In other words, riding at the same intensity (80% of her CP) for a half iron distance allowed her to race around 20 watts higher than last year simply by having a higher CP and doing the adequate training!

In terms of running, while Jana's running is solid vs some of her competitors, in terms of her goals (winning races overall) it is a 'weakness'. Hence, we have been proactively addressing and making it also a priority within the context of the entire program. 6 months ago Jana's Critical Velocity (CV =  the maximal velocity she could sustain for roughly a 10 Km) was around 7:02 min/mile and just before Rev3, her CV improved around 6:40s. Same as CP, CV is one of the most important markers for endurance athletes; if you improve it, you will be able to race faster at the same sub-maximal effort level. That is, if last year she was able to race around 90% of her CV for a half iron (~7:35 min/mile), this year, on a flattish course, she should be able to do around ~7:15s min/mile. (I guess will find out at RI 70.3!).

That said, her training progression has been different given her specific needs. Prior we started working together, Jana was battling some hip/leg injuries hence all last year the goal was to address this minor injuries and then get her fit without placing too much strain risking re-injuring it and managing the ongoing racing season. Earlier this year, the goal was to set up a foundation to allow her to increase the training load via volume and frequency with some specific intensity. At the same time we focus on a strengthening program to make sure no other imbalances will result in overuse injuries as the load increased.

This has allowed her to increased her CV without injury set backs (knock on wood), and now, we can focus on maximizing her CV which will be the focus for the coming months.

Now, that I set up the stage about Jana's training program and fitness progression, on part 2 I'll dig into her racing plan, compared it to her execution (sharing power/pace data) and will share her fueling plan before, during and after the race. Stay tuned...

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