The Mount Festival – Tauranga Half

 

Here we are a handful of days from the Tauranga Half Ironman.  A long standing race steeped in history which has seen some great champions take it on over the years.  There are some really unique features to this course and the climate which make this seemingly flat & fast race a very very tough event, and quite a tricky one for the uninitiated.

Over the past couple of weeks as I have been making the final touches to my athletes programmes, prepping them for this event.  For some it is their ‘A’ race so we really want to minimise the mistakes that can be made, and really focus on controlling the controllable’s, to get them to the finish line within their goals.  We have been talking at length on how to approach certain sections of the course and how to deal with various scenarios which may play out.

I thought I would let you in on a few tips on how to tackle this iconic and fascinating race.  This is just a collection of my thoughts, and not an all encompassing list, so if you have more please add them to the comments section below.

Also if you aren’t racing the Half this year, but this blog gives your that bit of inspiration to do it (or a different one) in the future then here is a link to a 4 month Beginners Half Iron-distance training plan for you to follow.

  • Get to town early – This is a holiday destination, get here with enough time to settle down, sit on the beach, hang out with the family, enjoy this awesome place.  Yesterday I even went to watch a 1-Day Cricket match (International readers may want to google Cricket).  If you have done the training right you can afford to, and should take a few days off training before the race.
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Black Caps vs Sri Lanka….we won
  • Sort your race kit with plenty of time – Don’t be that athlete running around the day before the race looking for a race number belt, gels, spare tubular and elastic laces.  Clean and check your gear a few days before the race so you know you have everything you need.
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Check your gear, make sure it is in good order and you have tried it prior to race day.
  • Parking is a premium in Mount Maunganui – If you are coming to the race venue allow a little bit more time to walk from where you park your car.  This is the case for anything in the lead up to event such as registration, briefing, race morning, prize-giving.
  • Swim on the course at a similar tide to the race – The proximity of the swim course to the harbour mouth and the natural curved shape of Pilot Bay means that there is a significant eddy current right where we are swimming, and this creates some unusual water behaviour at certain points and height of the tide.  This is so important for people new to the race to understand, in fact even as an experienced athlete I can still get it wrong on race day.  I could write a whole blog on features of the Pilot Bay swim course, but the important thing to know is the water can move very quickly in strange directions.  Use the moored boats in the bay as a reference to the direction the water is flowing and make wise decisions if you have to go one side or the other of a boat.  The other thing to be careful of is when you swim across the current a weaker swimmer can very easily be taken off course, and possibly add 100m to their swim leg.  So keep sighting the next buoy and be prepared to make adjustments to the direction you are swimming in.  Keep an eye on swimmers around you, but don’t necessarily follow their lead, the whole group might be taken off course, and you may be going with them.  Often the final leg towards the finish of the swim is straight into the sun, so sighting the buoy can be very difficult, but keep using those around you as a reference to make sure you are still on track.  Remember Pilot Bay is shaped in a curve, so if you keep to the line of the beach you will be swimming in an arc, which also adds distance to your swim, so swim straight to the final buoy, which means you may be heading a bit deeper in the process.
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If you look closely you can see the distinct direction the boats are pointing….needless to say, there was a fast current down towards the Mount, where the turn buoy will be located
  • Transition area is very tight – The location of the Transition area is such that it is very tightly packed, and there is not much room to move.  The organisers do their best to give as much room as they can, but the layout of the available space and the large participant numbers mean it gets very busy.  For this reason I suggest you try to minimise how much gear you have in transition, and only have the essentials for the day.  You won’t be allowed boxes or bags in transition either.  Make sure you are familiar with the exact location of your spot so when you are rushing in after the swim or the bike you don’t get lost.  The racking is in number order so you should have a fairly good idea of where you are when running in if you look the numbers around you.
  • The bike is deceptively tough – Yes it’s flat and the road surface is pretty good, but it’s also quite exposed in parts and the wind can whip up unimpeded before reaching the location of the bike course, so prepare for wind.  Even if it is calm in Pilot Bay you can bet that 20km down the road in Papamoa it will be blowing.  So make sure you know the direction of the prevailing wind for race day and plan your strategy for the bike leg around that.  The portions you have a tailwind you may be flying along, but coming back you may be creeping, so just accept this is what it is, and keep your intensity at a level which you know you can sustain for the whole 90km, and still leave enough for the run.  Stay aero and stay smooth.  Because it is so flat you spend long periods in the same position, so you may want to get off your aerobars and out of your saddle every 10km or so to have a stretch and take the pressure off your back and neck.
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Stay low and aero along these long, flat, straight roads
  • Don’t get caught drafting – This is a tightly packed bike course, so there’s a good chance you will find yourself in a drafting position inadvertently at some stage.  Just remember the rules of the race, and give the rider in front of you enough space that you aren’t inside the draft zone.  Don’t ride to the right of the lane as you will be called for blocking.  If you pass someone then don’t immediately slow up when you realise it’s quite tough to maintain that effort as this will cause a concertina effect behind you and that may result in others being called for drafting.  Only pass someone if it is to actually move on ahead, or you can maintain the same intensity that you pass them with.

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  • Them damned speed bumps – Yes there are speed bumps on this course, and they are quite abrupt.  They aren’t short sharp ones, but a bit more of a roll over.  However some of them have a lip at the leading and trailing edge and hitting them at speed isn’t pleasant, or good for your bike.  As you approach them come off your aerobars and just lift your front wheel ever so slightly to pop up on to the bump to make for a smoother ride.  Keep an eye out for ejected bottles along this part too.
  • Pilot Bay crowds – Running out of Transition you will go through throngs of cheering supporters.  This is awesome, but don’t think it means you should drop a 3:30 minute first kilometer.  Pretty soon the crowds peter out to a steady few, and the realization of the half marathon ahead sets in.  I suggest consciously ‘holding back’ at least until the first Tay Street turn before thinking about settling into your pace.  You still have about 16km ahead of you at that point, and 6 of those will be around the tough Mount Track .  Keep in mind though, you will be wanting that Pilot Bay crowd when you are running the final stretch to the finish as that is going to give you the extra lift you need to find the finishline, so make sure you save a smile and a wave for that part.
  • The Mount Track – This is an infamous part of the course, and you get to do it twice.  This is a tough section, comprising of a few short ups and a few short downs.  But it’s the surface you run on, the heat, the seemingly never ending path and the loneliness that really gets you.  First time round be very patient and keep something in reserve because you will need it later.  When you go round here on the second lap you will be wanting it all to be over, but the only way to do this is to finish the Mount Track, so dig it in and get yourself home.  Many a race has been won and lost around this part of the course.
  • The final stretch – When you drop back into Pilot Bay after the Mount Track on the second lap you have about 800m left to run.  This is dead flat, but oh so long.  I have had many all out battles with my competitors over the last 800m here, but it’s a great way to finish a race.  Cheering crowds, awesome view, and the promise of the finishline and a soak in the sea after.

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  • Thank a volunteer – They are your biggest fan, and without them it’s really just a training session.  They are a vital part of maintaining an event such as this.  If we all thank at least one volunteer during the day then hopefully each person will have an athlete say thanks to them.
  • Thank a local – They have given up their neighbourhood on a saturday morning to enable us to run around doing this crazy sport.  We are very lucky to be able to race in a location like this so be grateful.  Also don’t drop any rubbish, apart from the fact its filthy, you will actually get disqualified, so it’s best to put it back in your pocket.
  • The prizegiving – Always a great part of the day.  This is where you get to share war stories, celebrate the successes of your fellow athletes, have a cold beer and a steak sandwich and watch and listen to day’s champions as they recount their performance on the stage.  The end of a great day.

If you are interested in how Foot Traffic Coaching can get you to the finishline of this race next year, and many others of course, have a look HERE.  We have a 14 day free trial for subscription members so you can sign up risk free, have a look to see if you like what we offer, before pulling the trigger.  At $35US/month it’s a real bargain.  Sign up HERE.  For more information on our Subscription and Custom Coached Memberships have a look HERE.

If you are racing on the weekend have a great day out there, enjoy the experience and the privilege of being able to take part in a very unique event.

I’ll see you out there.

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Ironman Certified Coach

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Last week I gained my IRONMAN Coach Certification.  I think it is important to constantly further my own knowledge and skill set so I can be of more benefit to my current athletes and future ones.  I’ve been coaching athletes to Ironman finishes all over the world, so it doesn’t really change much in that regard, but there were certainly some new things I picked up, and will implement these in training plans in future.  I get a real kick out of coaching people to long distance events such as the Ironman and Ironman 70.3 distance.  Seeing their faces and hearing their joy having knocked over their event goals gives me a real thrill.

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The coursework and assessment process was a pretty slick operation and I was impressed with the way it was delivered.  Obviously there was a price tag to this, and it was reasonably hefty, but so are many online courses.  It’s just one of those expenses to be incurred in business.  There are some ongoing fees if I want to be part of the IRONMAN Coach Match system, but I will do some evaluation first to see if it is feasible for me to do this.  I intend to leverage this as much as I can through our other marketing channels as well.

The knowledge I’ve gained from the recent certification courses will help a lot, not only for our Custom Coached athletes, but also for the plans we prepare for our Subscription members.

My aim has always been to make Foot Traffic Coaching one of the first choices for people to come to when making a decision on employing a Triathlon Coach.  Obviously whether they decide to go with us or not is the athlete’s own choice, but if people are at least inquiring further about our services then I know we are doing things right with getting the message out there.  Having Triathlon New Zealand and IRONMAN Coach Certifications strengthens our message even more.

Check out our website if you are interested in learning more about the services we provide.  Please feel free to contact us if you require more information.  You can become a Foot Traffic Coached athlete from as little as $US9.95/month and we even have a risk free 14 day trial period so you can check it out before committing.

How to nail an Ironman run…don’t nail the Ironman bike.

Edited 16/12/2015 – The athlete this article refers to was awarded ‘Athlete of the Week’ on the IM Talk Podcast this week.  How cool!  Here’s the link to their podcast. http://www.imtalk.me/home/2015/12/14/imtalk-episode-494-karlyn-pipes.html

We all know how important the Ironman run is. It is here that the race is defined. It the part of the day that hopes and dreams can be solidified or lost for good. Of course you are going to make the finish, but will you do it in the time you hope, with all your marbles intact and ready to come back fired up to strike in the next race. For so many, infact probably the majority, the run leg of an Ironman becomes a point in the race where you are just hanging on for survival. Very few athletes are able to press on and build their effort through the run leg, and the reality is that even the fastest runners on the day are slowing down as each KM goes by. The athlete who slows down the least is the one who runs the best, and this may also be the person who runs the best when they are feeling the worst.

But the success of your Ironman run leg is determined by what you were doing to yourself many hours earlier, when you were on the bike leg. And the first few KM’s are as important as the closing part of the bike leg. Making a conscious effort to stick to a predetermined intensity, and being disciplined enough to do just this is the recipe to Ironman run success. A power meter makes this job so much easier.  It can be done with an understanding of your perceived effort and Heart Rate, and a bit of practice in the lead up to an event, but the power meter makes it easier to manage and the post-race analysis of the bike leg a lot more interesting and fun.

It is a well known assumption that a TSS score of 280 points is the recipe to Ironman success. Exceed this and you run the risk that you pushed too hard, go under it too much and you are probably not pushing hard enough and will take too long than you need to on the bike. Taking this knowledge forward you can very easily prepare a power plan for an Ironman bike leg. But your method of getting to this 280 point value is as important as simply achieving it. You don’t want to get there having surged over and under your target watts value over the course of the ride, so a power variability of 3-5% (1.03-1.05) is about the target to hit, and less variability is better again. A greater variable effort is more fatiguing than an even steady output. The athlete who can keep variability low is more focused on the process of racing rather than external factors such as course, conditions, other athletes. This is where the benefits will be found later in the run.

We also know that coming off an Ironman bike leg at about 71-73% of FTP range is ideal for most well trained age group athletes. This is assuming their FTP has been accurately calculated, and they have trained at such intensities.

The other thing is to make sure fueling is consistent and the athlete has the right amount going in for the work they are doing. This helps to deliver the athlete to the start of the run with the least amount of physiological fatigue. The success of this can be determined by viewing the decoupling measure (pw:hr) over the course of the ride. Any thing under 5% can be considered a successful delivery of effort and a very efficient athlete. The amount of decoupling is also dependant on power variability, so it is important to get that mix right.

I recently had an athlete achieve their IM run goal of going under 4hrs. They went 3:58, so that box was ticked. There was a bit of a wobble during the mid-portion of the race (who doesn’t have that happen, but they pulled it back together and finished strong) owing to their fantastic aerobic capacity and strong-mindedness. During the process of getting this run time they took 40mins off their best IM bike split, and took nearly 60mins off their previous best IM time….so it was a very successful day. For me the greatest success came in the way the bike leg was managed.

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Have a look at this pic of their bike leg summary. You will see all the key milestones were reached – 285TSS, 2.38% decoupling, only 1% variability (can’t get much better than that over 180km), 72% of FTP. I can tell you that this athlete is one of the most meticulous I have worked with, and this is reflected in the way the bike plan was adhered to, especially on a day the conditions played a major role, and a lot of people blew their races with poorly managed performances on the bike.

This didn’t come by mistake. We had discussed at length as to what would be the optimal power plan for the race, and even had a few scenarios incase things out of our control caused a sudden change in plans. With this athlete being on our Custom Coaching Data+ plan we utilised some online power prediction software, and changed the plan as the weather forecast changed in the days leading up to the race. A bike vs car crash 2 weeks prior didn’t even have any significant negative effect, in fact it probably even helped the taper as there was no training for a few days post accident.  We even fine tuned the training sessions in the few days before the event to make sure race-day was hit with the optimal balance of fitness, freshness and mental readiness.

It was awesome for me to see these goals get achieved, and I’m looking forward for what might come next….after a well deserved break from training for starters as this has been a long focused campaign.

For more information on our Custom Coaching and Custom Coaching Data+ services please email rob@foottraffic.co.nz or check our website www.foottrafficcoaching.com you can also find out some information on our subscription coaching memberships, and the training plans you will gain access to here. We have a free 14 day trial membership for you to take some time to check it out.

We have a Podcast!

I figure Podcasts are a great way to get our message out to our athletes and other interested people, so I had a go putting one together.  I hope to get more skilled as time goes by and I might even to a point where I can add cool sounding effects to it.

Check out episode one HERE

I have a chat to Anna Lorimer about some of the new training plans we have added to the database for our subscription members.  We talk about a funny experience I had at the Tinman Triathlon last weekend.  I interview Sam Clark, Professional Multisporter, Ironman, pretty much whatever else he turns his hand to

 

I’d love your feedback

A few months ago we set up an interesting new alternative to our usual Custom Coaching Membership service, subscription membership. The main reason for this was that with time being limited, and only being able to coach a finite number of people (but still wanting to be able to help a lot more people with their training) I wasn’t able to have the influence on many more athletes, despite really wanting to. The typical Coaching Model isn’t scalable to larger numbers, and if we took on more Custom Athletes as demand increases we would be forced to turn people away. We added another Coach to our staff (Anna Lorimer) and she has helped significantly, but eventually she will fill up too, and we will be in the same predicament. In a service industry such as this time is limited, and the more people you pack into a group the less time you can spend on each person, and the more diluted the message becomes. I’m sure I’m not the only Coach who has come across this problem.

It was suggested to me a looong time ago (2 years is a long time in Small Business terms) by my good mate Cam Langsford (www.trainingtilt.com fame) that the subscription method of coaching is the future, as it is something that allows a coach to create training plans and scale it for a large number of people, over many different events. The athlete still has access to a high level of coaching services by using various member only features, which are made available upon reisgtering. This is something that has been done in many different industries. There are a few other Coaching organisations that provide subscription services and I have watched closely how they are implemented, delivered and managed. It’s a cool way feed training plans and advice to a large group of people, but still managing to have an element of customisation, that you don’t get from a generic ‘Off The Shelf’ plan.

The way our system works is you sign up and create your own user profile. You choose the plan you want to follow to train to your target event, and then utilise the additional resources and community components within your Member Dashboard to help you further develop the skills and motivation you require to put that plan in place, and hopefully achieve your goals. We are regularly adding more and more training plans, some of which will allow you to use macro and meso-cycles to focus on specific components of your training (Increased bike power, Run speed, Race Specific work, Tapering, Recovery phases etc…).

The ideal user for this system is the athlete who wants to have a training plan that is built by a professional coach but doesn’t want the same level of financial, emotional and physical commitment. You may be a beginner, or an expereinced seasoned athlete, it doesn’t matter….if you need a training plan, but not necessarily a full time coach I’d like to think we have accounted for most cases here, and if we haven’t got something for you here then we want to add it.

Obviously being the creator of this system, and not the user I don’t see it the same way others would, so I’d really like you to give me some honest feedback. If there is an area that needs to be improved then I want to be able to do that and develop a product that useful and effective, and therefore something you would recommend to your friends. You may not require it, but you might have someone in mind that would benefit from membership, and can put them on to it. It’s a fairly nominal price to sign up, and can be done either as a monthly payment or a one off year payment (which gives you a few months for free). We have some awesome discounts from some of our partner companies, and these actually make membership incredibly good value.

We have a 14 day Free Trial period, so the risk has been reversed. We want people to sign up and check it out, and we are totally cool if you cancel your membership after a couple of weeks having found out it isn’t the sort of thing you are after. If you feel it isn’t for you then please let me know what features it is about the membership that you don’t require. Positive or negative feedback, it’s all good, and is all appreciated. If you like what you see and are keen to continue your membership then don’t just leave your feedback there, keep coming with more ideas that you want to see implemented. We have an interactive in-app messaging system, so if you leave a message for us someone will most likely reply to you very quickly to answer your questions or respond to your comments.

I want this to be something that evolves into an awesome resource for you to come back to on a regular basis to gain more information on training for endurance events.

Visit our website www.foottrafficcoaching.com for more information.
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Don’t believe everything you read on the internet, just some stuff, and get to know your source.

Back in the old days (when I was a Young Budding Triathlete) if you wanted to find something out you would go straight to the people who knew what they were talking about, generally they were the guys and girls who won the race, or you always saw performing quality training sessions at the pool or track, or who at races seemed to be constantly answering questions from other YBT’s. This was waaaay back in the 90’s, where our only source of information was asking these demigods of the sport or waiting each month for the Triathlon magazines to make it to the bookshop shelves. My mates and I used to get sent old Triathlon videos (VHS) by someones American uncle and we would watch these videos over and over again to see what equipment the pros were using, what they would say in the interviews, what colour their speedos were, what sort of elastic laces they use, whats in their drink bottles. We didn’t care what the information was, we knew it was legit because it was coming straight from the source – Mark Allen, Dave Scott, Simon Lessing, Rick Wells, Greg Welch, Wolfgang Dietrich, Lothar Leder, Dirk Ashmoneit, Brad Bevan, Cam Brown, Scott Molina, Hamish Carter, Ken Glah (I can name many many more). Some of these people are still on the scene and 25 years on I still study what these icon’s of our sport are doing and saying, because they know what they are talking about, time and experience has made them experts. I’d like to think I’m becoming a source of information too, many steps below the aforementioned, but I am constantly learning more and more as the days go by. As long as I never stop learning, then I know I am getting better and better at my job.

The presence of the internet and the social media channels, chat feeds, forums, groups, newsletters, blogs, youtube channels, podcasts, message boards etc etc etc has clouded our sources of information significantly, and I guess my own blog just adds to the mess (I won’t apologise about that quite yet). These days the quality and reliability of information available to us is diluted to a point where a lot of what you see, read and hear just becomes information that is put out there without meaning or has very little relevance to what you actually want to find out about.

The skills I learnt (when studying to be, and later practicing) as a Sports Podistrist, and more recently as a Triathlon Coach gave me a slightly sceptical approach to claims and beliefs I have read in publications and forums. I am sceptical until I understand the information I am reading, and have been able to make an informed judgement on it myself. Often times things with grandiose claims of making one significantly faster, recovering better, remarkably curing injury and case studies of amazing results just come across as ‘Snake Oil’ or ‘Pixie Dust’. I might be a bit slow on the uptake with some methods in training and sport physiology, but that is because I like to sit back and watch something unfold and develop before implementing the method. I like to wait for version 2 or 3, when many of the blips or bugs have been erased. Now I haven’t always been like that, and I admit to in the past having made some terrible decisions on equipment, training, tactics etc but we only learn by making these mistakes, and I have been able to erase those mistakes and find something that works better – I won’t go into the terrible equipment decisions I have made quite yet, but perhaps will have a bit of a ‘cleansing’ in a future blog post, just for a laugh, and to risk a lawsuit.

I follow a lot of website forums, Facebook groups, read articles, listen to Podcasts and talk to experts in various fields. I probably spend more time doing this than I should, but I am always looking for new, interesting and practical ways to move ahead in the sport, as a Coach and an Athlete.

I cringe when I come across some information, particularly in some of the Facebook Groups or Online Forums. Sometimes this information is so far removed from what the topic is discussing that it needs to be on it’s on post. Sometimes I feel the contributors are just flexing their own muscles a bit and showing off how much they know, perhaps they do know a lot, but to the reader it just comes across as a jumble of facts, figures and words and doesn’t really help. Generally if you ask a question on these media the answers come back very quickly and definitively, but without an explanation of how it might work for the person answering the question. Just because it works for one person so well, and is the BEST THING EVER it doesn’t mean that everybody else should be using it too. If someone answers with a response such as that then go back to them and ask for more information as to why it might work for you too. I’m guilty of doing that, and am now going to start providing some supporting information as to why I came to a certain conclusion.

There is no harm in doing a bit of Google stalking on some of the people who are contributing answers. Find out who they are, what their background is, are they similar in ability to you, do they have some affiliation with certain brands and therefore are likely to endorse that product more? There may be nothing wrong with the information they are providing, but you just have to wring out some of the information around what they are saying to see if their opinion is one to follow.

The great thing about these online sources of information is that these days professional athletes, elite level coaches, researchers and experts are all very accessible and it is in their best interest to be. So instead of walking up to a local pro at a race and asking a question of them, you can now send off a direct message or tag them in a post and get the answer straight back, hopefully with additional supporting information surrounding it. So in that regard, when used correctly the internet is a wonderful thing.

I guess the take home from this (and you may have formed your own opinions of what I have to say already, which is cool with me) is that whilst you can easily find information on how to train, race, recover and accessorise better you have to do a little bit more homework on that information, and who gave it to you. I like athletes and coaches to ask questions of me, there are some things I know that others don’t and I think it is important to be comfortable sharing information through the community in various ways (which is why I have started this blog), so if you have a question please ask away, and if I don’t know the answer I promise I won’t make something up, I’ll just pass you on to someone else who might know more about that subject.

In youth we learn; in age we understand.
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

For more information on Foot Traffic Coaching please visit our website.

We provide Endurance Sport Coaching Services through both a direct, Custom Coached method, and a less intensive Subscription Membership method.  Our subscriptions allow you to gain full access to any of our training plans, resources, partner specials and in-app social groups.