Monday, December 10, 2018

4 Tips to Picking Your Goal Race

As a coach, this is the time of year I have athletes coming to me to help them plan out their seasons.  Some athletes have already chosen and registered for a goal race.   Others know they want to step up to a longer distance but aren’t sure what would be a suitable first race.   Others are looking to qualify for world championships.   So how do you go about picking races?

Michael Liberzon, a fellow Toronto based triathlon coach, posted a funny flow chart in his blog a few weeks ago that actually inspired this post.  

Many athletes will end up registering for races that their friends or training partners are doing. Especially if these athletes are members of a triathlon club.  I see this all the time with the Toronto Triathlon Club.  I think this is great as it really fosters the feeling of community, as well as providing training and traveling partners.  If you don’t have this sort of network, or choose to do your own thing, here are a few things you should consider when picking your goal race.

Terrain:   If you live the Prairies, then picking a race like Mont Tremblant or Muskoka might not be the best choice if you’re not used to climbing. Yes, it’s possible to train for this sort of terrain inside on a trainer but, I know I would find that to be really boring.  And for me, boring = a loss of motivation to train.  

Ocean, Lake or River: If you’re a confident swimmer, then any body of water will probably be fine.  If you’re less confident then a river swim might be a better option.  My first and second 70.3 swims were in rivers and that really helped alleviate stress about being “far away” from shore in case something happened.  Think about what’s available to you to train in and go from there.

Flying or Driving: How far you’re willing to go to race will either limit your possibilities or make the possibilities endless.   Flying to a race will present a whole different set of variables that you probably won’t have to deal with if you’re driving. Driving to a race allows you to bring extra of pretty much everything whereas with flying, you are a bit more limited in what you can bring with you.  If you are an athlete that likes to control as much as possible heading into a race, then driving may be a better option for you. 

Goals:  If you are looking to snag a qualifying spot for either Kona or the 70.3 World Champs then you’re going to want to be more strategic about picking your goal race.  If Kona is your goal then find a race that plays to your strengths as an athlete and then hope that you’re the fastest in your AG on the day.  70.3 WC spots are a little easier to come by as the destination changes every year.  When the WC came to Tremblant in 2014, I raced Luxembourg 70.3 and they were pretty much giving away spots.  The guys we were sitting with at the awards said that most Europeans won’t travel to do the 70.3 WC, they only really care about Kona.  I know at Lake Placid 70.3 the spot in my AG rolled down to 20thfor the WC in South Africa.  I think spots to this years WC will be in high demand in North America as well as Europe.  So if that is your goal and you don’t want to travel to the other side of the world to try to get a spot, once again, pick a race that plays to your strengths and crush it.  

What races are you registered for in 2019?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Off Season Strength Training - Part One

If you’re in the northern hemisphere, chances are your triathlon season is done, or very close to being so.   Your weekly training volume should be decreasing as should the intensity of your workouts.    This lighter load in training volume is the perfect time to either increase your strength sessions, or, if you’re like the majority of triathletes I know, add it back into your routine.  

As I coach and personal trainer, I program strength work into all my athletes training plans.  I know when schedules get tight, it’s almost always the first thing to go but I cannot stress enough how important it is to maintain some kind of routine over the course of your entire season.  Done with proper technique, weight training will help keep you injury free, and will help improve strength, power and muscular endurance.  

Much like a triathlon training plan, strength work should also be periodized.  Off season is the time to start working on building strength for your following race season.  Once your build phase starts, your strength training plan should change again to allow for the additional training load.  And of course, during your race season, your plan should change again with a focus on maintenance.    I will delve into how to structure a periodized strength training plan in a future post.  For now, I’m going to focus on some of my favourite exercises.


Since running and cycling are essentially single leg exercises, it makes sense to do some of your off season training that way.    This way you work both of your legs individually and can focus on building strength equally.  When doing things like squats, you may think you’re working both your legs equally but I guarantee you that one of your legs will be working slightly harder than the other.  This is why single leg training is an integral part of a strength routine.   When I'm just getting back into the gym, I start with unilateral exercises to work on fixing any imbalances that I may have developed.  From there I will build into heavier lifting.

Form is SO important with all of these exercises.  As is mind muscle connection.   We often just go through the motion of the exercise without focusing on feeling the muscle work.   This is why I suggest doing all of these lower body exercises with body weight first so you understand the movement and can focus on feeling the muscles you are using.

There are endless possibilities when it comes to lifting weights but these exercises are my favourites for developing strength.  

Step up

These are a simple exercise that can be done on a box or a bench.    The surface should be stable and big enough for you to stand on.   You can do these laterally as well to change up your plane of movement.   I like these because they really help you focus on the push up / off.   I also like to add a knee drive on the opposite leg to mimic running stride.

Split Squat 

I used to do these with my foot elevated on a bench but was recently shown an alternate way that I find so much more effective and comfortable.  Instead of using a bench,  you use a Smith machine, lower the bar to just below knee height, grab the squat bar pad, wrap the bar and rest the top of your foot on that.  Doing that avoids the awkward twisting of your foot and toes that usually happens when you use a bench.  

Note:  Don't look at the ground when doing this, look ahead!

Lateral lunge  / Reverse lunge

Strength training provides the perfect opportunity to change up how we move.   I think it’s so important to include movement in alternate planes, especially in off season strength work, which is why I love lateral and reverse lunges.   Everything we do is done in the sagittal plane so moving in alternate planes challenges other muscles that we don't normally use.

Single leg deadlift (RDL’s) + traditional deadlift

The single leg RDL is a great exercise to work on balance and stability as well as targeting your posterior chain.  I do these without weight to start and gradually add weight as my form improves.  I would be remiss if I didn't include barbell deadlifts as well.  When done correctly, they are fantastic for working your entire posterior chain.

Single leg squat + barbell squat 

A quick search on You Tube will bring up a million different variations of single leg squats.  My suggestion is find one that you can do with proper form and do it.   The same goes for barbell squats.  Your ankle and hip mobility will dictate what you're able to do.


Swimming isn’t the only activity that requires upper body strength.  Think about how much time you’ll spend hunched over in your aerobars in an Ironman. What does your form look like at the 20 mile mark of a marathon? If you’re like the majority of the population, your shoulders are slumped over and your form has gone to shit.   This is why training your upper body is just as important as training your lower body.  

And just like your lower body, you will probably find that you have imbalances in your upper body as well so working on building strength with single arm exercises is a good way to start your strength training program.  

Again, proper form is crucial.   Always focus on good posture.   Keep your shoulders back and your chest lifted.   That way your core will also stay engaged.

Single Arm Row (cable or dumbbell)

Personally I prefer using a cable machine for these as I feel I have better control of the time under tension than with a dumbbell.

Single Arm pull down (cable)

This is a fantastic exercise for your lats.  If you do this correctly, it should mimic the pull phase of your swim stroke.  

Push Press

This is an explosive, compound movement that works both upper and lower body.  It's definitely one that should be perfected at a lighter weight before progressing to a heavier weight.   

Chest Press (single arm dumbbell) 

Doing a single arm dumbbell chest press really allows you to feel the engagement in your core because of the imbalance it creates.  It's as much about training your core as it is about training your chest.   The great thing about doing these unilaterally is that you end up working both sides of your body.   If you're pressing with your right arm, your left obliques will fire to help stabilize your torso.

Once you've managed to develop fairly equal amounts of strength on both sides of your body, you can progress to more traditional lifting like deadlifts, back / front squats & bench press.

If you're new to strength training, I would strongly suggest hiring a good personal trainer / strength and conditioning coach so you have someone watching and correcting your form.  Because if you're not doing these right, then you defeat the purpose of the exercise and, you may even get injured.

Now that you have some ideas as to what to do in the gym, stay tuned for my next post in the series:  Periodizing your strength plan.

Question:  Do you strength train throughout your race season?  If not, why?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

4 Reasons Triathletes need a Road Bike

I'm of the belief that you can never have too many bikes.  A quick look around our garage is evidence of that.   If you are familiar with The Rules, then you know the correct number of bikes one should own is always n+1.  If we had more room, I think there's a good chance we'd have more bikes.

When I started in multi-sport back in 2003, I bought a $500 used road bike.  It didn't quite fit me but it did the trick.  After a few races, I knew I wanted a triathlon bike (aka a TT bike).  Especially since I was planning on doing Ironman.  So after my first season of racing, I sold my $500 road bike and bought myself my first triathlon bike.  Ironically I didn't end up using that bike for my first Ironman, I ended up using a road bike with aerobars because I was totally freaked out about not having enough power to climb on my TT bike (I did Ironman Lake Placid).  Yup, after I bought that fancy new TT bike, I ended up buying ANOTHER road bike about 6 months later.   Do you see a pattern here?

I kept that road bike until 2015 when I sold it.  I put a LOT of kms on that bike.  I looked forward to riding it at the end of every triathlon season.  It signified riding for the sake of enjoyment vs. having to ride with a specific purpose.  I purchased another road bike just before I sold that one.  It may surprise you to know that I do about 70% of all my riding on that bike.   Yup, 70%.   I'm chalking that up to riding with a cycling club, although I've done a fair bit of indoor riding on it as well.

So, why do I think you need to hang on to that road bike?

1.  Position.  The geometry on a road bike is much more upright than a TT bike.  Spending all that time in aero (forward flexion) isn't always the best if you have any sort of lower back or neck issues.  

2.  Bike handling skills.  Yes, TT bikes are meant to go fast in a straight line but that doesn't mean you should neglect learning how to ride a bike.  In my experience, better bike handling skills generally equals more confidence on the bike.  This can translate to faster bike times simply because you're not afraid to descend, or you don't need to unclip to turn around a pylon in a race.  Road bike geometry allows for much better handling across the board from cornering to climbing.

3.  Develop better all around leg strength.   TT bikes put you in a more aggressive, forward position.  So you are situated on the nose of your saddle vs. sitting ON your saddle.  This changes the angle of your hips into a more quad dominant position.  That's not to say that you're not using your hamstrings BUT, one of the important things on a TT bike (aside from aerodynamics) is to help save your legs for the run.  By utilizing your quads more, you "save" your hamstrings for the work they're going to have to do on the run.  On a road bike, because you're in a more seated position and your hip angle isn't as closed in, you will effectively use more of your leg muscles while riding.

4.  Safer to ride in groups.  See #2.   Because road bikes handle better and lack aerobars, they are much better suited to group riding.  And when I say group riding, I mean riding in a pack.  I know most triathletes don't ride in a pack but we do ride in groups, especially in the off season.  Have you ever tried drafting off someone in a group ride on a TT bike?  I did once and it was terrifying.  on my road bike, I can ride beside someone comfortably and not feel like I'm going to swerve into them if I take my hands off my handle bars.  There is a reason most cycling clubs don't allow TT bikes on club rides.

So all of you folks that are thinking about getting rid of your road bike when you upgrade to a TT bike, you may want to think twice.  Your trusty road bike deserves just as much love as your shiny new TT bike.

~ Coach PK

Friday, September 7, 2018

Clermont Camp 2019


I know there are a bunch of you that have been waiting for this announcement since Eric and I first posted about it a few weeks ago.  Here it is.  Clermont Camps 2019.  Notice I said CAMPS.  Last year was so much fun we've decided to offer two weeks for people to choose from.

Week 1 is February 10-16th and week 2 is February 17-23.  The Family Day weekend is in there so you will either have a day to recover when you come back or, you have one less day of vacation that you need to take.  And, it's not March Break so flights will be less and you won't have to deal with hordes of screaming kids when you land in Orlando.  Win win if you ask me.

A few things have changed this year.  We are staying in a different house, one that we think is much nicer, AND, the coaches are going to cook dinner for you.  Yup.  You read that correctly.   All you guys need to do is show up, do the work and practice recovering properly after your workouts.   Let us worry about making dinner.  Breakfast foods will be provided so campers will have everything they need.  Lunches will be your responsibility.

Camp Costs

$1100  Early Bird (October 31st)
$1300  November 1 - January 31st)

Accommodation is as follows:

1 - Queen + Ensuite $400
1 - Queen, no ensuite $350
6 - Singles, shared room - $300 per person

Camp will start at 2:00 pm on each Sunday.  We will be doing one airport pick up on each Sunday.

Expect approximately 8000-12,000m of swimming 350-500km of riding and 3-5 hours of running during the week.

We are working on adding some more fun stuff this time around as well as bringing in a special guest for our NTC swim sessions.  WOOHOO.  Keep your eyes peeled to this space for the itineraries!

If you are interested, follow the link to reserve your spot.  If you have questions, please contact either Eric or myself.  Space is limited as we are looking to keep the coach to athlete ratio small, just like last year.


Getting ready to run the Clay Trail

Swim session at the NTC

Big day on the Van Fleet Trail

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Hello, is it me you're looking for..?

Yes, I'm alive!  And maybe you weren't looking for me, LOL.  I totally just dated myself with that title...

In all my years of writing this blog, I've never taken a hiatus this long (almost 5 months!!).  Truth be told, I've been spending most of my time over on Instagram.  But, there's something to be said for the written word so I'm back.

A little catch up for those of you that don't follow me on IG.  We came back from Florida at the end of March to less than stellar weather in April.  I didn't actually get outside on my bike until May 1st.  But, this summer has more than made up for our lacklustre spring.  It currently feels like a jungle outside it's so wet and humid.  But I will take it.

Race wise, I crammed 3 races into 6 weeks.  Maybe not the best idea, especially since 2 of the 3 races were sub-par performances.  Back in June we did Hawaii 70.3.  I had no real goals for this race because I wasn't sure how the heat would affect me.  I did my very first open water ocean swim and I absolutely loved it.  It was my favourite part of the race.  The bike course was the middle 1/3 of the Hawaii Ironman course - it was essentially one big climb and then a descent.  I had hoped to come in around 3 hours and I just squeaked under that in 2:58.  It was hot and windy and that kinda cooked me for the run.  The run took place on a golf course (yup, we ran on the greens!) and it was a mix of grass and pavement along with some pretty short and steep hills.  I ran at comfortable pace for the first 17km and walked through every aid station on the first lap to make sure I drank and got ice and cold sponges.  The second lap I went through the first few then at 17km decided I had enough in the tank to drop the hammer so I did.  I missed the podium by just under 2 minutes.  It wasn't my goal to get there but knowing how close I was and where I could have made that up, bugged me for days afterwards.

Smile every mile! 

The #RickyBobbyTurns50 Crew
The trip itself was amazing.  We had a blast with our friends and I'm so glad we opted to go because I don't think we ever would have gone there otherwise.

Two weeks after I got back from Hawaii I did the Welland Long Course race.  I had a horrible swim a decent bike and a fantastic run.  I clawed my way into 2nd place in the last 400m of the run.  It was really nice to finally nail a solid run off the bike.  I thought that bode well for me for Muskoka two weeks later.

Muskoka 70.3 was my goal race of the season.  That was where I hoped to qualify for the 70.3 World Championships.  My AG was pretty stacked.  They changed the bike course so it definitely played to my strengths - less steep climbs, more rollers.  But, I did not have the day I hoped to have.  My swim was alright but as soon as I got on the bike, my legs felt flat and my heart rate was super elevated.  I rode well within my power range but watched the watts I could hold drop throughout the race.  With about 15km left on the bike I threw up.  I was drinking my race fuel and it went down and then came right back up a few minutes later.  I was aiming for a 2:40-2:45 bike but I came in at 2:49 with legs that felt like lead.  I went flying out of T2 and as I got going my legs felt a bit better.  At least for the first 2km and then I started to get a side cramp.  That's when everything started to go sideways.  I started to have a tough time keeping nutrition or fluids down.  Every time I drank, I felt like I was going to throw it right back up so there was a lot of stopping and walking.  My stomach was not happy.  I suffered through that first loop and then I finally clued in that I should try to have some flat coke or pepsi because I know that settles my stomach.  So that's what I did at the 9km mark and by the 11km mark I felt better.  I started taking in a bit more fluid / nutrition but the damage was done.  I was running on fumes.  I did manage to catch 3 women in my AG though but it still wasn't enough for a podium spot.  Once again I missed the podium by 2 minutes.  I was heart broken.

I knew there was only one Worlds spot in my AG so I figured there was no way I'd get it but, I thought I'd stick around anyway just in case a spot rolled down.  Patience has never been one of my virtues but it certainly paid off in spades that day.  The woman that won the 60-64 AG didn't show up so her spot rolled down to my AG, which was the biggest and myself and another woman wanted it.  I finished ahead of her so I got the spot.  I started crying.  Definitely not the way I wanted to get the spot but, it's done.  I'm headed to Nice next year and I can't wait!

I am currently enjoying a very unstructured summer.  I really feel like I needed a mental break.  I lost that fire that I had at the beginning of the year and I need to find it again.  So right now, I'm not thinking about next year.  The most planning I've done is paid for the race and booked a place to stay. I am very torn about my goals next year - if any.  Part of me wants to muck about like I did this year, but maybe with a *bit* more focus and only do the 70.3 WC, with maybe a few sprint races thrown in.  The other part of me wants to see what I'm really capable of with some guidance and someone to be accountable to and tackle one, maybe two 70.3's leading up to the WC in September.  That also means I NEED to stay healthy and of course I can't help but think about the last time I worked with a coach, I ended up getting injured and not being able to race.  But, I didn't realize I had all these underlying issues so, there was that.  Now that I know there are certain things I need to be doing, hopefully I will be better off....

I also have to realize that I may have to give up some of the things that I really enjoy, like riding with Morning Glory.   But, I also know that I was incredibly dissatisfied with both my 70.3 race performances this year so there's that.  The question I am currently wrestling with is, how bad do I want it?

Only time will tell.

I may not post every week, but my goal is to get back on here and share training tips and some of my adventures.  I got tired of posting weekly recaps - it just felt a bit redundant and I'm sure it didn't always make for interesting reading.  So, my goal is for this blog to be a place where I share my knowledge as much as possible with some stories thrown in for good measure (and entertainment of course).

It's nice to be back!

~ Coach PK

Monday, March 26, 2018

Monday Musings: And just like that, it's over..


This time next week I will be writing from my living room couch back in Toronto.  We are in our last few days of our time down south and I feel like I only scratched the surface of all the things I wanted to see and do.  8 weeks seems like a long time but in the grand scheme of things, it isn't really.  Throw in a week of training camp + a week with a guest for said training camp and time flies quickly.  That being said, I had a BLAST these last 8 weeks.  I went to Disney, we hosted some USAT athletes, toured around the Gulf Coast, met some internet friends, ran my first triathlon camp and rode my bike A LOT.  As of today, I've ridden a total of 1,775km during my time here and I still have 4 days left.  I've averaged over 200km a week on 2 wheels.  Suffice to say my running and swimming have suffered a little bit.  But I figured they would when the riding here is SO good and all I want to do is be out on my bike.   I will be doing an FTP test as soon as we're back to see how much I've improved and if my Garmin head unit is accurate in it's predictions.

Selfie at the Leafs / Lighting Game in Tampa.  The Leafs blew a 3-1 lead and lost 4-3.  Still a good game though!

The old pier at Anna Maria Island
IG / FB meets in IRL:  Alison a.k.a Racing Tales and I met up for a hilly ride.  

I am very sad to be leaving.  I love it here.  That's not to say I hate Toronto, because I don't.  It's just different here.  The pace of life is much slower and I generally feel much more relaxed.  Seeing the sunshine every day probably helps with that immensely.  That and the fact that EVERYONE here is so friendly.  All that being said, it will be good to be home and back into the land of our regular health care providers.  Both G and I have beaten ourselves up pretty well.  Even though Clermont is touted as a great training place, they don't have the sports therapist staff to back it up.  We found a great RMT but there isn't anyone in the area that practices ART or FST.  We'd have to go to Orlando for that.  It's mainly because the athletic population is actually quite transient.  People come in to train from January to the end of April and then they go back to where ever home may be.   Clermont is growing at a rapid rate as evidenced by all the new homes that have appeared over the last year but it is a suburb, so it's attracting a lot of young families.  The demand for the athletic care just isn't there yet.  But perhaps it will get there down the road.  I'm pretty surprised that I've managed to hold up to the volume.   Things are just starting to get cranky and sore, probably because I had a 3 week period where I hardly did any of my physio exercises (sorry Lauren!) Life happened and I fell off the wagon.  But I'm back on it now.  I'm still going to need some good old fashioned manual therapy when I get back to get me back to 100%.

Even thought I'm sad to be leaving Florida, I do have some fun things lined up for when I get back home.  I will be leading a free run clinic for beginners at Lole Yorkville on April 18th.   I've also signed up to do a cycling skills workshop on April 7th, which will be really helpful in improving my bike handling skills and passing along those skills to others.  And, on the really fun side of things, I'm going to see Franz Ferdinand on April 8th.  I'm shining up the dancing shoes already!

And PKPC athletes, keep your eyes peeled for an email from me in regards to a new partnership with Xact nutrition.  It's all about helping you guys #fuelyourgoals 😀

Catch you all back in The Six....

~ Coach PK

Monday, March 5, 2018

Monday Musings: A Magical Week

Happy Monday!

The dust has settled and the house is quiet once again.  This past week was a big one!  We hosted some elite triathletes for the weekend, I went to Disney for the first time and I celebrated another trip around the sun.

Last December, one of our coaches here, Sarah McClarty, posted in the Clermont Triathletes FB group that another USAT coach was looking for a home stay for 3 athletes that were coming in to race the draft legal race in Lake Louisa State Park.  It happened to be the same weekend as my birthday.  Gary asked if I'd be ok with having some athletes stay with us and I said sure why not.   The girls emailed us shortly after to introduce themselves:  Sophie Chase, Ellie Abrahamson and Mary Alex English.  They were arriving on the Wednesday and staying until the Sunday.   Fast forward to January and I book a trip to Disney for the day with friends of mine that were going to be visiting.  I booked it on the same day the girls were arriving.  Oops.  Turned out that they weren't going to be arriving until much later in the evening.  That meant that I could stay and watch the fireworks at Disney and still make it home before they arrived.


I never went to Disney as a kid so I never really understood what all the fuss was about.   I always thought that adult Disney fanatics were a bit crazy.  Now that I've been there, I totally get it.  Especially if you went as a kid.  It is a pretty amazing place.  I am thankful that I went with my friends David & Elyse - they are fanatics and they know all the ins and outs of the various parks.  I trusted my trip to them completely and I had a blast.  I'm not a big ride person, mostly because they scare me, but I went on Space Mountain and another roller coaster and I was totally fine.  Space Mountain was a bit disorienting at first because you're in the dark but it ended up being a pretty fun experience.  And none of the rides are terribly long so even if you are a bit freaked out, you know it's not going to last very long.

I got there just after 10 and we were in the park by around 11.  I was given two buttons to wear, one that said it's my first time and another that said it's my birthday.  Sure it was a bit early but whatever.  I was celebrating all week, ha ha.  Every single staff member  (or cast member as they are referred to here) wished me happy birthday.  Definitely made for a fun day.  I wasn't sure if I'd last until the evening fireworks but the day flew by.  There is so much to see.  They even do a full on parade at 3:00 pm every day.

Yup, that's a fire breathing dragon!!! 
We saw some shows went on a bunch of other rides and wandered around.  Surprisingly the park wasn't that busy.  Yes, there was a lot of people around but it wasn't as insane as I had imagined.  Thankfully!  Knowing that our guests were coming in later in the PM I stayed for the fireworks.  I wasn't disappointed.  Disney definitely knows how to put on a show.

Pre fireworks
I was back home by 9:45 pm, totally sweaty and exhausted.  I really wanted to go to bed but I knew the girls were coming so G and I stayed up until they arrived around 11:15.  We met them all, along with Jarrod, their coach and got them settled.  They were still on west coast time so they stayed up for a bit while G and I went to bed.  G got up to swim the next day but I opted to skip that and hang with the girls in the morning to make sure they were a-ok.  They had to go pre-ride the course but before they could do that, they had to assemble their bikes.  They had no idea how to really do that so G would come in and check on them from time to time.  Their coach told them they had to have their bikes assembled and ready to go for 9:15 am.  I headed out with a couple of friends to do a ride before he got there but I heard he was a little annoyed with them when he arrived.

The girls were racing on Saturday but G and I had committed to doing a charity poker ride that one of my other friends here had told me about.  It was leaving from Winter Garden and was finishing at The Crooked Can which is a great local brewery.  Any ride that ends with a beer is a good ride, in my books.  We got to Winter Garden at about 7:15.  It was COLD.  And by cold I mean 10 degrees celsius, which, when you've been used to 28 to 30 degrees celsius, that feels cold.  My toes were frozen and I wished that I had worn full fingered gloves.  We collected our score card and rolled out with the group.  There was a lot of chit chat.  Again, one thing I've noticed here is that people don't know how to ride in a group properly.  And they wonder why cars here yell at them.  There were a few guys trying to maintain some order and give directions but, it was a bit disorganized.  We did stick together which was nice as there were all levels of riders.  I figured it was going to be an easy ride for me so that was perfect.  Last week was a hard week of training so it was nice to just cruise for a change.  We collected all our cards and headed back to Winter Garden.  I had a crappy hand, but not the crappiest so I didn't win a prize.  There was a prize for the best / worst hands.  G and I sat around for the draw prizes and then went to get a beer.  Well, I had a beer.  We then hit a patio for lunch and after lunch we headed home.  I am not a good day drinker so I was ready for a nap.  But I rallied an managed to keep my eyes open, ha ha.

The girls came back and filled us in on their race.  We were checking their progress online.  We had figured that Sophie would probably win but she wasn't showing any splits after the swim so we figured something happened.  When she got back we found out what went down.  Her top tube snapped.  So, she was out.  She was PISSED.  But Ellie and Mary Alex rallied and came in 4th and 3rd respectively.  Ellie is an insanely fast runner.  She ran a 16:35 OFF THE BIKE.  That works out to 3:19/km.  WTF.   She was so nonchalant about it too when we told her her split.  She had no idea, ha ha ha.  

It was so awesome to have the girls with us for the weekend.  On the Thursday night I made dinner for everyone and we sat around and chatted for a long time.  They told us about their experiences so far.  All of them are VERY new to the sport.  This was only their second race.  They were recruited from various track programs.  They weren't necessarily the fastest or highest ranked but they fit a certain body type that USAT is looking for.  They had to pass a swim test and a run test to see if they had potential.  The cycling they would learn.  All 3 of these girls are swimming 750m between 10-12 minutes.  They're averaging around 35-37/kph in pack as this is draft legal and then running anywhere between 16-18 minutes OFF THE BIKE for a 5km.  So amazing.  What I found really interesting was their mindset.  For them it's a job.  They had no real feelings about the sport like age groupers do.  It was kind of strange.  They thought G and I were awesome because we went out and trained on our own vs. being told to.  I thought that was funny.  It's just normal for us.  I suppose if I had started at a high level in the sport, my mindset would be different as well.

L to R:  Ellie, Mary Alex and Sophie
They left us yesterday to take over an Airbnb in downtown Clermont for the next few days then they're off to Sarasota for another weekend of racing.  We'll be cheering for them for sure.  Before they left they gave us a card and a signed USA Triathlon cycling jersey, which I thought was super sweet.  I'm SO glad we got the opportunity to do this!

Even with all the goings on, I still managed a solid week of training.  I'm working my way up to a 400km week of cycling.  That's my goal for our last week here.  So there will be plenty of time in the saddle over the next little while.  I'm trying not to neglect other things as well but there is only so much time in the day.  This is how last week went down:

Monday:  OFF - when Training Peaks suggests you may need an extra day off because your form is so low and you're not feeling so awesome, you take the day off.

Tuesday:  2650m swim in the a.m., followed by an 80km  hilly ride to the Yalaha Bakery with fellow TTC'ers Kim Robinson & Halley Georgas.  I got the eclair I didn't get last year.  All is right in the world.

Wednesday:  9.7km run with 4 at tempo pace.  My legs were feeling pretty heavy after the previous days ride but I still managed to nail my paces.  Then off to Disney where I spent all day on my feet.

Thursday:  83km on the TT bike with Halley on the Van Fleet Trail.  It was SUPER windy out.  Definitely a good day to be on the TT bike.  And I did my second brick of the season, we ran 12 minutes off the bike.

Friday:  OFF.  I had planned on doing my long run but I wasn't feeling so hot when I got up so I decided to give myself the day off.  I woke up with a headache that was bordering on a sinus attack so I chilled out.

Saturday:  72km ride

Sunday:  16.5km long run with 4x2km race pace repeats followed by a 36km spin along the trail for coffee.


Swimming: 2,650m (UGH)
Cycling:  271km
Running:  26.2km

Total time:  13h 17 minutes.  My TSS this week was 742 vs 801 and I felt pretty good for the most part.  Accumulating this much fatigue is new for me so I'm trying to be careful and really listen to my body.  I don't know how far I can push things, but I don't think that I want to dip much past -35 in form.  I've gotten down to -28 and I felt pretty tired but not totally smashed.  I was toeing the line for sure though.  A few more negative points and I think I would have been toast.

Tomorrow Eric is flying in and we're getting ready for our first camp that starts on Saturday.  The weather is looking like a roller coaster ride for the next two weeks so I'm crossing my fingers that the rain stays away at least!

Anyone else been to Disney World?  What was your experience like?  Have you gone back again?   I'd go back again but I think I'd go to Epcot instead.

Happy Monday!

~ Coach PK 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Monday Musings: Halfway There


I'm still here, I'm just not spending a lot of time online.  Honestly, it's the last thing on my mind when I've got spectacular weather and great people to hang out with.  If I'm not out training, I'm either sitting on the back deck reading or working.  Weekends are spent out and about exploring.  There is always something going on.   It's funny how last year I thought that 2 months was going to be a long time.  It's not.  It's far too short when you've got places you want to see and people you want to visit.

It has been between 28-31 degrees celsius every day for the last two weeks and that is going to continue until this weekend.  It's made for some excellent heat training that's for sure.  I have had to pay extra attention to hydration.  I learned that the hard way on a long run last week.  I'm not really sure what I was thinking but I only brought one bottle with me on an hour and 10 minute long run.  I went out at 9:30 am and ran along a part of the trail with NO shelter.  And it was super windy.  It was like running into a blast furnace.  To say I caved was an understatement.  Strava assigned me an extreme suffer score and my Garmin told me I'd need 3 days to recover.  Needless to say I've learned my lesson.

I've done a LOT of volume in these last few weeks.  More so than last year.  But I came to Florida in much better cycling shape than last year as well.  I certainly didn't think that when I did my first FTP test back in November, but things do come back quickly if you stay the course and do the work.  My body is actually feeling ok.  I've been doing mobility work several times a week, along with my physio work.  I've been getting to the gym more often as well since it is so close.  My cranky SI joint seems to be happier these days.  I've been on my road bike most of the time but I took my TT bike out this past Saturday and I am very happy to report that my back managed to hold up ok.  And it wasn't like I was just spinning my legs.  These were hard efforts with climbing.  I was a bit sore / tight after I got off the bike but once I started moving around, I was fine.  I'm going to keep doing all that I'm doing and hope that things keep improving bit by bit.

I do have a few bits of exciting news to share.  I will be leading a beginners running workshop at the Lole Yorkville store when I'm back in Toronto in April.  WOOHOO!  I will be hosting 4 workshops in total.  The first two are geared towards beginners.  I am working on topics of discussion and I will be giving people a plan they can follow that will get them up to running for 30 minutes straight by the time the group meets again at the beginning of July.  I'm really looking forward to this!

The second bit of new is that I have finally gotten a PKPC kit in the works.  I've gone with Louis Garneau and they've created an awesome design that I absolutely love.  For now I've gotten tri and running stuff done but I may end up getting some cycling stuff made as well given how much time I spend on my road bike.  We'll see.  Next up - HATS!  I want a technical trucker hat and a regular running hat so if anyone has any recos, let me know.

So that's been the update.  Nothing crazy to report.  I've started a few blog posts on some topics of interest but they will require a bit more research so stay tuned for that at some point in the next week or so.

On to the fun part - TRAINING!  After my epic weekend at the Hunter Allen Camp, I took a couple of days off and then got sick, so I ended up taking another day off later in the week.  Needless to say I was well rested coming into this past week.  This is how last week unfolded.

Monday:  35km easy spin to Winter Garden for coffee with G.

Tuesday:  Skipped swimming due to a late night watching the Olympics.  13km long run with 3x2km repeats that completely killed me.   30 minutes of Upper body & core work followed by a 30 minute mobility class.

Wednesday:  30 minute easy swim (1554m to be exact)

Thursday:  100km ride with "Centre Hill Gang".  Nice easy 5km spin to meet the group, followed by roughly another 5-10km at a civilized pace and then the hammer got dropped and I hung on for dear life for the next 75km.  It was nice to actually have to work hard.  I haven't pushed myself too hard since I've gotten here and this ride was just what I needed.  I stopped for a coffee and a smoothie on the way home so I'd have enough gas to take the long way home so I could get my first 100km ride of 2018 in the bank.

Friday:  This was going to be a tempo run but given the previous days effort, I did a recovery run instead.  I then hit the gym for a 40 minute full body session, followed by a 40 minute swim.

Saturday:  Just under 60km TT Fun with the Swim Like a Pro Tri group.  I took Tom Sawyer out for his first outdoor ride of 2018.  I was surprised at how comfortable I was for most of the ride.  I'm not in the most aero position but I definitely seem to be able to crank out the watts on this bike.  I've been contemplating changing my fit to try to get a bit more aero but I may save that for the off season.  I know there is a trade off.  I may get more aero but loose more power.  I'm not sure what's better.  I'm also not sure if my back will be able to take a more aggressive position.  I do know that my neck and shoulders were totally fine at the end of this ride, which is NOT normal for me.  So something has changed in my mobility through my upper back and neck.   The bike was followed by a short run but I didn't know they were running so I didn't bring my running shoes.  After the run we did a short open water swim.  I swam about 1000m I think.  My Garmin said 817m but I went around the 400m course twice and did about another 100m out and back.  So something is up.

Sunday:  90km with the Epic Cycles crew.  This was a SPEEDY ride.  I do find riding with this group to be a bit stressful as no one seems to want to take charge and organize HOW we ride so the pack is a little messy.   I try to stay close to the front where it seems to be a bit more organized.  I did have a 20 minute run off the bike scheduled but that didn't happen.  I was tired and hungry so we made lunch and I did some work.

Totals for the week:

Swimming:  4,567m (I kid you not!)
Cycling:  284km 
Running:  20km <----- NEEDS WORK

I keep saying I need to work on my running and I've been better this year than last year but the bike always seems to take precedence.  My bike V02 max is now better than my run V02 max.  Funny how things have changed.

Total Time:  14h 22 minutes.  Total TSS for the week 801.   Which is the highest it's been in a while.  Which is also why I thought it would be a good idea to take today off, even though I felt ok.  I know this week is probably going to be another big one in terms of cycling.  I've got 4 longer rides on tap, one of them will probably be a really easy / fun ride but it's still time in the saddle.   I'm doing a Poker Ride on Saturday in Winter Garden.  It's my birthday and I figured that would be a fun way to get out and do something different.  It also ends at the Crooked Can Brewing company so REALLY how could I say no?  Beer + Bikes = awesome.

Happy Monday!

Has anyone ever done a poker run / poker ride?  I've done a run but this will be the first ride.  It's gonna be FUN!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Monday Musings on a Tuesday: When Opportunity Knocks

I had a hangover yesterday.

But it wasn't THAT kind of hangover.  It was an exercise hangover, ha ha.  This past weekend was nothing short of amazing.  Actually, the last 4 days have been amazing.  All because I offered up my time.

This past weekend, I got the opportunity to be a part of a Peaks Coaching Group Women's cycling camp led by the one and only Hunter Allen.  He's kind of a big deal in the world of cycling with power.  It all came about on Wednesday when a friend of a friend here in Clermont posted that she was looking for another female rider that was willing to cover off her "C" group of riders.  I thought why the heck not.  I'm always looking for new people to ride with AND, it was all ladies which is even better AND, I'd get to learn from one of the best in the business.

The camp was an intro to power and cycling skills camp.  I've been training with power for almost 4 years now so I understand the basics but in terms of real in depth analysis, I feel I have some gaps in my knowledge.  And I know my cycling skills need some work as well.  What better person to learn from than Hunter and what better environment than with a group of likeminded women.  It was a no brainer.

It also gave me the opportunity to meet Julie McKenzie, who is the friend of my friend Marianne.  Julie added me on Facebook shortly after my second trip to Clermont in October 2016.  I never got a chance to meet her last year so when she posted on Facebook that she needed some help with this camp, I jumped at the chance.  It was one of the best impulsive decisions I've ever made.  You know when you say yes to something and then you second guess yourself and think oh shit what have I done?  Every single bit of worry or apprehension I had completely evaporated within 10 minutes of meeting the awesome group of ladies I would be spending the next 3 days with.

There were 14 ladies in total, not including me.  One from Canada (Winnipeg to be exact), one from Bermuda and the rest from various places across the US.  It was a diverse group in terms of abilities but all of these ladies knew their way around a bike.  A few of them were racers, a handful were triathletes and the rest were just women that really enjoyed riding their bikes.  All of them were there for the same reason - to improve their skills and their knowledge.

The camp started on Thursday night with a 2 hour talk about cycling skills and the basics of power and why it was a more reliable metric than heart rate.  Hunter touched a bit on the metrics in Training Peaks but the big ones he focused on were TSS and IF (Intensity Factor).  That two hours flew by.  I have notes scribbled in a notebook that I have to decipher when my brain is up to the task, ha ha.

The next day was divided up into two main workouts.  The first 2 hours of the day were spent doing drills, getting the group comfortable riding in a group with other people around them and learning how to handle their bikes in a group.  We did some wheel touching and shoulder leans while riding in circles on grass.  That was incredibly unnerving but my partner, Sarah, and I managed to do it.  Not without a lot of nervous laughter though.  We then headed off to a parking lot to practice steering and cornering.  I haven't gotten the hang of the steering technique that Hunter taught us, but the cornering was much better.  Especially cornering to my right.  I'm much more comfortable going fast that way vs. cornering left.  I now know what I need to work on.

The best kind of bike gang!
From the parking lot, we headed off onto the newly paved Hancock Trail to learn how to pace line.  We rode along there and then up the back of Sugarloaf Mountain and then down the front side.  I had such a blast on that descent.

Coming back along the Hancock Trail

Heading out to Sugarloaf Mountain
We then turned around and headed back to the hotel for lunch and a group data analysis session.  I found these sessions to be so insightful. Hunter would download everyone's Garmins and upload the files to WK04 and then analyze areas he thought people did really well on and areas where they could improve.  He then gave suggestions on things they could do to improve.

Post Ride data analysis
Saturday was our longer ride (90km) that consisted of a 1 minute power test (up a hill) as well as a 20 minute FTP test.  I have never done an FTP test outside.  It was evil and awesome all at the same time.  The course they mapped out had some good climbs but some good descents as well.  We were also dealing with a massive headwind and a lot of heat.  This past weekend temps were in the high 20's low 30's.  It was hot.  We did that after close to 45km of riding already.  It was hard.  I'm not used to doing a TT on my road bike either.  I came away with an FTP of 207w according to Hunter.  He went with my normalized power (218w) for the 20 minute segment because the course was hilly and it wasn't a steady state effort like it would be on the trainer.   It's not where I was last year but it's getting closer.  I suspect by the time I come back from Florida it will be close to where I was heading into my peak training last year.

Megumi taking off on the start of her 20 minute test.  You can see the first climb in the distance
Sunday was spent learning about rotating pace lines.  It was a little touch and go at first but once we got going, we did a pretty good job.  It's not an easy skill to learn and if you are nervous in a group or you're unsure of the skills of the people that you're riding with, it makes it challenging.   Once we had that down, we stopped on a flat stretch of road and learned how to sprint.  We practiced learning how to shift in the drops while being out of the saddle (AHHH), how to let the bike rock back and forth.  We then started sprinting.  We did some sprints in the small ring and surprisingly that's where I had my best power effort of the day, ha ha.  We then moved to big ring sprints.  Once we had practiced those, we started racing each other.  Julie and another woman, Mia, who is an elite road racer and coach from Wisconsin, raced against each other and the speed was just incredible.  Mia hit 1000w.  ONE THOUSAND WATTS.  I can't even FATHOM that.  I think my max was 586w.

Sarah and I sprinting
After we had sprinted our hearts out, Hunter broke us into groups.  I was with Julie's group.  We strategized, rode down to the start and rolled out.

Our plan was for Julie to cover the breaks and then the rest of us had to keep Katherine, our sprinter sheltered.  But the other team went on the attack right away and threw us for a loop so we all just ended up chasing people down the road.  For the second race Hunter gave us a strategy he wanted us to stick to.  We were going man to man so Julie assigned each one of us a person to mark.  We rolled out again and the jostling for position started.  This really felt like a race, there was a lot of moving around.  Katherine, who has raced for years, knew what to watch for as the rest of us were just hanging on for dear life.  I was near her at one point and I could hear her saying they were forming a lead out line.  I watched to see what Mia, a veteran racer, was doing and she was obviously pulling Lynda, who was the woman that I had to mark.  So I stuck to Lynda's wheel like glue.  I could see them moving up through the group and over to the right hand side of the road.  I kept on Lynda's wheel.  Mia was getting closer to the front.  I knew if she got past the front of the group, that would be it.  A small gap started to open up on the right.  We were getting close to the finish line.  I was pretty sure I heard Katherine saying watch Mia and Lynda.  The gap opened up a bit more so I thought I'd catch them off guard, shoot the gap and sprint to the line.  I didn't think Lynda could out sprint me if I got the jump on her so I went for it.   I didn't hear or see anyone coming after me but I knew someone would.  Sure enough, just as I got to the finish line, I see Mia's wheel come up beside me.  I'm pretty sure she caught me right at the line.  Had I waited another 15-20s, I think I would have gotten to the line first.  But DAMN was that ever exciting.  I totally get the adrenaline rush.  That was a LOT of fun.

Back at the hotel we went over our data again.  I got some insights into where my weaknesses are and  how I can improve them, which was immensely helpful.  Hunter also looked at people's overall fitness trends if they had a lot of data on their Garmins.  I only had data from the end of December so there wasn't a lot to look at but you can definitely see the training load build over the last little while, ha ha.  This weekend resulted in a massive peak in fatigue so we'll see how the next few days go.  You know you're tired when your Training Peaks app tells you that you should consider taking a rest day, ha ha.  So I took yesterday off and was still feeling a fair bit of fatigue this morning so I skipped my swim.  I may go later in the day as long as it doesn't rain.

I covered 239km on two wheels last week, the majority of it over the weekend.  That also included 1844m of climbing!  It's been a long time since I've cycled 3 days in a row or climbed that much in 3 days (hello indoor riding!)  It wasn't what I had planned for the weekend, it was a million times better.

I can't even begin to thank Julie enough for bringing me in to the camp and letting me stick around for the weekend.  It was an experience I won't soon forget.  I hope to cross paths with these ladies again.

Dinner out at the Crooked Spoon