Wednesday, February 24, 2010

USAT's Art and Science of Triathlon Symposium

I recently attended USA Triathlon’s Art and Science of Triathlon Symposium in Colorado Springs, CO. It was held in conjunction with USAT’s Race Director’s Symposium and Hall of Fame induction at the Broadmoor Resort. It was a full 2 ½ days of keynote speakers and break-out sessions. USAT did a great job organizing the event and it was a wonderful opportunity to network with coaching professionals, race directors, visit with vendors, listen to terrific presenters and gain continuing education units. Here is a brief overview of the sessions that I attended:
Johan Bruyneel, key note speaker—
Wow, what fun listening to Lance Armstrong’s team manager tell stories about his road to 7 Tour de France victories. He did a great job weaving in “the ingredients for winning” throughout his presentation and following, signed copies of his book, We Might as Well Win.

Bill Burke and Ben Elder—“Linking coaches with events and race directors”
Bill and Ben discussed the importance of developing partnerships between races directors and coaches. It can become a win-win situation as the partnership can increase participation in the event and in coaching services. Athletes are better prepared, making for an overall safer event and both the director and coach expose themselves to greater marketing opportunities.

Ben Greenfield—“Maximizing you income as a triathlon coach”
Ben pointed out different options for coaches to add additional income streams to their existing coaching business and provided tips on how to market their business online and locally.

Vern Gambetta—“Following the functional path to building the complete triathlete”
Vern highlighted that movement revolves around and through the core and that the core is the transmission and relay center of the body. Once you can recognize its’ role in function, you can train it accordingly. His message is to integrate, not isolate movements. This presentation was just a teaser for his next session the following day….

Alicia Kendig—“Women specific nutrition”
Alicia discussed “The Female Athlete Triad” (disordered eating, amenorrhea, osteoporosis), its’ consequences and the importance of prevention of this common occurrence in endurance athletes. The key to success—energy availability…. Female athletes must adjust eating patterns to high training and competition loads.

Erik Weihenmayer—keynote speaker
This was an inspirational presentation given by the first blind man to ascend Mt. Everest. Erik captivated and entertained the audience with his story of reaching the highest peak on earth. He looks upon his blindness as a challenge not a disability and he feels that “each of us has a light, which feeds on adversity.” He feels that the most important part of leadership is “how we pass it on to others.” His talk was worth the price of the symposium!!!!!! He was also gracious enough to give out and sign copies of his book, Touch the Top of the World.

Vern Gambetta—‘Beyond the core—training for the ground up”
Vern highlighted the importance of strengthening the core (hips, abs, lower and upper back) before working on extremity strength. Endurance athletes operate in the saggital plane and it is important that they also work on rotation exercises that stabilize them in this plane. Functional training relies on body weight, bands, balls and free weights to provide resistance while performing “multi-dimensional movements that requires acceleration, deceleration and stabilization in all three planes.” I like to call these “bang-for-your-buck” exercises—walking lunges, body weight squats, step-ups, pull-ups etc.—perfect functional exercises for the time-strapped multi-sport athlete.

Stephen McGregor—“High Tech Running”
Stephen discussed the use of technology to optimize training—it should be used as a tool, not considered an obstacle. He highlighted the advantages and disadvantages of heart rate monitors and speed and distance devices (GPS). This presentation also explained using the training stress score (rTSS) to quantify training load in an individualized fashion for athletes. Lots of science here….

Joe Friel—“Stress based periodization”
Joe talked about the importance of making training more ‘race-like in intensity’ the closer one is to an A-priority event. Joe piggy-backed off of Stephen’s presentation further and discussed using TTS to effectively gauge effort in key workouts leading up to the A-priority event.

Sue Enquist—key note speaker
As a player and coach of UCLA’s NCAA championship softball team, Sue has 11 National Championships under her belt. She did a great job weaving her coaching philosophies and methods into the multi-sport coaching world. Her 33% rule was spot-on—there are 3 kinds of people:
Top 33% are the “doers” (anything is possible!)
Middle 33% are the “fair weather friends” (they are with you when all is well, but when things go bad…)
Bottom 33% are the “life suckers” (the glass is always half empty or just plain empty…)
Be a top 33% and surround yourself with them!!!!

Stephen McGregor—“Training Myths”
Stephen discussed current myths in training including the role of lactic acid (friend or foe?), pedaling efficiency (circles or squares?), base building (all aerobic or include intensity?). This was an interesting presentation on the science that debunks the myths.

Tim Crowley—“The triathlon swim—improving technique and training with power”
Tim presented an integrated and power-based approach to swim training. He echoed Vern Gambetta’s stance on the importance of core stabilization strength utilizing weight training, yoga, Pilates, stretch cords and swim benches (VASA trainer). Power production results in start speed, increased turn-over, fatigue resistance, and a decrease in injury. He is a big proponent of the use of swim benches—they provide instant feedback, specific training, power development, stroke technique, fatigue resistance, deliberate practice and are time efficient. I want one…..

There were other break-out sessions that I could not attend—I believe USAT’s weekly e-newsletter will highlight the symposium weekend…….

While all of the key note speakers were terrific, my favorite was Erik Weihenmayer. He was engaging, inspirational, funny, and moving and a great example of the power of the human spirit. If you ever get a chance to listen to him speak, jump at the chance. I was impressed with all of the speakers and gained knowledge from them all, but my favorite was Vern Gambetta. He had a great way about him, got right to the point and was not afraid to let you know where he stands (not a big fan of Cross Fit….). I have his books and follow his principles of functional training with my athletes and with my training and will incorporate more in the future.
All-in-all a very worthwhile trip and I look forward to more Art and Science Symposiums by USAT.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

IM Cozumel Race Review

On November 29th I competed in my final race of the season, the inaugural IM Cozumel.
Here is the race review:
Ironman Cozumel—2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run
November 29, 2009
Entry fee: $550
Hotels: Lots of choices and all are fairly close to the start (the Island is not that big). We stayed at the Residencias Reef Condos about 3 miles from the start and on the bike course. Go to
Travel: We flew into Cancun and then took the ferry to Cozumel. This worked out well and was less expensive than flying into Cozumel. Go to We also rented a car while we were there, which worked out great.
Restaurants: Just what you would expect in a resort town—no issues with eating out or from the food bought at the grocery store. Be sure to stick with bottled water…
Race Packet: Very nice fleece jacket.
Swim—Non-wetsuit, open water start in the ocean. One loop along the coast against the current and then turning back finishing with the current. There was a long carpeted run to the transition area.
Bike—The course was three flat, windy loops around the island. The wind picked up with each loop. There were spectators throughout the course and lots in town.
Run—The run was three loops that took you through town (lots of cheering spectators) and out toward the airport and back (a bit lonely out here). It was flat and hot—wind in your face on the way out and a vacuum on the way back.
Aid Stations: The bike had aid stations every 10 miles or so, fully stocked. The run aid stations were every ‘K’ with plenty of choices (water, Gatorade, coke, gels, bars, etc.)
Volunteers: Friendly, helpful volunteers.
Expo: Usual Ironman branded expo—pricey…
Finisher T-shirt: Very nice black dri-fit short sleeve t-shirt.
Timing: Chip timing
Awards: ? Did not attend the ceremony…
Award ceremony: Dinner the next day--did not attend.
Post Race Food: Drinks, pizza, fruit.
Parking: This was difficult as the course was closed to traffic. We were able to park at the swim start and then our support crew was able to drive close to town to set-up shop around the bike-to-run transition and finish area.
Porta Potties: Facilities at the swim start and porta potties at the transition area.
Transition Areas: There were two transition areas. At the bike check-in the day before, you were to leave your bike and both transition bags at the start (they transported bike-to-run bag to T2). T2 was located in the center of town. Then on race morning you just had to drop off your special needs bags at the start.
Waves: The pros went off about 15 minutes before the age-groupers.

What a beautiful venue for an Ironman!!! The course was really nice and very challenging with the wind and heat. We were pretty fortunate as the sun was not too hot on race day—the clouds were in and out all day and we had some drizzle on the run. It was great to have a closed bike course and the fan support in town was terrific. The Island did a great job hosting the race—everyone we came across was very welcoming and helpful. If you are looking for a “destination” IM race, this is it!!!!

Rating: 4.5 CRANKS

1 CRANK = Don't even think about doing this race...
2 CRANKS = Hmmmmm, a last resort...
3 CRANKS = Not bad, you get what you pay for...
4 CRANKS = Solid event all around...
5 CRANKS = Can't miss, a must-do race...