Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Three Breakthrough Strategies to Set your Ironman PR!

I often feel that your first Ironman is the best Ironman racing experience you'll have throughout your racing career.  You have no lofty expectations other than to finish and since you don't yet understand or have experienced how badly you might feel during certain stages of the race, your naivete and ignorance help you get through the bad spots. First times for almost anything are usually always memorable, especially when it comes to ultra endurance sports racing.

As you dive further into the sport, you start developing expectations of yourself based on previous results, as do your friends, family and training partners.  You begin to analyze every detail of your training plan, race and nutrition strategy and figuring out ways to shave a few minutes off here and a few minutes off there.  Your fitness evolves quickly and you go faster as you build more aerobic base, lean down, muscle up and get dialed in on all of the latest "Go fast!" equipment.  After several years of steady, purposeful training and with around five or so Ironman distance races under your belt, you "get it" and you start to see the fitness improve at a slower rate as your results begin to level out in your "home range" of a few minutes. Sure, conditions on race day will always change a result, but the athlete who consistently finishes at around 11 hours has discovered their "Home" and will always be finishing around that same time... unless they do something extraordinarily different.  The same principle applies to even the top tier athletes.

There's a definition of insanity we all need to remember..."Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."  If you're ready to break through your plateau and go to another level of performance, it's time to do something different, NOW!

Barring the unrealistic notion for most age groupers of quitting a high paying job, packing up the family and relocating to Boulder to train 'full time' with the sport's best, I have compiled three key ideas that might just help you experience a breakthrough to the next level.   (CAUTION!: The ideas expressed here are only for experienced Ironman competitors and should not be attempted by athletes new to the sport or without an appropriate training base.)

The Breakthrough Strategy Three Pack

1.  Run 7-10 Times a Week:
Frequency counts when it comes to endurance sports training. Just ask the top world class runners who run two and three times a day during certain stages of their training cycle, logging weekly mileage totals of over 120 miles.  Experiment with committing 2-3 weeks in a row with running shorter workouts of 20-40 minutes, but lots of them, including a couple days a week of "double runs" (one in the morning and one in the evening.).

2. Ride 15-20 hours in a Week:
As with the running Breakthrough, the same can be applied to cycling. If you can find the time, ride 3-4 hours daily at an aerobic endurance (zone 2-3) pace for 3-4 days in a row, take a day or two to recover and then repeat. Do this same routine one to three more times consecutively and you'll see why pro riders use stage races to 'race' themselves into peak form for the Grand Tours like the TDF.

3. Taper Longer and Harder:
I know this isn't as extreme sounding as the first two Breakthrough Strategies, but it's incredibly effective nonetheless.  Most triathletes go into their key Ironman race overly tired and feeling flat, especially the busy age group triathlete over the age of 35 who is starting to battle with father time.  Try to extend your taper a week more than normal and cut back on weekly volume more too.  It's no wonder that many athletes feel 'peaked', not on race day... but the week after the race.

Try to incorporate one or more of these three ideas into your Ironman training plan and let me know how it goes.  Remember that sometimes it's important to shake things up.  I have a strong feeling you'll experience a breakthrough performance!

Good luck and train smart,
Coach Troy

Troy Jacobson is the Offical Coach of IRONMAN, the Head Tri Coach of Life Time Fitness and the creator of the Spinervals Cycling video series. A former pro triathlete in the 1990's whose "home base" was around 9 hours at the Ironman Distance, you can learn more at www.coachtroy.com

Sunday, June 12, 2011

2011 Ford EDGE: The Ultimate Triathlon Machine | My Review

(Full Disclosure Statement:  As the coach of the IRONMAN Ford Training Team, I was given use of a Ford car during the term of our agreement.  My obligations to them do not include writing this or any review of a Ford vehicle. The opinions written here are mine and a not representative of Ford or any other company or individual. So there.;)


I like cars, a lot.  I'm not sure why really, but I just do and always have.  I bought my first car, a 1972 Toyota Celica, when I was 16 years old and have gotten a new (or used) one every 1-2 years ever since.  I just like having a car that's new to me, drive it for awhile and then move on to the next one.  And much to my financial advisor's dismay, I like driving nice and relatively expensive cars. Depreciating assets are not great investments, as it turns out.  I'm kinda the same way with bikes too.

My parents owned a 5 Series BMW back in the early-mid 1980's, before BMW was the brand it is now in the U.S market.  I learned how to drive a manual transmission in that car, and loved it.  A few years later, a good friend and mentor of mine who was very successful in business and a class act overall, a man with the initials JH, once told me to always drive a nice car because it'll make you feel good about yourself and help you 'raise the bar' in pursuing business and personal success.   When I turned 26 and was starting to finally earn some decent money in the new and growing field of triathlon coaching (when there only around 10 triathlon coaches, not 10,000), I decided to set my bar high and buy my first BMW, a 325is Coupe, Forest Green/Tan with manual transmission. Man, did I love that car!

Since then, I've owned around eight more BMW's, including an M3 (my fave!), a few 5-Series (including a 535xiT ... sports wagon), an X3, X5, an M-Roadster (Zseries) and even an M5.  I used to live in Maryland in the rural suburbs so I could appreciate the power and the superior handling of these incredible machines on the twisty country roads. I loved to drive and would log 15-20,000 miles per year enjoying the "Ultimate Driving Machine".  And no, I never broke the speed limit. ;)

Bottom line is, I appreciate driving a high performance car just like I appreciate riding a high performance bike.  I notice the subtle things that a superior car has to offer and demand them, like the solid 'thunk' of the turn signal stalk, the lateral support of a bolstered leather sport seat, the crisp short throw of the stick during a quick downshift and the muffled airtight sound a door makes when it shuts.

So, when the opportunity to get involved with the Ford Training Team by Ford Motor Company came to me, I was a bit skeptical. I was loyal to my brand (BMW) and wondered if I could get behind the wheel of another car as a brand ambassador and be truly excited to endorse it to people who've I've worked hard to establish a level of trust in.  Decisions, decisions, decisions!

During one of my many trips to triathlon events last year, I had the lucky opportunity to drive the new Ford Taurus as a rental car, for a few days.  This experience was so positive that I realized that Ford had stepped up their game and were making cars that would appeal to people who like to drive, as evidenced by their recent financial success. The hook was set... and I looked forward to getting behind the wheel of a Ford.

I recently received, direct from Detroit with 'manufacturer' tags, a 2011 Ford EDGE Limited... their crossover vehicle the fits nicely in the line-up between the small SUV (Escape) and the larger SUV model, the iconic Explorer.    As soon as I saw it roll off the trailer under the bright mid-day sun here in Oro Valley AZ, I thought to myself, "WOW"!  I am SO impressed and excited about this car, and here's why...

Mine came in the Tuxedo Black metallic color with the LIMITED version trim.  This includes 18" chrome clad aluminum wheels.  The stance of this car is incredibly muscular, with a short front overhang, wide wheel wells and long wheelbase.  Add an updated, aggressive looking chrome grill and two large chrome tailpipes, and you've got a very cool (and fast) looking vehicle.   The SPORT package looks even more aggressive, complete with 22" wheels, updated grill, rear diffuser and 4" chrome tailpipes. NICE! (Note to FTT: Please send me a Sports model next year!!:)

The value and quality here is unbelievable.  Starting with soft leather seats with contrast stitching (usually seen in cars starting in the $60K range), this car is roomy and comfortably seats 5 adults with tons of storage for carrying wheels, your bike or groceries... or all at the same time!  Options include automatic rear folding seats, automatic lift gate, etc.

The technology is incredible too... as Ford partnered with Sony to create SYNC, an intuitive and easy to operate command center.  In my car, the trim is piano black with stainless steel (love it) and touch sensitive dials and controls are easy to see and to get to, with ambient lighting  (light blue).  It's ultra modern and looks very clean and technologically advanced.  The rear view camera can be seen through a center oriented touch screen console. The steering wheel has finger tip controls for practically everything, and is wrapped in leather with nice 'grips' for performance driving at 10 and 2 o'clock.     I'd like the steering wheel to be a little bit smaller and thicker, (like the M Sport package in the BMW), but it's more than adequate for everyday driving.

Another great feature of this car is it's size and ease of entry and egress.  The seat, unlike a full size SUV, is just about 'butt height' for most people in the 5'10" - 6' range (i'm 6'), so it's easy to 'slide in' and 'slide out' of the car without hopping up or down.

And the full panoramic sunroof makes the car feel even more open and airy.

Sony SYNC console/display
For the kind of driving I do now as opposed to when I lived on back country roads, which is mainly suburban driving in Tucson to the store, shuttling the kids around and driving with my bike (and athletes) somewhere for a ride and sometimes taking a longer trip with highway driving, the EDGE offers a nice combination of performance and comfort. The larger tires help soak up road shock, and the chassis is soft enough to make driving over bad roads comfortable.

The EDGE is nicely powered too with a 3.5L V6 engine and 6-speed automatic transition.  Step on the gas and it moves!  The speed freak in me however would prefer the 300+ HP found in the Sports Package. Gas mileage is good with an advertised 27 mpg highway. I find that I get around 20-22 mpg driving around town at avg. speeds in the upper-30 mph range.

I find myself excited to drive this car, and that's important for me.  A car has to 'inspire' me , and this one does the trick.  Being a new model, it gets prolonged stares from people as they try to figure out what it's all about.

I feel it has a great blend of practicality and sportiness.  For the triathlete, it has ample room to grab a few friends from the tri - club and load up with bikes and accessories for a road trip.  For everyday driving, it's easy on eyes, offers good fuel economy, fun to drive and with the SYNC technology and entertainment package, convenient in every way.

Pros:  Bold styling, incredible technology, quick, good fuel economy, price for value
Cons:  Somewhat numb steering, use of cheap plastic in doors
Price range:  $27,700 - $45,000

I think Ford has done a fantastic job with the new EDGE and recommend you at least give one a test drive if you're in the market for a new car in the crossover category. I've had my eye on a new X5 now for sometime, but the EDGE could very well be "The Ultimate Triathlon Machine" in terms of practicality, technology, performance and most importantly, overall value.

Train Safe,
Coach Troy

Coach Troy Jacobson is the Head Tri Coach of Life Time Fitness (NYSE: LTM), the Official coach of IRONMAN and the coach of the Ford Training Team.  Learn more at www.coachtroy.com

SUPPORT THOSE WHO SUPPORT YOUR SPORT!  Visit mid-west FORD Dealer, Bill Walsh Automotive. Test drive a new Ford Edge!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Coach Troy's Training Tip | Test Yourself for Better Results!

"What gets measured, matters." This holds true for most things in life, from your performance in grade school (no one wanted an 'f' on their report card!) to being held accountable for your sales numbers at the end of the month at the workplace.  It's even true for competitive athletes as they strive for higher levels of speed and endurance ... measuring progress and reassessing training parameters periodically is important!

Measurements pertaining to fitness can be taken by simple means or done in complex, hi-tech laboratory settings... it's up to the athlete. I recommend finding a reputable Human Performance Lab nearby (Life Time Fitness has them) and subjecting yourself to a little bit of torture at the hands of the guy or girl in the lab coat, at least once a year.  If that's not feasible, consider a simple 'field test' or 'time trial' on the roads or indoors (Trainer or Treadmill) to give you some type of idea of where your fitness now stands. (We have a great bike test, Spinervals 27.0, as well as some training zone calculators available for your use by clicking HERE).  And last but certainly not least, a good hard race on a familiar course always gives you the best indication of how you're progressing, as well as 'real life' training zone data! (for example, a local 5K or 10K).

One little caveat... remember that all of the fancy V02max testing, hi-tech measuring devices and data crunching in the world can't take the place of your gut and the need to listen to your body.  Occasional testing and using the data is just another useful tool in the tool box, if used effectively.

In any case, test yourself (and record results) consistently every 4-8 weeks throughout the season in order to monitor your progress and maximize your performance on the race course!

Train smart,
Coach Troy

A former pro triathlete and now competing as an elite Masters, Coach Troy has been coaching triathletes since 1992, is the head Tri-Coach of Life Time Fitness and the Official Coach of IRONMAN. Learn more at www.coachtroy.com