THE T:ZERO BLOG
Free advice, content and media for all. It's our way of giving back to the tri community who have given so much to us. Enjoy!
Now in its 37th year, the Noosa Triathlon Festival is the largest triathlon event in the world, and one of Australia’s most loved celebrations of all things multisport. Participation in the hero event itself is also virtually a rite of passage for budding triathletes everywhere and if you haven’t already, one to add to the bucket list!
Later this week, over 12,000 athletes will make the annual pilgrimage to the triathlon mecca of Noosa Heads. There’s something special about Noosa that attracts professional triathletes to train, live and race, and entices the masses to return year after year to participate in this iconic five-day festival. Here are the five reasons we’ve got a giant soft spot for one of Australia’s most iconic events …
1. The Atmosphere
It’s big, it’s bustling and it’s busy, but Noosa Triathlon Festival is one hell of a celebration. Sure, you’ll probably come across an ego or two (or more) throughout the weekend, but big heads aside, the atmosphere and festival vibe is nurtured and encouraged by the organisers and embraced by the local community and athletes alike.
Timing-wise, it couldn’t be more perfect. It’s November – it’s Noosa Tri and it’s basically Christmas holidays thereafter. Work is winding down and everyone’s in the mood for a party. And there aren’t many after-parties bigger or better than Noosa’s, with a perfect combination of seasoned Noosa Tri veterans, elite athletes, newbie individual debutants and happy-go-lucky team participants just keen to have a good time!
2. The Complementary Events
he Noosa Triathlon Festival is just that – a festival! We love a good celebration of all things multisport and the five-day festival showcases so many awesome events to perfectly complement Sunday’s main race.
Keen athletes can participate in variety of lead up events including the Noosa Run Swim Run, Breakfast Fun Run and the 1000m Ocean Swim. “Super Saturday” features the Noosa Superkidz Triathlon for all the aspiring junior triathletes and finishes off with the classic ASICS 5km Bolt and Australian Open Criterium races which are always fun to spectate.
A steady stream of other events and activities across the weekend ensures there’s not a dull moment to be had, no matter your interest or ability.
3. The Course
Even if large-scale races aren’t your thing, the one beauty about Noosa you’ll surely appreciate is the event planning and organisation. After more than 35 years running the event, its organisers execute with precision.
The race itself begins on Noosa Main Beach, which is generally calm and clear (breathe guys, last year was an anomaly!). No doubt veteran Noosa Tri athletes will be happy to wave those canal mud moustaches and monobrows of yesteryear goodbye!
The bike course is technically described as “undulating” but it’s generally flat (minus Garmin Hill, about 10km in) and traverses some beautiful hinterland scenery. If you’re fit enough, you should have a few spare breaths to appreciate the views.
A flat, one-lap out and back course through Noosa Sound, the run leg is a dream … provided you can get yourself onto it before the sun starts to heat things up! Crowd support is crucial here and there’s plenty of it, with spectators lining almost the entire distance. If you’ve been here before, you’ll have (not so) fond memories of that charming last-ditch detour through Dolphin Crescent we all love to hate. The only saving grace here are the friendly locals who voluntarily provide cooling services to struggling athletes via their garden hoses!
4. The Noosa Sport & Lifestyle Expo
No Noosa Tri Festival is complete without at least one decent wander through the impressive Sport & Lifestyle expo. It’s hard to avoid too, given registration is in the same location at Noosa Woods.
For triathlon nerds and gear buffs, a stroll through the exhibitor displays to chat to product reps, sample the latest nutritional supplements and potentially nab a bargain or two is a must. One of T:Zero’s major sponsors Clif Bar will again have a great set-up so be sure to stop by and say hi to their friendly crew.
5. The Destination
s far as local race locations go, there’s no doubt Noosa is an impressive destination. For athletes and their families, it provides endless options for food, activities and entertainment catering for a variety of interests. For most, local accommodations require minimum nights’ stay (generally 3-4) so taking a few extra days pre or post-race is a good idea if your circumstances permit. Whether you enjoy Hastings Street with its countless shopping and dining options or prefer to escape to the trails of the National Park, everything you need for a good time is within walking distance.
The location itself is also very spectator-friendly – on race day family and supporters can choose to find a space close to the finishing chute and soak up the excitement of the finish line, or avoid the hustle and bustle and instead opt for a shady spot along Noosa Parade and beyond (they are plentiful) guaranteeing a view of their athlete twice on both the ride and run legs, if they’re eagle-eyed enough!
Good luck to all our T:Zero athletes racing at Noosa this weekend, and remember to keep an eye out for Coach Scotty who will be handing out Clif Bars in the recovery area on Sunday with the Clif Crew!
Focus, determination & mental strength - Morgan Millington's incredible ironman journey to kona qualification
I think it’s safe to say my journey is incredibly similar to many who have ventured down the Ironman path. It began with a crack at a bucket list item goal of completing a triathlon to catching the ‘bug’ and suddenly an entire day of exercise is the ‘norm’.
The main reason to give an Ironman a go was to learn what it’s all about, to see if my partner Luke and I were those foolish folks that enjoyed an entire day of absolute punishment. Turns out we are, 3 down and no doubt soon to be planning the next one.
Safe to say it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Ironman number one, two or three. But what is an Ironman journey without a few rough days at sea? What do we take out of each time is experience, lessons and fun that we won’t forget. I am writing to share my experiences and maybe you are bordering on entering an Ironman for the first time or after years of experience you really relate to the ride we have been on.
In our eyes the first step when looking to do an Ironman is to engage a coach from an Ironman background, by chance I happened to meet another triathlon ‘freak’ Steve who hooked us up with Rich. It’s been a few years now and we are so stoked to call him our coach as well as be a part of the culture and crew that is T-Zero. Rich might have other things to say about coaching us, it’s never an easy task to coach a couple who request to be nearly joint at the hip but are of different abilities, for us, it works and he makes it work.
We chose Ironman Australia as our first stop. The first one was all about getting our bodies used to the miles that come with the long distance. That wasn’t without its hiccups, Ironman training is never an easy ask with full time work as many I am sure, can relate. The main obstacle that was thrown my way was Achilles Tendonitis greeting me with 4 weeks until the race. After some serious down time for the 4 weeks I had reached a point where the medical advice was positive enough for me to line up on race day.
Race day was a new experience, there was that sense of complete unknown ahead of us, and on top of that I had in the back of my mind how on earth will I get through this, four weeks of no weight bearing running (subbed in some water running) I have to run a marathon. That little back of the mind voice had to be silenced. The mindset was so important that day, my mind turned to the previous six months and the training I went through, I found confidence in that and kept positive.
As the race went on I was perfectly positioned on the bike and was rolling back into town with about 8km left, only to hear something go terribly wrong, I look back to find an entire de-railer hanging, while I was prepared for all things flat tyres and chains off, can’t say I travelled the course with a spare de-railer! Eight kilometres from home it was time to get my hiking boots on. I kept strong, it was just a hurdle, one I had to jump over and keep moving. Lucky as I was on my walk the mechanic turned up and 20 minutes later I found myself on a fixie bike and 7km of hills. What happened was completely out of my control, what I could do, nothing but accept and find a way to make the best out of a bad situation. I was there for the experience and accepted this was part of the experience. I managed to pull off a really strong run, with my Achilles issue I was stoked, I knew I could do it. The overall result was unexpectedly close to punching a ticket to the ultimate Ironman World Champs at Kona with the 20 or so minutes on the side of the road with a mechanical being the difference. That certainly wasn’t within my control and knowing that left me comfortable with where I was with my ability and gave me drive to continue the Ironman journey.
What next was always going to be on the cards, it was an incredible experience and we were ready to improve.
Ironman Texas was the decision. We caught the bug but wanted to expand our horizons outside Asia Pacific. The build was near on perfect and our goal for the race was to better ourselves in the sport we chose, this is important for me especially, Rich has taught me, the goal is the best out of myself on the day, my square metre, my race, my goals and that will lead me to do what I deserve. This lead to a solid day out for me but not what I knew was my full potential. An opportunity for a Kona spot a whisker away, a mere 2 minutes over 9 hours 30, but because that wasn’t my end goal it was easy enough to accept. That Kona spot would come when I have my best day and the external uncontrollable fall my way. I took my learnings and spent the next 12 months finding that continuous improvement and enjoying the adventure.
Next back on home soil we decided we were all in for Ironman Cairns, our own personal goals were set. We were all in, as mad as our friends and family thought we were this was ‘fun’. It was all going to plan until….
Four weeks before the race in the best form I had ever been in, 28km into my 32km run I tripped over, I am a clumsy person and it wasn’t rare for the odd trip over but this one was different, it was at pace and getting up something didn’t feel ‘right’. Turns out I fractured my elbow. The next 4 weeks was a mind battle but as the coach said, there was no time for a pity party race was on and we would get through it. At the time I wanted a pity party, but looking back he was setting me up for success. There was no time for me to be upset or stress over what was happening, it happened and I couldn’t take it back, we get on with it and remind ourselves what this is all about, our goal to get the best out of ourselves and to enjoy the process whatever is thrown our way.
Race day came, the arm, while it had not fully healed, I had the tick of approval from medical professionals that it was ok to give the race a crack. Swimming training had been non-existent, running was short and sweet and a nagging hip was sending a few signals to me, but it was on.
Talking to Rich pre-race, mentally it was all about the path I chose to take was going to lead to either success or disappointment. The easy path was “tough race, tough conditions, I have a fractured arm, everyone will understand when I pull the pin” or “get on with it, pain is temporary and my arm is strong enough to get through this”. The day wasn’t without its twists and turns, the swim was a long way but I created my own path and stayed away from others, last thing my arm needed was to end up in a washing machine situation. The ride was amazing, that coastal road are just so beautiful the whole way and the run was full of on course support. Essentially throughout the day the path I chose allowed me to get on with the job. In this circumstance the mind helped the body achieve.
That resulted in my body giving me all it could on the day, 2nd in my Age Group and 3rd overall female age grouper and the big island. What a dream!
Things have since taken a twist, that sore hip, was a little more than just a sore hip. One week later I had an MRI which has resulted in finding out I have a bone stress injury. Us triathletes really know how to push the boundaries with our bodies, unfortunately in this case the body has told me to pull back.
The Ironman ride continues, what path it takes, not sure right now, crutches and couch time are my current situation. The plan is let the body heal properly re-set and go again.
Each time we learn more about the sport of triathlon, specifically Ironman, and the drive is there to strive for more, by more I don’t necessarily mean more training, or higher placings in my age group, or faster times. It’s about getting the process right through the entire journey, finding the perfect balance and most importantly have fun while doing it!
By Senior Coach - Lisa Spink
By now most athletes know about run - walk strategies for endurance events. Obviously, it is mixing run intervals with walk intervals – no rocket science in that! But is this strategy confined to the completers or is it a sound strategy for those wanting to reach their absolute potential and why?
Let’s drive into some of science and practical applications of the run - walk strategy.
Initially a run - walk strategy was possibly thought of for those who didn’t think they could cover the distance running the entire way - so to be able to complete the event they used a run - walk strategy and it works.
Then it evolved and we saw elites, such as Jan Frodeno win Kona with a run - walk strategy. “Interestingly for a man with such prodigious speed and strength, Frodeno won more with conservative wisdom than brute power. When recounting his race, he gave much credit to his habit of walking through many aid stations on the run. He explained to Slowtwitch that slowing down to take in the hydration and nutrition and letting his core temperature cool down. Ultra-runners use run-walk strategies in track, road and trail events again with the goal to improve performance not just to be able to complete the distance.
So, I think we can say a run - walk strategy is a legitimate strategy to be explored for improving your performance regardless of the level of competition. For some athletes this will mean losing the ego and doing as Frodeno did, using “wisdom” to reach their potential. Now, I say “explore” because some events and athletes maybe more or less suited to this strategy so as always N=1, but let’s be smart enough to use the best strategy for the event we are racing in.
Why do run - walk strategies work? This is an interesting topic in which an Assoc Professor friend from Universite Rennes II (France) and I have chatted about for several years following research he did involving ultra-running and fatigue (I was privilege to part of discussion group and a guinea pig for his research). So apart from the above important aspects sighted by Frodeno, which included the ability to take in hydration, calories and cooling the core body temp in the notoriously hot run conditions of Kona – there are physiological and biomechanical considerations as well.
The first, is the strategy can assist in controlling the RPE at the start of the run. Many athletes fall into the trap of extending themselves at the start of the run (either in a triathlon or in a straight running event) which can lead to loss of force and soft tissue ailments. In this scenario running speed eventually slows and unless the athlete has spent time running at the slower speeds, running economy can be compromised, running gait can change, which places stress on different mechanics and now both physiology and biomechanics can be affected. The loss of running economy starts the downward spiral of requiring more energy and oxygen to perform movements which are becoming more inefficient that require more energy and oxygen. With the possible change in gait, through loss of force production the risk of injury is increased.
Secondly, changing the gait cycle from running to walking and back again may play a role in conserving force production, muscle contraction and neuromuscular fatigue. Even though from a gross motor perspective running and walking may look similar the muscle involvement and kinetic chains are different and the neuromuscular pathways differ – therefore switching between the 2 modes may assist in prolonging the overall performance at high intensities.
Thirdly and not to be understate is the psychological aspect of the strategy. By the pure nature of the run-walk strategy, the event is broken into small manageable “chunks” for the athlete. The variety of both modes allows the athlete to continually reset and this can greatly assist in maintaining motivation. Again, by the pure nature of the strategy athletes can feel like they are running at a “better” pace while performing a run-walk strategy then the possibly unmotivating “slower” pace and “slowing” pace which can be the result of a continuous run strategy.
These are just some of the “geeky” theories behind the run-walk strategy but what does it mean for you the athlete. Here are a few tips.
Like always “happy athletes are fast athletes – love the journey to living your potential”
For those involved in the world of long course triathlon, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who hadn’t heard of the young gun talent of Ellie Salthouse. The local Brisbane, 25-year-old has been taking the world by storm over the past few years showing she is a force to be reckoned with over the half ironman distance. However, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Ellie and how she has found her “calling” within the sport is a story that will no doubt resinate with us all.
In my second year of living in Brisbane I was doing pretty well within the sport of triathlon. I was 21 at the time and I had been racing a lot over the Brisbane summer, most races landing on the podium. My coach at the time suggested I go and have a trial with the National Talent Identification program, which at the time was based in Carina. I remember thinking “wow, if he believes I have shot to make the program then I have to try out”. I remember getting to the pool and being surrounded by incredibly fit, lean and extremely athletic looking young rising stars. My first thoughts were to turn and run, I felt like my stomach was about to jump through my throat. However, I stuck it out and was grateful that my partner for the trial showed me a huge smile and made me feel a little more at ease. Without going into detail of just how not cut out for elite junior racing I was at this stage of my life, I did leave that day having made a new friend, an enormously talented individual who had just returned from National Cross Country and not once made me feel in any way out of my depth. I later learnt that that fit looking, happy and friendly girl was a 15-year-old Ellie Salthouse, her story and racing career I have been following closely since that day. Last week I had the pleasure to catch up with Ellie over coffee, share some of those old stories, learn about her battles as an up and coming athlete and most importantly hear first hand how Ellie is taking her 70.3 racing career to the next level.
As a youngster, Ellie was an incredible swimmer and runner, she recalls having seen a weet-bix triathlon add as a junior and asking her parents to take her along to the event. From there, is was evident that Ellie had a love for triathlon, “I started after that race at the Clem Jones Sports Centre in the Junior program and had some incredible achievements as a young athlete including 2 Silver Medals at the Youth Olympics and a 12th place at the 2012 Auckland ITU Grand Final”. However, despite all of this early success and enormous talent, Ellie found herself at the age of only 20 hating the sport, not having a love for the racing and training and feeling an exhausting amount of pressure to continually make teams and qualification times, she had simply lost her “why” and belief in herself. Ellie took a 6 month break from the sport and upon returning to Australia realised that perhaps her best years within the sport were still to come. After some wise words from local triathlon legend Loretta Harrop, Ellie was put in touch with Siri Lindley, who in my opinion is one of the worlds’ most successful coaches. “I knew as soon as I met Siri and had that conversation that she would be my coach, Siri made me find a love for long course racing and training, made me feel more relaxed and most importantly made me realise that I was only racing for myself”. Ellie made the move to Boulder, where she still to date spends 6 months of her year training and being coached by Siri. When hearing Ellie speak of her coach and the relationship they have it became evident to me that Ellie genuinely has a true love and passion for the sport of triathlon. It is obvious that in one respect, Siri became Ellie’s saving grace and made her believe in herself and gave her the confidence to try her hand in the world of long course racing, a big move to make at the tender age of only 21.
Ellie shared with me some invaluable tips and insights into her training and racing world as I asked her some questions regarding her career to date and her plans for the future. Ellie opens up about her dealings and learnings from 70.3 racing and kindly shares some of her thoughts regarding how all athletes, regardless of ability can get the most out of themselves, as well as provides some insights into her favourite racing locations and her dreams for the future.
What would be your best advice on how age group athletes can achieve their desired goals within the 70.3 distance?
“I think it is really important to have small goals each day, I find these help to keep you on track and accountable for your training. I think it is also really important that athletes tick off all of those little extra sessions, the stretching, strength and core sessions, they certainly help in the long run and to avoid injuries. I think it is also so valuable to have somebody who knows your goals, whether this be a coach or a friend or even a mentor, this individual will be able to help you at times when motivation may be lacking and help you realise your drive and your why, which is ultimately the most important aspect of success”.
What would you suggest as the most beneficial training sessions for athletes entering the 70,3-racing scene?
“Swim – I think it is really good for endurance and for mental toughness to do a hard set of 100’s with a very short rest cycle, only 3-5 seconds. So, the athlete is completing 30 or 40 of these slightly under race pace and having very little rest.
Ride – I love a long bike ride over a 4-hour duration where the final hour is at target race pace. I do all of my riding my perception of effort and have found that power limited my potential and also having that constant feedback of numbers on a screen distracted me from how I was actually feeling at any given moment. I love this style of a training ride as it allows you to hit that final hour having already completed some volume and feeling relatively fatigued. Again, great for not only physical improvements but also a mentally rewarding set.
Run – I find a good building run is again a really challenging yet mentally rewarding session. Knowing I have completed some really hard runs where I am required to run hard over the final 15 minutes of a 60-minute run really helps me dig deep on race day and givens me the confidence in my ability to do this under race conditions”.
What would be your best advice to athletes in terms of maintaining a love for the sport and longevity in terms of their racing?
“I think the most important thing is you need to enjoy it. You need to be able to listen to your body and have the discipline to rest and recover when needed. I have a rest day every week during my off season and every two weeks in my peak training season will take a complete day off and away from triathlon. I think also keeping on top of your strength work, stretching and massage will help keep the body well maintained. You also need to have goals! That is what drives me and motivates me every day, it will keep you accountable and make the process of training enjoyable and rewarding”.
What would be your top 5 tips for an athlete moving from the short course distance (sprint/OD) up to the 70.3?
“Keep some speed sessions in the swim, I found my swim training between these two distances relatively similar. Make sure you include some long rides, I think at least 2-3 four-hour rides before the big day. I think it is important to have regular long runs (90 minutes or so) but also equally as important to keep some speed in the run training too. Nutrition is also such an important aspect of long course racing, and needs to be well practiced in training”.
To date, what have been achievements in the world of triathlon?
1: Challenge Melbourne 2016 winner – this really validated for me that I had made the right choice with my training and racing and had found my love again for the sport.
2: Silver Medal at the 2010 Youth Olympics
3: Boulder 70.3 2018 Winner – for me this is like a home race
4: 8th Professional Female at the 2018 70.3 World Championships in South Africa
5: 70.3 Los Cabos 2018 Winner
What would be your favourite 70.3 races and why?
“My favourite destination to race would be Cozumel, it is so beautiful there and I love racing in the heat and humidity. I also love the course at Boulder. It is a hilly bike and the run is mostly on trails, it is also at altitude which makes it even tougher”.
I am so grateful to Ellie for taking the time out of her busy day right off the heels of a runner up placing at Geelong 70.3 only two days prior to having a coffee with me in the heat and humidity of a Brisbane summers day. Ellie is the type of person who just boasts a true love and enjoyment for the sport and having heard her story, is truly thankful she returned to the sport where she still clearly has so much more to give. Her beaming smile radiates confidence and her attitude to training and racing is the perfect example of how hard work, consistency and self-belief can conquer all. Ellie will soon leave Brisbane and head to the USA in preparation for 70.3 Oceanside in early April. Ellie has a swag of 70.3 races coming up over the course of 2019 all with goal of lining up for the 2019 70.3 World Championships in Nice to be the number one female athlete in the world. Ellie is a star to watch and even more importantly a genuinely lovely, kind hearted and caring individual who is one to keep your eye on in the year ahead. No doubt all of us as athletes can take home something from Ellie’s sharing’s!
Until next time…
Coach Em Quinn
What drives you on race day? What is your focus? Do you have a preconceived time or place you are aiming for? Or do you simply not want to come last? Are you crazy nervous in the days leading up to the race or even race morning?
Here is a little secret, that implemented correctly will keep those pre-race nerves at bay and will unlock your potential and crush any goal you may have previously set for yourself.
So…when someone asks you what your goal at a particular race is – what do you say? I want to break 3 hours? I want to break 10 hours? I want to come top 10 in my age group? I don’t want to come last? I want to qualify for Kona?
The reality is, your time and your position at any given race is simply out of your control. Let’s focus on time to begin with. Time is only one type of measurement of performance and importantly, it is far too variable based on the conditions (heat, humidity, wind, accurateness of course etc). Do you start your watch when the gun goes off? Or worst still, do you look at your watch when you get out of the water? There is no benefit to either practice. If your watch tells you a negative story (ie slower) or even a positive story (ie a faster than expected time) all it is doing is giving you a false sense of reality as you head to the bike. The swim could have been long (or short), the currents, the chop etc could play an important part. Similarly with the bike and the run, if you are focused on a speed or pace then you aren’t focused on what is important during the race – your effort that you are giving that is not controlled by the conditions.
Reaching the podium or qualifying for Kona or even not coming last are all matters outside of your control as well. Where you come in a race is only a reflection your peers – not on your actual performance.
Let me give you an example. If your goal is to break 5 hours at a 70.3 and you have an ordinary day, walking the last 3km of the run but because it was a breathless day and a fast course you cross the finish line in 4:58. Whilst you have achieved your goal, you know that you didn’t put in your best effort and this sort of performance will still leave you searching. Similarly, if you have an unbelievable day in tough conditions and you cross the finish line in 5:08 – you are going to be stoked about the performance rather than the time.
In its most rawest sense, the goal in any race must be to get the most out of yourself. Your performance ‘P’ is measured by your ability ‘a’ multiplied by what percentage of effort ‘e’ you gave on the day. So for the boffins out there… P = a x e
The goal in training is to improve your ability in the sport. For most of the T:Zero Collective this is a long term process. When you turn up to a race, your ability is constant. You can’t do anything more to improve that. What the focus must turn to is the effort – what percent are you willing to give of yourself.
The secret to ultimate success in this sport is to focus on ALWAYS give 100% of your ability. You cross every finish line knowing that you have given your all and that the performance each race is a true representation of what you have been doing in training. The time, the place are both irrelevant. If you focus on nailing each race, then it becomes a habit. You keep training hard, your ability will improve and there will be no doubts when your big race comes you will give 100%.
The athletes that have done very well in the past and who are doing well now are the ones that are prepared to go into battle in any race, no matter how important and no matter how fit or otherwise they are. The ones that struggle to pull out great races when it counts are the ones that don’t make it a habit. Pre race nerves are normal and often beneficial. The nerves should be there because of the personal sacrifice you have made to get to the start line, not about trying to achieve a certain time or place. Focus on only what is in your control (ignoring/accepting things that aren't in your control) and your prerace nerves will plummet.
Here is the sealer – If at every race from now and into the future, you focus on the performance being as close to 100% of your ability, not on the external outcome, then you will surpass and sort of material goal you had set for yourself along the way.
We work so hard on our ability through training to often sabotage our effort on the day. Stop thinking about the competition or a certain time, and start demanding from yourself everything you have in training and on race day. It is 'you vs you' and be making sure that is the focus, you will achieve more than you ever thought possible.
You have got this, so go out and get it!
Us "A-Type" triathlete personalities tend to regularly get caught in the weeds of what we are doing. We find it hard to take a step back and look at things from a global perspective. We get so entrenched in the process and engulfed in the finer details, that we forget about the big picture of what triathlon, and in particular, long course triathlon or endurance activities longer than 4-5 hours, is all about. What are the majority of us missing you ask? A ‘bullet proof aerobic base’ - thanks for asking.
Time and time again, one of the biggest oversights I see, is athletes being way too keen to go hard or more often than not, a bit harder than easy. More is better and faster is icing right!? Well, yes and no, and… it depends. It depends on how good your aerobic capacity is to begin with.
What’s with this aerobic base/capacity business and why is it so important?
Let’s take a few steps back here and get a solid grounding to build on.
To begin with, in general, let’s say it takes roughly six weeks to strengthen a muscle (give or take). Add to this is takes roughly 210 days (6-7 months) to build connective tissue (properly) and you have yourself some grounding principles to work with at the basic physiological level. Of course, everyone is coming from different starting points, but as rule of thumb, this is pretty good stuff for a coach and athlete to remember. Layer on aerobic fitness and general adaptations to your cardiovascular system (heart and lungs etc) and you have the building blocks (amongst other things) for endurance. Marry all this with the golden rule of building fitness “CONSISTENCY” and then with the good old trusty 10% rule whereby you stick to adding about 10% of volume or intensity per week, and you have yourself a solid recipe base. As you develop in experience and knowledge, so too will the intricacies that lie within the customised (we hope) coaching and program you are following. 1%ers are for later on in the journey once the base is set.
First and foremost, the most important thing you can do as an athlete is make sure your aerobic base is functioning at max capacity. How do I do this? Through consistency, frequency and strategically getting your volume to a point where it is sustainably maxed out for you, your present level of experience and ability, and of course, to what extent your current lifestyle allows in terms of time available to train. How long will this take? Well how long is a piece of string really!? No two individuals are alike and thus, why would we put a timeline on it. However, generally speaking, if you are being 90%+ consistent with the training laid out for you, you should see gains in fitness every couple of phases 8-12 weeks sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. Also remember, the fitter and more experienced you are, the smaller the gains and harder these are to come by. Throw in the general consensus that it takes 3-5 years of consistent endurance training and racing to really discover what you are capable of on to all, and you have yourself quite the patient process to look forward to.
What does building an aerobic base look like?
In my world and understanding, to build an aerobic base means to do the majority of your training at a very easy effort. In terms of zones (once you’ve got these set correctly) in a five zone model, you want to be spending most of your time in zones 1 and 2; in a three zone model you will be under ventilatory threshold 1 (zone 1); or good old RPE scale would have you at very easy to easy and being able to complete a ‘talk test’ whereby you can maintain a solid conversation with a training buddy (or imaginary friend) - basically be able to talk a full sentence without getting puffed out. There you have the predominant intensity for setting the scene towards building your aerobic base.
Does this mean all I have to do is get around doing all this easy stuff?
Not at all, there is a time and place for bringing in intensity, and during the base phase, this is very much included in a highly polarised approach*(predominantly). During the ‘base phase’ of any build towards a goal race, intensity is generally limited to short bursts of intensity (intensity being anything above zone 3 / tempo). When thinking about what intensity comes into an athlete’s program during a base phase, I like to think about efficiency first and foremost. Efforts are generally kept very short, under 60 seconds, and with plenty of recovery (2-4 minutes) between so as to make sure HR does not stay elevated for prolonged periods. More often than not, this might include a handful of 15-30 second strides to a strong/steady effort whilst running; 15-60” builds to a strong effort on the bike; and 25-50m builds in the pool interspersed with passive and active recovery.
As the athlete progresses their aerobic base, so too does the intensity and duration of intervals used, as does the percentage of intensity distribution across an athlete’s weekly loading.
*Polarised training is where we spend the bulk of time in the lower intensities eg. zones 1 & 2; under VT1 or ‘going easy’ and we spend the rest of the time up in z4 with very sparing amounts in z5. When we do any intensity, it is generally perceived that we avoid spending much if any time at all in zone 3 otherwise known as the grey zone**. In a nutshell, we go easy or we go fast/hard.
*Grey zone training, an athlete’s biggest nemesis, particularly in the base phase of a build. Zone 3, affectionately called the grey zone is a kind of no man’s land. It’s too hard to be easy and too easy to be hard, so the benefits of spending any time there are neglegible, especially during a base phase. One of the major things we tend to find is athletes spending way too much time in zone 3 when they’re meant to be going easy in zones 1 or 2. What this effectively does is increase the amount of fatigue and loading (stress) on an athlete when for the same or better physiological benefits, you could be running a whole lot easier. To rephrase, you can pretty well get the same aerobic/metabolic benefits, if not more, running in zones 1 and 2, but for less tax and overall fatigue. There’s a time and place for some zone 3/grey zone work, but this is usually better spent as we get nearer races and need to spend some time becoming accustomed to race pace efforts. For the most part though, during the base phase, it is commonly agreed upon in the science world, that we are better off keeping things to a more polarised model.
As mentioned earlier, the extent to how detailed things get and need to be, depends entirely on the individual athlete. For a relative beginner, the most important aspects are consistency, frequency, and volume of training. For intermediate and highly experienced athletes, the addition of intensity together with consistency and volume becomes important.
There you have it. The good old analogy of building a house still rings loud and true when it comes to triathlon… you can’t add all the fancy stuff on top of a loose mound of unstable dirt, so why would you go smashing out loads of intensity without laying down a good, honest layer or ten of aerobic strength - at the end of an ironman or ultra run, it’s not the intensity you’ll be wishing you had more of, it’s working on developing an aerobic engine like Crowie Alexander or Courtney Dewaulter ;-) So, rather than getting caught up in the weeds of it all and not seeing the forest for the trees, take it easy, be consistent and ask yourself, is my aerobic base honestly as good as it could be? The usual answer is - it could always be better ;-)
At T:Zero, our coaches are on a journey of growth and discovery. Whilst we, like you, come from various backgrounds and levels of experience, we work hard to provide each and every athlete with the best customised programs possible. We have the foundation, the knowledge, the skill base, the humility and the confidence necessary to learn and flourish- just like you and your endurance journey.
There are definitely no magic bullets in this sport, and for that matter, no ‘magic’ coaches with secret recipes either. It’s important your coach has the experience, knowledge, and skill-set necessary to work with the individual and ‘read’ a person, but we will touch on how we at T:Zero do this another time. My only advice here around coaches is beware of the coach that says they have the magic recipe and all the answers. If you’re looking for a magic pill to short cut your journey, you ain’t going to find it.
Enquire now and join us on the upwards curve to endurance success.
By Head Coach Scotty Farrell
The T-Zero camp in Bright – as an outsider coming in, it was not just a camp but a awesome week of learning, training and making new friends.
Why did I sign up for a Triathlon camp as a complete outsider to a T-Zero camp?
The motto I have lived by for a while is -“just say yes”. Complimentary to my nature of being a serial experimenter with training, this ethos has launched me into some quite amazing adventures and often had me receiving race and event confirmations seemingly minutes after just saying “yes”.
So, when I became aware of a week long training camp in Bright, a beautiful town in Alpine Victoria, and a central location to amazing bike rides and training opportunities – well, it was a no brainer, and before I knew it I had signed up.
I have spent more than a few years on the triathlon scene and its fair to say I know quite a few people in the triathlon world and in Queensland particularly. I am pretty familiar with the major coaching groups and a lot of the coaches.
But T-Zero? This coaching group was an enigma to me. When I signed up to camp, my sum knowledge of T-Zero was that they were based on the Sunny Coast, did individual, online coaching and had seriously cool kit. That was pretty much it.
Having attended quite a few training camps over the years, I psyched myself up for a challenging week of physical training in beautiful Bright. More importantly, I mentally prepared myself to embrace the usual training camp scene of athletes jostling for attention, variable coaching levels and training turning into athletes racing each other…. all of the unknown plus the fact that I was a T-Zero outsider. I expected it to be challenging.
So what completely surprised me about the T-Zero camp was that it was unlike any camp I had ever been on. On day one, our coaches, Rich and Scotty, set the scene for camp week and a request to leave our egos at the door. And what followed was quite simply one of the most enjoyable weeks of training I have ever experienced -with a group of seriously awesome individuals. I met athletes from all over Australia who had varied goals including endurance bike rides, ocean swims, triathlons, ultraruns and swim runs – athletes training for their own goals and coaches who were just as excited about these goals with as the athletes themselves.
The camp base, T-Zero headquarters, was a brilliant concept. Athletes were welcome at the coaches’ residence at any reasonable hour to chat with coaches, other athletes and relax whilst using the Normatecs. In addition to team dinners, we chilled here during education sessions including nutrition, goal setting, teamwork and an invaluable sports psychology session by legendary Grant Giles. We are all now familiar with the “I am the sky, that is just a cloud” theory thanks Grant. Now to put it into action!
The cycling opportunities were the obvious lure to Bright. Some serious km were covered with plenty of opportunity to enjoy the scenery and chat with other athletes. As far as the individual sessions went, my favourite was Mt Hotham - mainly because it felt kind of epic cycling up there above the tree line for as long as we did and having a few challenging, but achievable gradients, at the end. For a group ride, I loved Falls Creek rolling along with banter all the way. And just to top it off, having the opportunity to have another crack at Mt Buffalo at the end of a long week and long ride was pretty cool too - a bit of freedom to test some limits outside of a normally structured training week.
There were run sessions both in Bright and at altitude, swim sessions in nearby Myrtleford and open water swims in alpine lakes. The strength session and yoga at the Bright Fitness centre were an added bonus too and we connected with our inner zen.
Falls Creek training day was super inspiring with our awesome guest coach Annabel Luxford leading a run and swim at altitude – I don’t think we noticed the lack of oxygen as we chatted with her, listened to her training tips and enjoyed the scenery.
The local coffee haunts, restaurants and ice cream shops took a bashing by the team and the calorie consumption would have astounded any member of the general public. Myself? Well, I left a fairly decent mark on the Lindt chocolate stocks in town!
A lot was achieved overall in one small week – swim, bike, run, education, socialising and great conversation.
But, more than anything on camp, the one thing that absolutely stood out was the T-Zero culture. Everyone was treated equally and that everyone’s goals were considered equally important. That leave your ego at the door comment coming to fruition. That success on a session was more about turning up and giving your best rather than being compared to anyone else on camp. And that everyone was there supporting each other to get the sessions done. Lots of teamwork in such an individual sport.
So did my “just say yes” ethos serve me well? It is completely obvious that it did – not only do I now know a whole new bunch of amazing people but T-Zero is no longer the enigma it once was. Thanks for an amazing week!
"An awesome all inclusive and professionally run training camp - great location and sensational athletes and coaches to train with - you know you have had a great 8 day camp when you want just a little bit more - booked again for next year - cant wait."
An amazing collection of training and racing advice from the T:Zero Multisport coaches- with the occasional guest blogger! Read this blog to help you live your potential!