Brian Murphy

Brian is a Category 2 cycling racer (road) and a USA Cycling Level 2 Coach. He is an E3 Level 1   He’s been an active racer at the Masters level both in the US and Canada.  While always having had a passion for cycling, Brian became a competitive road cyclist in 2005 after competing in USSA and FIS alpine ski racing for many years.  During his journey from being a Cat 5 racer to a Cat 2 racer, he acquired a deep knowledge base of all aspects of real world cycling performance.

In 2010, Brian was named New England Bicycle Racing Association (NEBRA) Champion, New England Masters Association (NEMA) Champion, New England Time Trial Champion and ranked #1 in several USAC road racing disciplines in his age group

 

Coaching Resume

  • USA Cycling Level 2
  • E3 Level 1 Coach

Athletic Resume

  • New England Bicycle Racing Association (NEBRA) Champion
  • New England Masters Association (NEMA) Champion
  • New England Time Trial Champion
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American Liver Foundation Run Plans

If you want to get a copy for our plans and different levels click on the links below:

RFR Running Plans

RFR Run Plan Details

 

 

 

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Off-season – Training challenges, are those good?

With the off-season there is usually a phenomenon that comes with it – Training challenges! You know how they go, it is the beginning of a new month and your friends asked you to join the ‘this is a crazy bad ass’ challenge by doing an activity every day for so many days/weeks/months. There may be a variety of formats but the jest is the same: do so much of something pushing the boundaries of what you have done before.

And the goal for most challenges come from the right place: to help participants to remain motivated, encourage them try new things or to address areas of their fitness toolbox that may have been neglected during the training season. Still, the question is, are these challenges a smart way to do some training during the season?

The answer is: IT DEPENDS! Yeah, like with anything training related and if you are familiar with my coaching approach, there is very rarely a single definitive answer to training. Nevertheless, you may often hear coaches/athletes preaching specific single ways to do things as the only way. This may range from: “only forefoot striking is the correct to run, barefoot/minimalist shoes are better than cushioned shoes, you have to ride an arbitrary number of miles to race and Ironman, etc.” the list goes on and one, but when one objectively review the current evidence, it is very easy to realize that’s never the case. Why? Because some athletes succeed because of a particular way of training and others don’t. Most importantly, some athletes succeed because of the coaching approach and other in spite of it (this is a theme for another article!)

Well, if you know me, then you know I rarely proclaim such definitive arguments simple because in most cases the answer it tends to be “it depends”. And going back to the topic of challenges, the reason this may help or not comes down to the type of challenge you may choose to participate in, the training load (how much and how often) you will do and how this fits into your long term goals (big picture).

Let’s say during the racing season your running performance was your biggest limiter, then a challenge focusing on running more may be a great way to address this in a fun way, push you outside your comfort zone and correct something that will benefit you in the long term. The important operating word here is “may” and that’s because, as long as you approach the challenge in a smart way doing enough of it within your own limitations, then it will benefit you in the long run.

For instance, if prior to the challenge you were running 3x per week and your challenge is to ‘run every day for 30 days’ then, the challenge may help you as long as you build up slowly, you don’t follow arbitrary distances or paces, run more by feel and understand the point is to run a bit more (every day) and that spending some time on your feet (whether 5 or 30 min) is much important than anything else.

On the other hand it may NOT be a good challenge is you start running an arbitrary number of ‘miles/min or shooting for unrealistic paces; by doing this, in a matter of days your body will be unable to handle the load and you may either have to skips sessions forfeiting the challenge to avoid injury or push through (to keep up with the challenge) and risk ending up injured.

The same applies regardless of the challenge, whether you are doing pull ups, or swimming more or whatever. If you have NOT been doing the activity consistently in the past, then you have to approach it with caution and use the challenge in a smart positive way to motivate you and enjoy the benefits you can gain from it. Otherwise, the challenge may turn into some sort on unhealthy obsession (“I have to do this because…”) and turn into a negative force and a sure way to screw up your season before it starts.

I am not saying challenges are bad and that you shouldn’t test your boundaries or push outside your comfort zone, please do! But be smart, objective, realistic, do it within your fitness constraints and remember the training challenge should be a positive way to help you for the coming year.

As a coach, I sometimes do this with my athletes, I either let them know we will have a ‘training challenge’ ahead to focus on something or they know the focus of a particular training block it will be ‘x’ and then together we can focus on addressing the goal within the specific limitations.

In summary, whether you coach yourself or have a coach, training challenges can be a fun, positive way to help you address specific things during the off-season. Just setup objective goals, be smart and don’t lose sight of the big picture – the challenge will be positive as long as it keeps you healthy while pushing outside your comfort zone.

Keep enjoying the ‘off-season’ and be on the look for our Off-season FREE webinar which will be announced in coming days. Also learn more about our services here

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Introducing the PLUS Program!

For the 2013-2014 season we are introducing our PLUS program; this is a way to get our services at a discounted cost with added benefits such as free classes, training camps discounts, sponsors product, etc. Simply, choose one of our programs and give us 12 months to prepare the best training program to help you achieve your best performances yet!

All our programs are 100% personalized created to address your specific needs, athletic goals, time limitations while striking a balance your life priorities like family and work. Here you won’t find any marketing buzz, no magic ‘systems’ and no shortcuts. Our athletes succeed based on hard and consistent work.

Check our different options

Our Full Integration Program is our top of the line service with a complete approach ideal for those athletes with challenging time constraints and/or those seeking to bring their performance to the next level. We address your specific athletic goals, target your individual needs and consider your limitations, all to strike the optimal balance between peak athletic performance and life priorities (family, work, etc.)

We follow an integrative approach addressing all elements of a triathlon program including a fully personalized plan, nutrition, testing, fueling, biomechanical analysis, execution plans, one-on-one sessions and performance modeling; all vital for maximal performance.

Our Basic Integration Program is an ideal option for the athlete seeking an integrative approach addressing important elements of triathlon training without the all the features available in the Full Integration

The Performance Plan is a great alternative for athletes seeking structured training and coaching support without the full integration of our other programs.This allows the athlete flexibility to tweak the structure in a personal way and get other services as need it.

Coaching Services Comparison Table

 

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Join our E3 Tri Team and Elite Team

E3 Training Solutions is committed to helping every day, amateur and elite athletes achieving superior performance through proven training concepts, latest science and technology. We offer Full Integrative Coaching Programs, Nutritional Programs, Performance Analysis, and more.  We offer two Triathlon Teams:

 

E3 Tri Team

It is a Triathlon team deeply committed to creating a friendly and supportive environment in which we welcome athletes of all athletic levels to train, socialize, and compete in triathlons, road races, and other endurance events. We offer an ongoing enrollment through the year . (learn more and sign up!)

Elite E3 Tri Team

It is a Triathlon team of committed ‘up-and-coming’ elite and Age Group athletes supported through coaching services, sponsorship deals and multimedia presence, in order to develop and consolidate their athletic potential. Only available for those applicants accepted into the team (learn more and application)

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Karen Vasso

At age 25, Coach Karen Vasso was depressed, overweight, and struggling with her health. At the urging of her brother, David, she made a plan to “get healthy”, joined a gym, and met him several times a week for workouts, which included swimming with the Masters team for which he was a coach. Karen’s vow to “never, ever, ever compete” was quickly shattered under the coaching and expertise of the Masters program, when one day during a time trial she took :53 off her 50m time, and the dream for Nationals was born.

Not wanting to journey alone, she challenged her triathlete teammates to join her in her pursuit at the New England Championships, and in return, she would join them in an open water race of their choosing. Karen caught the open water bug immediately, and several years later (after adding two New England relay records, five National Top 10 times, and numerous regional and open water podium finishes to her name), she made a decision to leave the pool racing behind, and make open water middle-distance marathons her focus.

Karen began her coaching career five years ago with a large Masters team that consisted of nearly 50% triathletes, from beginner, to elite, and even Olympic levels. She comes with the experience of learning to swim as an adult, which makes her an ideal choice for teaching adults. She has a contagious passion for open water swimming at every level, a unique approach to coaching, and a deep sense of commitment to helping make the goals of other athletes a reality.

Coaching Resume

  • ASCA Masters Coach Level III
  • E3 Level 1 Coach

Athletic Resume

  • 4 Marathon open water races, with podium finishes (Swim Around Key West 2-man relay-10K; Swim Around Key West solo -12.5 miles; Lake Willoughby-5 miles; the Kingdom Swim-10 miles)
  • Numerous sprint distance open water races, all podium finishes
  • 7 Triathlon relay podium finishes (Cranberry Trifest; FirmMan ; Lobsterman; Mooseman; Timberman)
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Jessica Douglas

By training, Jessica is a physical therapist, with 11 years of experience in private practice.  Recently, she was certified by the American Physical Therapy Association as an Orthopedic Clinical Specialist.  Over the years, she has focused much of her practice on working with athletes, studying and correcting muscle imbalances and biomechanics of the leg.

Jessica was a three-sport athlete in high school, and a runner for years after that.  She began training for triathlons when an injury prevented her from running and she bought her first road bike.  She dusted off her swim cap and goggles, long unused after years as a lifeguard, and after a few months, entered a sprint triathlon and dropped out of the race after the bike, as she was still unable to run.  After surgery to repair her injury, she began training in earnest, and competed in several sprints tri’s that year, with a few podium finishes.  She was hooked.

Around that time, she began working with Coach Jorge, who led her to complete her first half marathon, taking 6th in her age group.  They have been working together as coach and athlete for 2 years, and colleagues with E3TS since its inception.

Jessica is a self-proclaimed “anatomy junkie” and loves teaching others how their bodies work to perform each activity, whether it is running, cycling, swimming or strength training.  She is focused on keeping the proper muscle balance and maintaining the necessary strength and mobility through sport specific strength training.

Jessica completed the E3 Training Solutions Level 1 Certification and currently is training to complete the Level 2 and Continuing Education program.

Coaching Resume:

  • Master of Science in Physical Therapy * Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
  • E3 Level 1 Coach

Athletic Resume:

  • She has completed multiple Sprints/Olympics/Half Ironman and has also podium at local races.
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Rev3 Quassy Half Ironman – Race Report

In my previous post, I set the tone as to what kind of training, approach and preparation went into this race. As a quick recap, August 2009 was the last time I raced a Half Ironman. After that I start rehabbing a micro tear on my shoulder (rotator cuff) so I didn’t swim at all. Also, in 2010 I began the rehab from a knee surgery.

It is important to notice that neither of this two injuries occurred because of my endurance training. The shoulder injury was an acute one that occurred after I was dumb enough to jump into a boot-camp type of challenge with a friend and due to my lack of specific preparedness and bad technique; I suffered the injury while doing pull-ups (totally my fault). The knee injury evolved from a bad bike fit that *I* screwed up after traveling back and forward with my bike and not correcting it. Both, stupid mistakes but live and learn.

Anyway, most of 2010 I didn’t do much of anything most of the year, 2011 I was able to bike some (did cyclocross), run a bit, not much swimming and by 2012 I began to get back to training but very slow and conservative to make sure my body was fully recovered. I competed in a few sprint tris and began feeling like my old self to the point at the end of the year I decided I was ready to get back into full training mode and shoot for my return to long distance triathlon racing. In the Fall I signed up for Rev3 Quassy.

And fast forward to June 1st, the day before the race, I spent it as I have done the past few years, in ‘coach’ mode supporting some of my athletes racing the Olympic distance. It was great to be there cheering for them and seeing have great performances. All of the posted PRs and Jeff ended up in the podium even after a bike crash

But it was not the best as an athlete as I spent a lot of time walking, under the sun and heat day but I couldn’t help it and I didn’t care at all. Later in the day we had our team dinner which was another chance to talk to my athletes about their day performance or last minute pow-wow about the racing plans I provided.

At that time, it hasn’t clicked yet that I was actually racing the next day but soon enough, when we returned to the hotel and put on my bib number tattoos, it became more real. The rest was uneventful as I went to bed relatively early and unlike previous times when I can barely sleep due to the excitement, I slept like a rock until the 4 am alarm went off and it was time to fuel before the race. One of the things you kind of untrained due to the lack of racing is the ability to down a big breakfast that early! But I managed to eat my bagel, some fruit juice and soon enough we were on our way to the race site.

When we got there I put on my game face on and I was ready to race!

But in all honesty, I was feeling nervous and like a total rookie after so many years of not racing this distance. I literally had butterflies in my stomach but thankfully all that soon disappeared as I got into transition area and seeing my athletes relaxed me as I went into coaching mode.

I set up my transition in a few minutes, and I was good to go. From there everything was normal until the swim start, by then I began feeling ‘good to go’

Swim – 32:41min (slower than planned) 24th out of 140

Ok, this was probably my worst leg of the day bit somewhat expected. I knew my swim time would be between 30-32 min (my prediction based on a few open water swims) so I was surprised at first to see 32+ min swim. But after thinking back it make sense; I started at the front of the swim and as soon as the gun went off, I was at the front and holding my pace with the leaders. I them quickly settled into a nice pace and was following drafting some fast feet. But as I turned to breathe I gulped some water and this threw me off. For the remaining of that section I had trouble swimming comfortable, I felt like I was not in control and like I was totally out of my game, I was swimming of course, you name it, totally bad!

At the first turn around I eventually settled and kept on swimming though not yet comfortable. Towards the end of that section I calmed down completely and before the last turn around I finally got into a groove and began swimming relaxed passing people left and right. But I think that came all too late and couldn’t make up for all the lost time. As I exited the water I didn’t look at my time, I just focused on transition and getting to my bike

Transition 1 – 1:48min (prediction 2 min) 20th out of 140 (yup I passed 4 guys in transition!)
Not bad, execution was well for most part but I could have been more fluid as I felt rusty for sure!

Bike – 2:43:23hrs (prediction 2:45h) 14th out of 140 (I passed another 6 guys)

The bike leg was pretty solid for most part. Prior to the race and based on all my testing and race simulations, I estimated my Critical Power (CP) around 260-265 watts, hence I set up a target for the race to ride around 205-210 watts average for the entire 56 miles or around 80% of my CP. That said, the average would be lower as the racing wheel I have, (power tap 2.4)  ends to ready around 10 watts lower so to be safe I was shooting for 195-200w

My actual numbers were as follow:
Work: 1928 kJ
TSS: 178.4 (intensity factor 0.808)
Norm Power: 210
VI: 1.07
Distance:  56.311
Power: 196 watts
Cadence: 89 rpm
Speed: 20.6 mph

All in all I was around where I wanted to be but there were a few things I would have done different and I think it will come from getting more into regular racing ‘rhythm’, something I was certainly missing for this race! First, my ride was more variable of what I would have desired. If you take my average power (196w) and my normalized power (210w) the variability (NP/AP) was 1.07. This was slightly higher than my 1.05 goal. Now why is this big deal? Well, anytime your ride is more variable it means you spent some time riding above your target and sometimes below your target. The latter is normal in a rolling hilly course as Quassy simply because on long down hills you spend less time generating power and more time coasting enjoying ‘free’ speed.

For instance, around mile 46ish there is a 1+ mile downhill where I avg just under 37 mph for almost 2 min while my power was under 46 watts. There were around 16 times I did something like this lasting anywhere between 25-90 seconds so you can see why the ride may be somewhat variable. In fact, I spent  around 12min coasting looking at my power/cadence distribution charts. Now the important part, this can become ‘less’ variable with the times you ride uphill. This is because while you spend so little energy going downhill, you spend more energy going up, problem is, how much higher you go on those up hills that will keep the ride constant or make it variable.

In my case, and where my racing rhythm is a bit off, is that, on up hills while it is normal to have to produce a higher power to get your body overcome gravity and pull yourself up the hill, how much above your target will make your ride more ‘spikey’ and variable. My target for the race was to NOT go above 220-225w on long sustained (not so steep) climbs and stay below 230-235w on short more steep climbs. I didn’t execute as well on the 2nd part of the ride as I went over this target sometimes.

The other reason my ride was more variable than planned was because when you get to accelerate and spike your power way above your target and above your critical power as I did at times, you burn ‘matches’. Philip Skiba explains this very well in his article “Understanding Work Above Threshold” but in a nutshell, anytime you ride above your CP, you dip into a finite energy reserve called W’ (formerly known as anaerobic work capacity). This means, that as you use this finite energy source, and when you use it significantly you have to either stop or slow way down.

In long distance tris this is important because even if you use your W’ to some degree that doesn’t affect your bike, it may very well end up affecting your run! In my case, I spiked my power 7 times over my CP and sometimes above my 20 min max power. So this execution mistakes probably cost me ‘a bit’. (You can see this below, yellow dotted below line was power target, yellow dotted above is my CP, the line I didn’t want to cross much, the solid yellow line is actual power;  you can see some of the spikes above CP or the times ‘coasting’ as power dropped/speed increased).

Also, haven’t raced a Half Ironman in a while threw my ‘feel’ a bit and towards the end of the ride I slowed down a bit, not because I ran out of energy (in fact I was feeling very strong) but because I didn’t want to overdo it affecting the run so I finished conservative. In retrospect, I should have kept my pacing as it was…

Now the main mistake I did on the bike was with my fueling. As I mentioned on my ‘Comeback’ article, I did a lot of specific bike training though I think I didn’t do enough fuel adaptation. That is, in some of the longish rides I did, I missed the chance (rookie mistake) to really practice my fueling as in race day.

Therefore, during the bike I consumed a bit aggressive number of carbs which would have been fine if not for a lack of focus in the last water stop. What happened is that for every gram of carbohydrates that you consume, you have to dilute it with water to keep the concentration to a level that won’t upset your stomach at best or result in an Exercise Related Transient Abdominal Pain aka a “side stitch” at worst. The literature suggests keeping the concentration between 6-9%. For people prone to stitches (like me) you want to stay on the low end. Well, my mistake was that I not only didn’t practice my fueling to the extent I did on race day, but also, in the last water stop where I meant to get water, my mind thought water but my mouth yelled “Gatorade”. As I grabbed the bottle I realized my mistake but just kept going.

I figured it would be ok, but didn’t do the math in my head, therefore my carbs: water concentration ended up been over 12% (uh-oh!). Anyway, I didn’t think much of it during the bike, I focused on riding, passing as many people as I could and unlike other races where I tend to get passed by many stronger riders, this time around I was doing the passing and maybe 3-5 guys passed me at the most. I was very excited about my bike as it has placed me in a great place and I know I have a lot of room for improvement. Nevertheless, the fueling mistake would end up costing me on the run a lot…

Transition 2 – 0:58 (prediction 1:30min) 13th out 140 (I passed another guy in transition!)
This was great, In and out! I did waste a bit of time putting my socks on, but hey, I can’t race sockless this distance J

Run – 1:27:24 – 6:40 min/mile pace (prediction, sub 1:25hr) 6th out 140

The run started great, I came out of T2 feeling great and excited after seeing so many familiar faces.  I was also told I was perhaps 4 or 5 in my AG and that gave me the motivation to focus and settled into a nice rhythm, after all, running has always been my strong leg and I am usually confident I can make up time, catch people ahead, etc.

All went well for the 1st 3ish mile, having done the course a few weeks back, I knew this portion would be faster than my race pace target of 6:30s. I ran 6:15s for this portion due to the downhills and I was feeling great and I passed 4-5 guys, however by the middle of mile 3 as I fueled in the previous two water stations with coke and water I began having an old yet very well-known feeling; a dreaded side stitch! Having had this before, I knew I had to go into ‘damage control’ ASAP so I started trying to switch my breathing patterns, took shallow deep breaths, and began inhaling through my nose, exhaling through my mouth.

All seemed to work as I could feel some discomfort but it felt like I was been successful keeping it at bay. Then the 3rd water station came and as I fueled drinking more coke and water, the side stitch smacked me harder than a 20 ton trailer. I was running through the dirt road uphill section on the back of the curse and every step was beginning to feel like pure agony. All I could feel was like some evil alien made its way into my right side abdomen and it was using a knife to cut through my stomach to exit and be free! For the next mile or so I just remember gritting my teeth and trying to hold into the fastest pace possible while grabbing my side abs in pain.

I didn’t look at my watch but I could tell I was not only NOT gaining on guys ahead of me, but I was actually been caught by others. I kept on focusing on my breathing patterns and just struggling to run at a decent pace. I slowed down to over 7 min/miles and the pain was so bad I rolled my top up turning into a mankini (not pretty at all) and pulled my shorts down some. All I wanted was to avoid anything touching that area. As I ran a small out and back section between mile 4.5 and 5.5 it became obvious I only had 2 options. Either, I would have to stop, walk, slow down, forget about the time, placing and racing, let the stitch to go away but eventually I would be able to fuel and complete the run. Or if I wanted to attempt keep racing, I could take a riskier move; endure the pain for another mile or two and stop fueling all together (maybe drink some water). I figured by avoiding fueling (carbs), the pain may go away as the concentration in my body would normalize;  and by sucking up the pain for a few miles, I would be able to speed up “going for it” at the risk of hitting the wall. After all, I was going to go without fueling for over 7 miles.

I chose the latter and went with it. Over the next mile the pain became somewhat bearable so I sped up to 6:45s, then it got better and ran 6:30-35s and I was able to get into a groove; well that until mile 11ish hit. That’s when it happened, the inevitable occurred, I ran out of energy and blew up like a Mexican Piñata!

From there on, I just toughen it up running as fast as I could for the last few miles. I managed to pick up the pace the last 1/2 mile but the damage was done. When all was said and done, I finished 6th in my AG and 21st amateur overall with a 4:46:14, over 1:14 min my pre-race prediction (not bad at all).

Thinking back, I am not disappointed about the result at all as I know I had a good performance considering my training and my time away racing this distance. I do know the mistakes I did were preventable and something I will work on so it WON’T in coming races. I am very excited about my fitness and honestly I am feeling better, perhaps of what it was when I stopped racing long course back in 2009.

I have big goals for this season and I plan to work hard to go after them. I don’t know if they will become a reality and I don’t care. Nothing happens if we don’t try right? And if they do come a reality, it will just be the icing on the cake because what I am enjoying the most is the training and the time I now get to spend with my athletes while doing it, so it will be a win win!

Timberman 70.3 here I come!

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Athlete Race Results – Week of 6/3

Whoa. Check out the weekend race results! Race Season is definitely here!

At the Pirate Sprint Tri in Maine:

Mike Orr finished 5th in his age group AG
Jason Stokes toughed it out on a rough day, finishing 17th AG
John Gendron was 10th AG
Greg Popp finished 9th AG
Coach Bob Turner was 1st AG, 6th Overall

At the Escape the Cape Tri (our ladies cleaned house):

Kayle Shapero was 2nd place female overall (fastest female swim)!
Beth Allen was 1st in her Age Group
Kelly Kulsrud – 2nd place Age group at her 2nd tri ever and 3rd fastest female run split!
Beth Adams was 12th Age group despite some cramps.
Denise Schultz was 12th Age Group and 20 min Personal Record!

At the Redondo Beash Sprint, Lucy Herzog was 13th in he AG!

At the Stapleton Golden Eagle 5K:
Jen Fields was 3rd in her age group despite a rough day at the office.

At the Tufts Harbor 5k:
Brenda Chroniak – 2nd Age Group and a Personal Record!

At Eagleman 70.3
Carolyn Pfalzgraf – 1st in Age Group and 15th female amateur overall.
Brian MacIlvain – 2nd Age Group and 21st Amateur Overall.

At the Pat’s Peak 6 hour Mountain Bike Race – Scott Taylor was 6th overall!

At the Purgatory Road Race:
Noah Manacas managed to complete the race in the cat 4 35+ category after crashing out!

John Villares successfully completed his first race in a long time at the Mont-Tremblant Olympic tri (duathlon due to a cancelled swim).

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My Comeback to Long Distance Racing…

It has been a while since I wrote a race report and it has been a long time since I last raced a half ironman, since August 23, 2009 to be exact. In that time a lot of things have changed in my life. First of all, I was unable to compete and train most of 2010 due to a knee injury that resulted in surgery and a long slow recovery. On May 2011 I quit my then full-time job as a financial analyst and started my own business what today is E3 Training Solutions, LLC. a company specialized in coaching every day and elite athletes to compete in endurance sports.

Today, the business is 2 years and growing strong as we have been adding new coaches, we are coaching athletes to compete in swimming, running, cycling and triathlons, we offer other services such as biomechanical analysis and nutrition and we have partnered with various companies to help us expand and develop new projects including one of the few rehab programs specific for endurance athletes in Massachusetts in partnership with Joint Ventures Physical Therapy.

Needless to say, my time has become my biggest commodity, that and the fact I had a long road to recovery post-surgery with various setbacks, well, my fitness and triathlon training became almost non-existent. Fortunately last year I began the road to get back to competing and managed to regain some of my old fitness and participated in 2 small tris hosted by our sponsors MaxPerformance obtaining good results.

It was on the fall last year that I decided it was time to return to competing in long course and would have to manage my time to achieve that while running a business, coaching full time and developing other projects. I must confess when I used to have a desk job it was easier to fit in my training, now as a small business owner, my working hours are almost 24/7 and therefore I had to rethink my approach to training.

At E3 our coaching model is very simple; we develop personalized programs based on each individual’s physiological needs, athletic goals and life limitations. You can learn the specifics in this video but in summary, we take those needs, goals & limitations to develop the initial program based on fitness parameters determined with testing, we then setup a block periodirized plan, we evaluate the athlete’s execution, and as we progress, we adjust the program constantly as the athlete adapts.

In my case, the needs were simple; I needed to get back in shape while addressing muscles imbalances that developed/resulted from the knee surgery. I also needed to address a shoulder injury that occurred at the same time of the knee injury that required me a constant stretching and strength program due to a small micro tear on my rotator cuff. Therefore, I would need to build up my run very slowly, focus on getting my cycling fitness back and be able to get back to swimming building up rather slowly. My goals were simple:

  • Get back in shape to complete long course triathlons
  • Return and surpass the fitness level I had back in 2009
  • Be competitive

My life limitations were simply, lack of time. Therefore, my job would be my main priority hence when I would have to choose between work vs. training, work would come first.

From October to December managing my training was tough due to the many projects and responsibilities at work so I focused on running and doing rehab/strength training to address my shoulder and muscle imbalances, but all in all, I was perhaps running no more than 3-4 per week mostly easy. I began leading some group sessions as the head coach for the Run For Research Boston Marathon team, so that allowed me to do some longer runs or intense ones like hill repeats with the team.

By January and until March I kept running more though nothing more than 3-4 per week an average 15-20 miles per week. For cycling, we offered indoor power-based classes at 2 of Landrys Bicycles locations, (another of our sponsors) which allowed me to do some cycling but not more than 1-2 sessions or 1-2hrs per week. I didn’t do any swimming all along that period as I kept focusing on shoulder rehab and strength training.

By March, I was feeling like my running fitness was beginning to come along though I didn’t know for sure how well; while I did a few races I did so pacing some of my athletes, but I knew I was feeling more like my old self. Cycling-wise I was not feeling too confident, except from the indoor class I was teaching my cycling training was very inconsistent. Still, with the coming inaugural E3 Training camp in Tucson, Arizona, I knew I could use that as an opportunity to jump start my cycling training and maybe even my swim training. Though it was both tough and fun to ride with my fit athletes and watch them kick my ass left and right!

So basically from March until May I knew I would only have around 12 weeks to get in adequate shape and race ready for Rev3 Quassy, the 1st Half Ironman of the season. I also knew it would be a bit tight and any small setback would not allow me to get in the shape I envisioned, but given my life priorities, that was the route I had to follow. I mention this because as a coach, I often have to help my athletes manage their goals and expectations as it is easy to define a goal months in advance; that’s the easy part! But the tough and most challenging part is to make that goal a reality training consistently week in and week out all while we seek to balance training with our work, family and other life priorities.

So with my goals redefined, and the time frame I had to make it happen, I reviewed my needs/goals/limitations and setup a plan. I knew my running was feeling good so I could test with a race, determine where I was and what I would need to do to get in the shape I was hoping for. I did in a small 5k where I managed a 17ish min finishing time and 3rd overall. Likewise for cycling, I knew I had to determine my fitness level via testing and from there see how much I could improve it in 12 weeks. Finally, for swimming, I was more conservative; I knew if I could build up my swimming gradually, I could get in “ok” racing shape, but I had to be careful making sure my shoulder would be able to handle the work.

With that in mind, my plan was simple: do 12 weeks of specific half ironman training, starting with:

  • Run – 3-5 runs x week, progressing my load with some intensity doing hill repeats, extending my volume doing a long run every other week and in between modulating a race pace mid distance run.
  • Bike – 3-4 bikes x week, with a big emphasis in my critical power ((CP) click here to watch a video to learn what it is), doing 2 CP sessions per week plus a weekend longish but intense ride. (no easy riding here)
  • Swim – start with 1-2 x week very short/easy and build up the distance gradually to swim on avg 2500-3000 yds 2-3 x week.

Below you can see my run/bike progression:

Though I had a solid run foundation from Jan to March (not much cycling in that period), it wasn’t until late March/ early April that I had a solid 4 week buildup where I average around 30 miles per week. There was a drop of volume at the end of April do to a half marathon I raced pacing an athlete and then suffering a setback as I got the flu. In that period, my cycling got a big jump due to the early March training camp, but on average, I wasn’t riding more than 3-4 hrs between March and April. Still, the hours I did, I was riding pretty intense on the trainer or outdoors doing tough 1-1:30hr rides.

In terms of cycling I had 1 key session per week. I basically did 6×4 min sets at my 20 minute maximal power which I determined doing an all-out 20 min test. In late March my result was a disappointing 247 watts, almost 45 watts lower of my all-time high back in 2009. I used that result as the starting point, the next 8 weeks I focused on increasing it as much as possible doing the 6×4 workout (which my athletes refer as the 6x 4 minutes of hell!); the 1st week, I did 5 sets at roughly 247w and the last set I went as hard as my legs could. Then I added all the average watts for each set, divide it by six sets and that became be my new watts target for next week. Then next week I would do the same: 5 sets at that new target number, and the last one I go as hard as possible; add, divide, get new number and repeat every week. This plus another indoor intense ride and a weekend longer intense/tempo ride.

Below you can see my progression using RaceDay Apollo software

6x4 min workout progression

The above graph shows how I managed to increase my 20 min power back to my 2009 level in 11ish weeks, well, less because as mentioned above I had a setback when I caught the flu. each black dot represents my avg power for all 6 sets every week; the numbers progression was:

1st week – 3-25-13 – 20 min test (indoors) – 247w
2nd week – 04-02-13 – 6×4 min workout (indoors) – 258w
3rd week – 04-09-13 – 6×4 min workout (indoors) – 264w
4th week – 04-17-13 – 6×4 min workout (indoors) – 268w
5th week – 04-23-13 – 6×4 min workout (indoors) – 274w
6th week – 04-30-13 – nothing; recovering flu
7th week – 05-07-13 – 6×4 min workout (outdoors) – 283w
8th week – 05-14-13 – 6×4 min workout (outdoors) – 285w
9th week – 05-14-13 – 6×4 min workout (outdoors) – 285w
10th week – 05-21-13 – 20 min test (outdoors) – 295w
11th week – tapering/race

The data above allowed me to modulate my training as every week I would adjust my numbers slightly for all my riding and to predict my performance as to roughly where I would have to be next week (green line on the above graphic – most of the time I was able to beat the model prediction!). This allowed me to estimates weeks out of the race, and remained consistent, what sort of gains I could expect by June 2nd.

I did something similar with running though not with swimming. As mentioned I was much more conservative with that. In fact, I only swam 1x week for from late March, until late April, then I did 2x a few weeks on early may, then I manage 3x week for a week and then I did a few open water swims before the race, swimming a total of 14-15 times.

All the data I accumulated from my running, cycling and swimming, all allowed me to track my fitness gains and to estimate where I could be fitness wise coming up the big day. In general you can see in the next graph how my run speed improved from the 1st quarter in the year (doted blue line) when compared to April/May (solid blue line)

run mean maximal

 

In the next graph you can also see how my bike fitness improve in the 11 week period mentioned previously as I managed to achieve best 20 min power almost consistently even when I was not testing, just riding intensely indoors or on longish rides; all in spite of riding not more than 90 miles per week for the last 6 weeks on average!

Performance Chart Bike

 

And finally the sum of my swim, bike, run training produced a profile in which I knew I was in ‘good’ shape heading into the race. I also knew if I didn’t have that setback getting sick, I would have been more confident and  closer to where my goals were at the beginning of the block. That forced me to readjust my racing goals lowering my expectations a bit but to have a realistic one.

The graph below shows how my fitness (blue line labeled ‘positive’) increased steadily, how my chronic fatigue changed in the same period (red line labeled ‘negative’); while fatigue accumulated, because I modulated my load, it was never such that it was limiting my performance except from when I got sick (late April) and after a big training weekend (early May). Still, all along my performance potential (green line) was steadily increasing, again, except during the period I was sick or had a big training load block.

Using RaceDay software, I was also able to learn how fast (or not) my body was recovering from certain session per sport, so I was able to set my weekly modulation and plan my tapering schedule accordingly. For cycling I knew I could ‘only’ taper for around 4 days (see graph no. 1 below) getting almost an extra week of training prior the race, while for running I need it ‘only’ around 7-8 days (graph no. 2). This is great information to have and completely dismisses the popular though mistaken believe that taper has to be an arbitrarily number of weeks, but that’s another topic.

No. 1 – Bike Taper

 

No. 2 – Run Taper

In the end, all this gave me a solid idea what I would be able to do on June 2nd at my 1st half ironman in over 3 ½ years; using power-based training, using pace-based training (using a GPS) and performance modeling using software like WKO+ and RaceDay (which I do for my full integration athletes). I used it to guesstimate my racing performance potential which was in the following range:

  • Swim between 30-32 min – this was based on the 2 open water swims I did at race pace.
  • Bike between around 2:43-2:45hrs based on my critical power, the terrain, a race simulation I did on the course, though not fully knowing how weather conditions could affect it (heat, wind, etc.)
  • Run between 1:24-1:25hr based on my testing and race pace simulations.
  • All this plus transitions I figure I would be in the 4:43 – 4:45hrs finishing time range.

Tomorrow I’ll post my race report to but I was close in my predictions!

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