Startline Coaching

2020 has been a challenging year for endurance athletes, leaving athletes with big questions like what next? and should I even bother? All of the race uncertainty has left many athletes feeling that they don’t want to invest in training if the race turns out not to happen. This can lead to frustration, burn out, and possibly throwing in the towel and de-training altogether.

At Startline Coaching, our recommendation is to think of the summer of 2020 as a unique opportunity to put some space in your life to:

A) Focus on family, new adventures, work, or other passions, but do so in a way where you maintain a productive level of fitness, strength, & mobility so that you can return to training in the fall healthy & motivated. For those you who fall into this bucket, Startline Coaching is offering a brand new ‘strengthen my base’ group training program that will keep you strong & robust while giving you time & flexibility to pursue other areas of interest.

B) Focus on a specific performance limiter. Rarely are we given the gift of time to make concrete progress on a key weakness in a truly dedicated way. The summer of 2020 is a rare opportunity to accelerate your athletic progress in a key discipline, such as biking or running, without the pressure of needing to prepare for a race. For those of you who are in this bucket, Startline Coaching offers individualized custom coaching programs to support you throughout the summer.

Whatever you choose to do, just keep moving! It’s great for the body – and for the spirit, too.

Coach Peter.

Whether your concern is body composition, recovery, power production, or workout/race fueling, it is always best to work with a specialist in the field. Three weeks ago, Startline Coaching athletes attended an athlete nutrition and fueling webinar with Nicci Schock of Elevate Performance Services. The session provided a grounding in the fueling requirements of athletes in the context of day to day nutritional practices, with a focus on training your body to call upon fat as the principal energy source rather than carbohydrates (CHO).

As a coach, I also work increasingly with athletes that are vegan or vegetarian. Dietary practices are more varied as athletes seek healthier practices. The vegan & vegetarian diet, while very healthy, can be limiting to the performance of athletes if not well managed and supplemented.

Daily nutrition:

  • Controls your metabolism during rest & during exercise
  • Influences energy pathway development (fat vs CHO burning)
  • Sets the stage for how well your race fuel will work for you
  • Is a performance differentiator for endurance events

Every athlete should include healthy fat, proteins & fiber into every meal, where fiber is the carbohydrate component consisting of fruits & vegetables. For vegan & vegetarian athletes, ensuring adequate protein in their diet can be a challenge. Constant care must be taken. Lack of protein increases dependence upon CHO burning energy pathways, rather than fat burning energy pathways, and reduces potential for lean muscle mass development, both of which significantly impact training & racing performance. In addition, plant proteins do not meet the full protein needs of athletes. Specific protein supplementation is required esp. during periods of high workload.

In training, fueling is not always required and can be counter productive. Aerobic exercise of moderate intensity up to 120 minutes requires no material fueling beyond a low CHO electrolyte drink. High intensity exercise up to 90 minutes requires no material fueling either beyond a low CHO electrolyte drink. Not every training bout is a race. Know the purpose of the workout. Use lower intensity training to develop fat burning energy pathways. Restrict the use of high glycemic carbohydrate energy products to race simulation or race efforts.

The topic is complex and each athlete’s needs are specific. A one on one consultation is recommended for anyone who struggles with race fueling, GI distress, workout recovery, or is competing as a vegan or vegetarian athlete. #startline athletes receive discounted rates for #elevate services.

  1. Blood Monitoring for Performance
  2. Sports Nutrition
  3. Sweat Sodium Testing
  4. Metabolic Efficiency Testing
  5. Genomic Testing
  6. Mindset Training

Runners often think that they should run a consistent mile-by-mile pace to maximize their race performance. However, it is not quite that simple. Anyone who has actually run a race knows that their pace for any given mile is impacted significantly by terrain; gravity significantly increases the energy demand at any given pace, creating fatigue and the need to recover.

A better approach is to aim for even energy pacing.

We all know uphill is harder than the flats. Too often athletes charge up a hill trying to maintain a close-to-target pace. Dr. Jack Daniels has produced some excellent charts that show the impact of grade on oxygen demand when using a treadmill. The chart below shows how much more oxygen consumption (V02) is needed to “maintain” pace as the grade increases. What is startling is how even a small increase in grade can dramatically change energy demand.

For example: If a runner holds 8:00/mile on a 2% grade, it will feel like 7:08/mile pace. This demonstrates clearly that trying to hold one even pace is detrimental to your race performance and that you will significantly overrun your pacing strategy (unless, of course, you are running on a flat course).

10:00 Mile9:14 Mile8:35 Mile8:00 Mile7:30 Mile7:04 Mile
0% gradeV02 27.4
Pace 10:00
V02 30.3
Pace 9:14
V02 33.3
Pace 8:35
V02 36.3
Pace 8:00
V02 39.3
Pace 7:30
V02 42.4
Pace 7:04
1% gradeV02 29.7
Pace 9:23
V02 32.8
Pace 8:40
V02 35.9
Pace 8:04
V02 39.1
Pace 7:33
V02 42.2
Pace 7:05
V02 45.4
Pace 6:41
2% gradeV02 32.0
Pace 8:50
V02 35.3
Pace 8:11
V02 38.5
Pace 7:37
V02 41.9
Pace 7:08
V02 45.2
Pace 6:42
V02 48.5
Pace 6:20
3% gradeV02 34.3
Pace 8:22
V02 37.8
Pace 7:45
V02 41.2
Pace 7:14
V02 44.7
Pace 6:46
V02 48.1
Pace 6:22
V02 51.5
Pace 6:02
4% gradeV02 36.6
Pace 7:56
V02 40.3
Pace 7:21
V02 43.8
Pace 6:52
V02 47.4
Pace 6:27
V02 51.0
Pace 6:04
V02 54.6
Pace 5:45
5% gradeV02 38.9
Pace 7:34
V02 42.8
Pace 7:00
V02 46.4
Pace 6:33
V02 50.2
Pace 6:09
V02 53.9
Pace 5:48
V02 57.6
Pace 5:30
6% gradeV02 41.3
Pace 7:13
V02 45.3
Pace 6:42
V02 49.1
Pace 6:16
V02 53.0
Pace 5:53
V02 56.9
Pace 5:33
V02 60.7
Pace 5:16
Excerpted from Jack Daniels Running Formula 3rd Edition

The key lesson from this analysis is this: when you hit a hill, slow down & control your effort, and similarly increase pace down hill. Always take into account the impact of gravity on your ability to perform. An effective strategy for the same sample 8:00 min pace runner, is to slow down to about a 9:14 min pace when running up a hill of 2% grade. As you can see above, the runner will still be consuming oxygen at a consistent V02 of about 35.3, with about the same energy cost of an 8:11 pace on flat ground.

When thinking about your next race, consider the terrain in your pacing plan. Taking an even energy pacing approach will ensure you do not overrun portions of the course forcing you recover. For the New Yorkers who read this blog, next time you are racing in central park and facing the northern hill, hold back as you climb and you will crest with strength giving you the opportunity to pass the many runners who climbed too fast and are recovering from going out too hard. Chances are that you will never see them again as you whistle by.

Moreover, this approach will delay the impacts of fatigue and will result in a stronger overall performance. Experienced racers know that hills wear down their competitors and the race is won at the end when the field has weakened. Nothing inspires more than having gas in the engine and passing competitors as the finish approaches!

Run well, run smart.

Coach Peter.

Life has changed for everyone these past few weeks and is likely to remain changed for some time to come. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us all to develop new ways to interact, find new ways to stay connected, manage our own fears and anxieties and those of others, and adapt to restricted movement. To those of you who have struggled with the disease or have loved ones who are ill, know the thoughts of everyone you know are with you and we all wish we could be at your side at this time.

In a prior post, I focused on the need for self care:

  • More sleep
  • Consciously showing more love for ourselves and others
  • Moving a little

The focus was about a priority response to manage the shock of the change and disruption that we have all felt in our lives. Now to look forward.

As athletes, we are all attuned to the idea of goal races. Races are being cancelled, parks are closed, group training sessions are no longer an option. As athletes, we have lost our tether and it is so easy to fall into a deep funk. Why bother? Right?

It is a truth that we will all be here for a while, and I would challenge us all now to find new structures and ways of being to reestablish normalcy in our lives, rather than sit and wait for the old to return. In some ways, this experience is analogous to an injury that puts us on the sidelines. We now need to look at recovering from the injury as our training. It is a change in perspective, and serves as a lighthouse guiding us to safe harbor in the storm.

So what does this mean:

Set training goals (visualize & write down what that would look like)

  • Address that niggling injury or flexibility issue
  • Build that core strength you always wished you had
  • Hit a power development target for the bike

Think through what tools you need to hit that goal and the target timeline to do so.

  • Stretch cords
  • Set up a strength training space
  • Buy a smart trainer

Establish a weekly training pattern

  • Commit to certain days/time of the week for specific activities
  • Schedule these times into your calendar
  • Pay yourself first by doing the workout you set out to do & don’t let other priorities invade

Engage others in your plan

  • You are not the only one out there. Engage your friends & family in a your plan. Inspire them as well.
  • Use tools like Facetime, Zoom etc. to connect with others and hold each accountable

Seek advice

  • Look to others with more experience such as personal trainers, coaches, & other experienced athletes to help you build a plan if this seems overwhelming

It starts with that mental shift of acceptance, and then action. Commit yourself to movement, it keeps you healthy, and in a much better mental space where you can be more generous to others. Your actions to commit to movement & engage others in the process will spread like ripples in a pond inspiring others to do the same.

Let’s move forward together and be guided by millions of lighthouses and that will guide us all home to safe harbor.

Coach Peter.

It goes without saying that much has changed in the past 2 weeks. Life is topsy turvy, with movement restricted, social connection broken, and much of life’s normal ebb & flow disturbed. It is all very disorienting and stress inducing.

For some, we have loved ones at risk either as essential workers or simply prone to the worst of outcomes of COVID-19. Others are taking on the challenge of working remotely in a sub optimal environment, working with unfamiliar technology, or losing their employment altogether. Simply going to get groceries is stress inducing with either fear of coming in contact with the virus or of being the agent of passing it around.

As athletes we are all driven to prepare for races and much of this feels like it has all gone up in smoke. Races are cancelled, pools and gyms are shuttered, and even a solo run in the park can feel congested. Combine this with all the other real life stress around you and it is easy to get into a bit of a death spiral of low motivation, watching the news a little too much, and just overall working yourself up into a state. Finally, I hate to say it, fear of not living up to your coach’s expectations of performance and diligence also adds stress.

It is time for a little self care and to let go of some of your should’s an ought’s. First, I suggest you ask less of yourself. Scale back on output and focus on a bit more sleep, showing love for others, and simply moving a little vs. a lot. Some thoughts:

  • Sleep a lot – The body repairs and the mind works through the stresses of the day when you sleep. Get off those screens and get to bed early.
  • Love more – Showing care and love will make you feel so much better. Take a little time to care for others. When working, spend some time making sure you listen more and engage and show you care. Less content and more connection.
  • Move a little – Exercise should be a joy. I do it because it make me feel like a kid – when life was about bombing around and not about the workout. Reconnect to your joyful reason. Too often athletes feel they much complete the entire workout or not do it all. Just do as much as feels fun right now. The simple act of moving will make you feel better and motivate you for next time.

These 3 simple steps will boost the release of the key neurotransmitters Serotonin, Dopamine, and Norepinephrine, boosting your mood, motivation, energy, and concentration and building your resilience in this stressful time.

Let me know how it goes. Your coach wants you healthy, and happy first.

I’m off for a short walk in the sun with my love (while maintaining social distance of course).

Coach Peter

A week ago, Startline Coaching athletes ran the Run the Blue Point Brewery 10 miler. This year, 16 athletes completed the race on long Island, NY and celebrated with a morning beer. The Blue Point Brewery always puts on a good show, with great food, a band, a warm tent and, yes, great beer. My thanks to #GLIRC for as always running a great race. This is the 10th year of the race and 6th time Startline Coaching athletes have been to the race.

This race is a team favorite capping off a 12 week run/strength training block before we move into triathlon training. We were 16/16 on completing the race with negative splits and many with significant improvements over the prior year. Developing speed and pacing control was a central theme over these past 12 weeks. You should all feel so pleased with your results.

Way to execute!

Coach Peter

All athletes, at some point during their career, come to grapple with optimizing nutrition to boost recovery, and athletic performance. Whether your concern is body composition, recovery, power production, or workout/race fueling, it is always best to work with a specialist in the field.

A good time to start is at the beginning of your training cycle. Obtain a benchmark on your metabolic efficiency, discuss current nutrition practices and receive a program that is forward looking and can impact your race result.

Three years ago, I consulted with Nicci Schock of Elevate Performance Services to understand CHO/hour fueling requirements at various paces & power levels. The aim was to fine tune my fueling plan for Ironman Lake Placid with a clear understanding of what is required to meet racing requirements relative to what I might consider/have tested as a tolerable race fueling plan.

The results were that I could pull back to a more tolerable 200 calories per hour for the Ironman and know I was meeting my CHO needs. This fueling plan was the cornerstone of race preparation workouts, and 40 minute Ironman PR. Information is power.

Nicci offers a broad range of services to athletes:

#startline athletes receive discounted rates for #elevate services.

  1. Blood Monitoring for Performance
  2. Sports Nutrition
  3. Sweat Sodium Testing
  4. Metabolic Efficiency Testing
  5. Genomic Testing
  6. Mindset Training

Photo Credit: Larry Rosa photography

Looking for a breakthrough on the bike? Looking to get away from the northern winter? Come to southern Spain this coming Feb-March. The views are breathtaking, rides are challenging, food is outstanding, and camaraderie will leave you with memories and friends for a lifetime. Last year, I had the pleasure of joining 4 Startline Coaching athletes at Strong Like Bull. We were all blown away by the experience.

Operating for over 14 years, Strong Like Bull camps give cyclists the ultimate multi-day tour experience.

The team of John Hirsch & Sean Langford bring you to the peaks of Pico de Veleta (Sierra Nevada) and El Torcal de Antequerra (Sierra del Torcal) among many others.

Every ride is a guided non drop ride with multiple pace groups. No ride is repeated and every ride brings with it substantial climbing and 60-70 miles of riding. A SAG wagon supports every ride should you feel you need to take a break but the views and riding variety have a way of just pushing you on.

Kerstin Barr of Soulshine Kitchen provides delicious food that caters to the dietary and fueling needs of all campers.

Campers stay in a farm house together with many bedrooms, and space to spread out. Campers can expect to share rooms with another camper. The farmhouse also has a lovely pool that is wonderfully therapeutic after a day in the saddle.

Larry Rosa of Larry Rosa photography captures every athlete at their absolute best, and drives the SAG wagon.

Triathletes looking to get in a run or two or a swim will be able to do so as well. The local pool (Piscina Cubierta) is a wonderful facility 8 * 25 m facility. Catch a swim in the morning before heading out on the bike or take a run right out of the door of the farmhouse.

To cap it all off, each camp includes a one day trip to a historical site. Last year’s camps visited world heritage sites, the Alhambra Granada and the Mezquita Cordoba, plus a day in town to shop, see the sites and enjoy a night on the town together.

In sum, Strong Like Bull camps are shouldn’t be missed experience for any cyclist. Come away transformed.

Coach Peter

Photo Credit: Larry Rosa photography

Startline Coaching will be offering two 10 session swim development programs this winter. Two days per week are offered: Wednesday or Friday mornings from 6:30 am – 7:30 am. Starting Jan 24, and ending April 10

  • Struggling with your swim form – Complete a swim progression focused on technique, endurance, & pacing control. Increase both the frequency & yardage that you swim, and receive specific form correction from a coach in a small group setting. Hold your best form for longer!
  • Intermediate swimmer looking for a breakthrough – Complete a swim progression focused on technique, power, and endurance development. Increase the tempo and rhythm of your stroke while refining technique under coach direction in a small group setting.

Startline Coaching is also offering a 22 week triathlon group training program suited to triathletes training to complete a May/June Sprint, Olympic or Half Ironman distance race. Meet twice a week as a group in Prospect Park. Execute prescribed solo workouts the rest of the week. Professional coaching guidance throughout your entire journey. Go into the season fit & race ready!

I am often asked by athletes about breathing technique for running. I’d like to address this with a three part answer:

  1. Principally breathe in and out through your mouth. During exercise, we are most concerned with Oxygen delivery to the lungs and blood stream and Carbon Dioxide expulsion from the lung and blood stream. Your nose can certainly participate, but the most effective method is to enable the biggest airway. Solely nose breathing is restrictive and decreases O2/C02 exchange. You have a big hole in the front of your head to draw in & expel air, you should use it!
  2. Belly Breathe. Chest breathing is also restrictive and does not make full use of the capacity of your lungs. Breathe in and out using your diaphragm vs. top of your chest. Your belly will expand along with your lungs enabling greater lung capacity.
  3. Adopt a 2-2 breath pattern. Most runners seek to achieve 180 steps/minute cadence as they run. A 2 steps inhale 2 steps exhale pattern has the benefit of enabling the greatest amount of O2/CO2 exchange and works well for paces up from EZ/Endurance runs to 10k/5K. Only during the finishing kick would you find yourself breathing with the more extreme 2-1 or 1-2 breath pattern. Note: For long EZ/Endurance runs, you should also periodically try a 3-3 breath pattern. This is not because a 3-3 breath is optimal, but because if you cannot hold a 3-3 pattern you are running too hard for the purpose of an EZ/Endurance workout.

Enjoy your running and check in on your breath as you run. I personally advocate running without music or other distractions. Yes! I can hear the whining and complaining from here, but this approach will allow you to stay in tune with your body and its physiological responses to exercise stress, and also toughen you mentally for racing. Your breath is a key physiological indicator and guide for pacing control. Listen to your breath and don’t shut it out. Your breath is a fully redundant pacing feedback system and, if you are in touch with it, it will no longer matter if your Garmin malfunctions or the battery dies – not that this ever happens.

Coach Peter.

Last year, I had the great pleasure of attending a three-day Swim Camp with five  #StartlineCoaching athletes in St. Petersburg, Florida. The swim camp, hosted by my long time coach, mentor, and friend Coach Earl Walton of #TailwindEndurance was an incredible experience.

Apart from the joys of swimming outside in February, each of us came away with substantial improvement in swim form and speed that we can focus on as the training season progresses. Nothing beats being totally immersed in a single sport for an entire weekend. So much progress can be made. A number of the athletes came away with a 10+ secs/100 yd improvement in their swim time trial pace, which is huge.

This year, Tailwind Endurance together with Startline Coaching is offering a February swim camp in Florida once again.

Come join us & transform your swim!

Camp Details

Price:

$450*

Location & Dates:

  • Location: North Shore Aquatics Complex – 901 North Shore Dr NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701
  • Start: Jan 31, 2020, Arrive by 3 PM on Friday
  • End: Feb 2, 2020, Camp closes at 12 Noon on Sunday
    • Fri Evening Swim and group dinner
    • Sat Morning and Late afternoon Swims
    • Sun Morning Swim

Program:

  • Dry land training
  • Low coach to athlete ratio
  • Underwater video analysis & individualized feedback
  • Basic and advanced workouts
  • Open water (should temperatures allow)

*Early bird pricing. Price increases on Dec 15th! Price does not include travel and accommodation.

Few things strike fear into the hearts of athletes than the dreaded run time trail that a coach has placed onto athletes training calendar. There is no question that these efforts are really very tough. They are also extremely valuable by providing insight into each athletes speed potential & athletic improvement. It is direct feedback to both coach & athlete on improvement. Moreover, they allow more accurate setting of training zones so training can be targeted more effectively.

This week, Startline athletes face their first Run TT test session of the training year. It is a preliminary test to capture where they stand today so that base training begins on a firm footing. Here is guidance for them and others undertaking these tests.

The test is simple. After a good 20 min warm-up and some pre-race facilitation drills and dynamic stretches, run as quickly as you can for 30 minutes. The goal is to cover as much ground as possible. Here are some key tips:

  1. Time trials are your fastest sustainable effort without injury. This is not the be all and end all run effort you will ever do. No good is ever done by running past your ability to absorb the effort. While the test is to see how fast you can run, it makes little sense to do yourself a mischief.
  2. Go out a little slower than you think you can run. A time trail does not really start to reveal itself in terms of perceived exertion until 4-5 mins into the run. Too often I have seen athletes fade about 4-5 minutes out. It is better to negative split and learn from that for next time. An overly explosive start followed by a fade is much less meaningful. Close hard is my best advice, just as in races.
  3. Use the same time, protocol, and route every time. To create meaningful data that shows progress over time, you need to do your level best to replicate your time trails. Be sure to be fairly well rested. If done in the morning, always do them in the morning. If evening, stick with that. Follow the same warm up routine. I like to use the same routine for races as well. If you intend to race with a wrist based HRM, then use that in the time trail. Finally, run the same route. Of course, there are many variables you cannot control that will vary between TT efforts, but by minimizing variation you will be able to see change in performance more clearly.
  4. You get better at this over time. Just like racing, time trials take practice and, with time, become increasingly manageable. Focus on the process, and understand the relationship between perceived effort, pace and duration vs. the absolute performance. This is especially true if you are new to doing these kinds of tests. Focus on mastery and if you have a bad test, move on. Trust me another test is coming in 4-6 weeks. Over time, you do learn to suffer and as every athlete will tell you, your ability to manage suffering is central to every race effort.
  5. Repeat, repeat, repeat. The old adage that which gets measured improves does apply here. You must continually reassess for two reasons 1) to ensure training zones are reflective of your fitness and performance and 2) to ensure that your training is delivering results. While performance improvement is not linear, a regular TT ensures that both you and your coach have time to reflect and be purposeful about next steps. I like to retest athletes every 4-6 weeks.

For more details on setting heart rate & pace training based upon run time trial efforts checkout this article from Joe Friel at Training Peaks.

Coach Peter

Photo Credit: Larry Rosa photography

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