XTERRA Couch to Trail – Transition Tips

By Mimi Stockton, 4x 40-44 Division XTERRA World Champ

It’s the day before the race. You’ve done all the training and eaten your fruits and veggies. You’re feeling strong. You’re ready to roll. Now it’s time to pack your triathlon bag and think about the transition area. 

Below is the check list I use to make sure I have everything I need on race day:

The Bag

The best way to show up at a race with everything you need is to use a dedicated triathlon transition bag. They really do make a difference, with pockets and partitions for everything from your wetsuit and shoes to keys and phone (so after your epic day you can tell the world about it). There’s a place for everything and everything’s in its place.

Swim:

Make sure you have a clean and scratch-free pair of goggles for the swim.  It’s always a good idea to have a pair with clear lenses (for overcast days) and ones with darker lenses (for bright, sunny days).

Bring your wetsuit.  Always.  Even if you know you won’t need it. Pack your skin suit (if you have one). If wetsuits aren’t allowed, you can always wear your skin suit. 

Bike:

As is good practice before any bike ride, do a quick maintenance check the day before the race.  You do not want to show up on race day with a broken derailleur.

Some races have tents from local bike stores set up on site to help with mechanical problems.  They are there to help you, but you should never rely on them to fix something big 30 minutes before the race start.       

Bike Maintenance Check List:

  • Inspect the tires for wear and trail debris, and inflate the tires to your preference (tire pressure will depend a lot on the trail conditions).
  • Check that the front and rear suspensions are properly tuned.
  • Lubricate the chain.
  • Check that the wheels are true, spinning freely, and that there is no play in the hubs, also check for even spoke tension.
  • Check the brake pads for excessive wear and check your brake power.
  • Shift through your entire gear range to make sure the shifter cables are working properly and front and rear derailleur are properly adjusted.
  • Make sure all bolts are properly tightened and there is no play in the crankset.

If you don’t already have a tubeless setup, making the switch may be the biggest performance enhancement you can make to your current bike. Riding with tubeless tires eliminates the risk of pinch flats and allows you to ride with lower air pressure, which greatly improves traction and control. 

For the race, make sure you’re prepared for a flat.  You’ll almost always see a novice racer walking his or her bike back to the transition area.  Don’t let that be you.  The last thing you want is to be stuck 6 miles from transition with a flat tire.  Carrying your bike over obstacles is fun but carrying or pushing your bike for miles on end is not.

Consider carrying tools like a CO2 cartridge and tire levels. You can easily stick a tube in a saddle bag or tape it to the seat post.  Alternatively, you can store tools in a hydration pack or empty water bottle. 

Pack your helmet

Clean and pack your sunglasses

Pack your gloves

If you are riding with clipless pedals, check the cleats on your bike shoes 

Clean out your hydration tube and pack so you aren’t drinking out of a gross, moldy straw

Run:

Don’t run in brand new running shoes the day of the race. But do make sure your shoes are clean and dry.

You never know what the weather will be like, so it’s always good to have a hat or visor.

Pack the race belt you train with so you can easily access your nutrition and avoid chafing.

Photo by Georgia Schofield

Miscellaneous:

Nutrition – Pack lots of it!  It’s better to have more than you need than not enough.  The night before, tape your gel packs to the bike frame.  It’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about on race day.  Remember to race with what you train with.

Water bottles

Sunscreen and lip balm

Towels – Bring several.  Use one to lay your gear on next to your bike; others can be used to dry off after a warm-up swim or to wipe your feet after the swim and before you put on your bike shoes. 

Bike Pump – Don’t rely on the guy next to you.  Be self-sufficient and bring your own to top off the air in your tires on race morning. 

Photo ID and USAT card

Baby Powder -to keep your feet dry in your bike and running shoes

Dry socks, shoes and clothes for after the race – don’t over look this.  You will love having something that is “not” your running shoes to wear when you are finished. 

Toilet Paper – There’s more than enough stress on race morning than to have to deal with finding no TP in the porta-potty. 

This may seem like a lot to pack, but if you use a dedicated transition bag, you will simply have to update and refill your bag for each race. And there is nothing like the feeling of being prepared and ready for anything.

The XTERRA Couch to XTERRA training series is presented by SheriAnne Little, Jeffrey Kline, and four-time XTERRA age group world champion Mimi Stockton of PRS Fit.  Their new 12-week “Couch-to-XTERRA” training program is designed to do just that, get aspiring athletes off the couch, into training, and to the start line of an XTERRA.  Read past training articles from PRS Fit at http://www.xterraplanet.com/training/couch-to-trail and learn more about their coaching programs at prsfit.com.

Middaugh Coaching Corner – Race Morning Nutrition

Presented by Suunto

If you ask 10 athletes about their pre-race meal you will probably get 10 different answers. Often pre-race nutrition depends almost entirely on the continental breakfast of the hotel they stayed in the night before the race. This meal can make or break your race, and needs to be planned out and practiced ahead of time and not left to chance.  Not everyone responds the same, but below are some general guidelines to get you prepared for that breakthrough training session or to the start line ready to race.

The main purpose of a pre-race meal is to top off muscle and liver glycogen stores after a night of fasting so you have enough reserve to push hard past that 90-minute mark.  If you have a shorter race such as a 5k or 10k run, eating too much too close to a race can be detrimental and it is more important to have blood flow where you need it (working muscles) instead of where you don’t (digestive system).  However, most triathlons last much longer than one hour so having adequate carbohydrate stores is critical.  Someone following a low carb diet might only have enough reserve to last 60-90 minutes at high intensity, whereas someone on a high carbohydrate diet can have over double the carbohydrate stores. 

The Early Riser (3-4 Hours Before Race Start)

This can depend on your start time, but the optimal time to consume a pre-race meal is 3-4 hours before the race. This timing allows you to eat more and digest before your start. Your main goal is to restore liver glycogen stores, store carbohydrates in the muscle and store some carbs in the gut for absorption and release during exercise. The pre-race meal should be primarily made up of dense low fiber carbohydrates such as pasta, rice and processed grains such as bagels with a portion of the carbs coming from liquid sources. High fiber, high protein, and high fat can cause bloating and GI issues. As a general rule, for every hour you allow yourself before race start, you can consume up to half a gram of carbohydrate for every pound you weigh.  So, an athlete that weighs 160 pounds could consume close to 320 grams of carbohydrates or 1,280 calories (1 gram of carbs = 4 calories). Yikes, I know this sounds like a lot and it is. You wouldn’t want to do this before a sprint triathlon, but if you know you are going to be out on the course for 4+ hours you might get close. Although still a wide range, a more practical amount is 400-1000 calories taken 3-4 hours before race time.  Some athletes will wake up, eat their meal 4 hours prior to the race start and then take a short nap so that they can get in their ideal pre-race meal.

Your Average Joe (2-2.5 Hours Before Race Start)

If you’re like me, you end up eating closer to 2-2.5 hours before race time. This would put me at 1 gram of carbohydrate per pound of body weight. In this scenario, I would consume close to 600 calories. This might mean one large bagel (300-360) with peanut butter (75-90), a banana (100-120), and a bottle of EFS Pro (120). Some people do not handle protein and fat well so you might want to substitute jam for the peanut butter. A little bit of protein and fat is okay and will help to lower the glycemic index, resulting in a slower release.  I try not to take in more than 10 grams of fat or 10 grams of protein within 2 hours of a race. 

My Alarm Didn’t Go Off (1 Hour Before Race Start)

Unfortunately, this has happened to most of us at some point. Your alarm didn’t go off, you had the wrong start time, your car broke down, or you decided to stay out a wee bit too late the night before and now you’re scrambling. With only 60 minutes until race start you only have time for about 60-75 grams of carbohydrates or 240-300 calories. A small bagel or single instant oatmeal packet and a bottle of sports drink will put you just under 300 calories. A sports nutrition bar with water works well with only one hour until race time.

The Last 30 Minutes

If you executed your pre-race meal plan by eating 2-4 hours before race start, you still may want to take in another 100 calories of carbohydrate 10-30 minutes before race start. Some people can handle a banana or small bar this close to a race, but I can’t. I opt for a sports gel or carbohydrate drink this close to the start. If you take in calories within 15 minutes of starting exercise, there is not enough time for an insulin response and once you start exercise those calories will be used directly from the bloodstream. The misconception is that gels or sports drink give you instant energy, but you have plenty of glucose in your bloodstream for that.  Topping off your glycogen stores at this point just delays when you start depleting muscle glycogen and can help ensure that you finish strong in races lasting 2+ hours. Remember the goal is just to delay fatigue, depletion, and dehydration past the finish line. 

Practice, Practice, Practice

For a pre-race meal plan to work on race day, it needs to be something that you have practiced often in training under race simulations. Never try new foods or caloric timing on race day unless you have tried it in training first.  Nailing down your pre-race meal in training will help you execute higher quality training sessions which will result in faster times on race day.

Remember

  • The closer to race time the smaller the meal.
  • For your pre-race meal, .5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight, for each hour before race start.
  • Consume high carbohydrate low fiber foods.
  • Practice your pre-race meal in training.
  • Never try something new on race day.

Middaugh

Josiah Middaugh is the reigning XTERRA Pan America Champion and the 2015 XTERRA World Champion. He has a master’s degree in kinesiology and has been a certified personal trainer for 15 years (NSCA-CSCS). His brother Yaro also has a master’s degree and has been an active USAT certified coach for more than a decade. Read past training articles at http://www.xterraplanet.com/training/middaugh-coaching-corner and learn more about their coaching programs at http://middaughcoaching.com.

About Suunto

Suunto builds the tools to help you reach your goals. With an award-winning line up of GPS sports watches, heart-rate monitors, and mobile apps, Suunto helps athletes train smarter and perform better. Sophisticated design and rugged construction ensure each Suunto watch is ready to tackle whatever you (and mother nature) throw at it.

Learn more at www.suunto.com.

More Middaugh Coaching Corner Articles

XTERRA Couch to Trail – Racing in Rough Weather

By Mimi Stockton (pictured above), 4x 40-44 Division XTERRA World Champ

Even when conditions are ideal, XTERRA racing still might seem intimidating to some.  But if you are properly trained and sufficiently prepared for what’s out there, it can also be the best part of your entire racing season.  Being able to adjust your expectations and strategies on the fly is a critical part of racing successfully; it’s a hallmark of the experienced triathlete.  So how do you become comfortable and even confident when race day throws you a curveball or even a knuckle sandwich? 

You race how you train
A key part of training is preparing yourself for possible race-day conditions. While every triathlete hopes race day will be sunny, calm and 70 degrees, there’s no guarantee that will happen. If you’re training outdoors on nice days but hitting the treadmill or exercise bike in bad weather, you’re not fully preparing yourself.  If you’re only training indoors, your problem is even worse. Running on a treadmill, pedaling on an exercise bike, or doing laps in the pool will get you in shape, but it won’t prepare you for the conditions you could encounter during your race.

Outdoors, you are faced with mud, fallen trees, rain, wind, changing temps, currents, waves, and other obstacles that you won’t find indoors.  Several years ago, one season brought rain and wind to every single one of my XTERRA races.  It was a given that on race morning it would be chilly and raining.  But I was prepared!  I had spent many training sessions riding my bike and running on slick, muddy trails under drizzling skies and swimming in Lake Michigan with heavy chop.  It wasn’t always fun, but it gave me the confidence to swim, ride and run through anything.  

Training and preparing in challenging weather creates a huge mental advantage because it allows you to focus on race tactics, trail and water conditions and pre-race visualizations, instead of becoming distracted and stressed by the howling wind or searing heat.  Confidence is an important mental component of racing and there were situations where I smiled in the transition amid the pouring rain, while my opponents showed distress.  I already had an edge.

Control what you can
Aside from doing the proper outdoor training, it also helps to keep an eye on the weather forecast in the days before the race. Even though we can’t control the weather, we can control how we respond to it.

If there’s even a slight chance of rain, pack a rain jacket to keep you dry and comfortable while setting up transition.  If conditions will be hot and humid, bring extra fluids and nutrition. And your wetsuit?  Pack it!  Always pack it!  Wetsuits were allowed the past several years down in Alabama at XTERRA Oak Mountain.  You might be thinking, Alabama in mid-May?  Are you kidding me?  It’s always like 85 degrees!  However, back in 2015 it was 48 degrees and raining the morning of the race.  I almost left my wetsuit in Michigan.  What a huge mistake that would’ve been.  Instead of getting out of the water numb and zapped of energy, I exited the swim warm and ready to hop on my bike. 

If it rains the night before the race, both the run and bike trails will obviously be affected.  It helps to check them out the morning of the race and adjust accordingly.  For example, if the bike course has become muddy and slippery, you’ll probably want to take some air out of your tires for better traction.  You also might consider practicing taking in nutrition on the “new” trails. What was once a perfect spot to grab your water bottle might have turned into mucky mess.     

How to deal with mud
There are all sorts of tricks you can use to make riding in slippery conditions either easier or faster, but the absolute best piece of advice has more to do with mindset and riding style than changing any single piece of equipment on either your bike or yourself.

Relax your body and let the bike move beneath you more than you might be used to. This is an approach that is certainly one of the harder skills to learn, as it can feel counterintuitive to how you are used to reacting when your bike loses traction. However, riding in really slick conditions often means that your bike never really has proper traction to begin with, so fighting to find it will cause you to be constantly trying to correct slides. That’s a surefire way to hit the deck, which will only exacerbate your problems. Instead, use a lighter grip on the handlebar and, for lack of a better way to put it, think about letting your bike dance underneath you. It does no good to panic! 

You will also have to make adjustments for running on slick trails.  Keep an eye out for wet rocks, bridges and slippery downhills.  Look at the “new” course as a challenge that you can and will overcome.  This is what makes XTERRA different, and what makes it awesome!

Be flexible
The bottom line?  Know the course, come up with a plan, and rehearse it in your mind a day or two before so you’re prepared for race day.  But, be ready to adapt and go to your contingency plan if you wake up to wind and rain or a heat wave that rolled into town. 

The mental process of coming up with several plans allows you to go over many different scenarios that could occur before and during the race so that when race morning isn’t a day in the breezy tropics like you’d hoped, you’ll be much more equipped to handle it.  In fact, you might just embrace it!  Your mind can be your biggest asset or your greatest enemy. You have the power to train your mindset as you train your muscles, so try not to stress.  Remember you trained for all sorts of weather conditions during your training sessions, and every other athlete towing the starting line with you is facing the exact same conditions.   

 

The XTERRA Couch to XTERRA training series is presented by SheriAnne Little, Jeffrey Kline, and four-time XTERRA age group world champion Mimi Stockton of PRS Fit.  Their new 12-week “Couch-to-XTERRA” training program is designed to do just that, get aspiring athletes off the couch, into training, and to the start line of an XTERRA.  Read past training articles from PRS Fit at http://www.xterraplanet.com/training/couch-to-trail and learn more about their coaching programs at prsfit.com.

Middaugh Coaching Corner – How Much Racing is Too Much?

Presented by Suunto

A carefully planned race schedule should develop you as an athlete with valuable race experience, help guide your training, and serve as stepping stones to peak performance.

Racing Frequency

Races planned too frequently leave little room for quality training between races and can erode some components of fitness over time.  Some recreational athletes can get away with “racing into shape” and use local events as key workouts if they are unable or unwilling to push themselves in training or don’t want to follow a structured plan.  However, to reach another level of fitness requires some periodization scheme that a packed race schedule does not allow.  These days, the calendar is so saturated with races it is tempting to plan an overly aggressive race schedule.

Conversely when races are too spread out, peak performances can be missed and races can be the best feedback to steer your training.  Racing can result in a level of performance not possible in training.  Especially if most training is done alone, a local race can nurture your competitive drive and also allow for some socializing with like-minded people.

Race Duration

Don’t underestimate the recovery required from longer races.  It is always amazing for me to see the relative intensity that is possible for 2-3-4+ hour events.  Sustained, high intensity for long duration requires the most amount of recovery time. For racing, duration becomes a more important factor since doubling the race distance might only drop intensity 5-10%.

Quantifying recovery time can be difficult and it is individual.  Recovery depends on both intensity and duration.  Suunto measures this with a “peak training effect” score which takes into account intensity and duration as well as individual fitness level.  Suunto goes a step further by measuring autonomic nervous system fatigue.  Suunto can estimate the peak training effect of a single workout and also monitor recovery time needed from cumulative training.

http://www.suunto.com/en-US/sports/News-Articles-container-page/TutorialTuesday-Recovery-features/

Training peaks will also estimate the training stress using relative intensity and duration.  Their most accurate method uses percentages of functional threshold power.  For example, if you ride for 1 hour at 100% of FTP, then your training stress score (TSS) is 100.  If you ride for 1 hour at 75% FTP, then TSS is 75.  If you increase duration and ride for 2 hours at 75% FTP, then TSS would be 150.  You can see that racing for long durations at 80-90% FTP can result in some very high training stress scores.

I once heard an Ironman Pro blog about how he needed to work on his speed so he decided to race a half ironman every week for 4+ weeks straight. It didn’t end well.  If you want to work on speed, run a local 5k or jump in a 40km TT.  Shorter races are much easier to recover from, much more predictable, and you are guaranteed to race above your training intensity.

The bottom line is that long races require long recovery times and will impact training for quite some time.  For perspective, when I ran collegiate cross country, all of the races during the season were 8k, since 10k races required too much time for recovery.  At the absolute minimum, give yourself at least 2 days recovery for every 1 hour of racing.  That doesn’t mean do nothing, but don’t schedule a key workout for at least 5 days after a 2.5-hour race.  Use some performance metrics to keep yourself honest. If your heart rate and RPE are way up at an endurance intensity, then give that hard workout another day or two.  If your races are properly spaced then you can get into another block of training instead of race/recover/race/recover.

Increased risk of overtraining

Racing in a fatigued state can increase the risk of overtraining.  Think about how deep into the well you can dig during a race and how depleted and dehydrated you can get.  It can either be the best stimulus or put you deeper in a hole.  Recovering from a race is different than recovering from a hard workout.  Just as some aspects of fitness are cumulative, so can be recovery time.  In most cases overreaching is a better description and can be reversed in as little as two weeks of lighter training and refraining from racing.  Ultimately performance indicators are the best to distinguish between the two.  However, it is a slippery slope and better not to ignore the warning signs by stubbornly adhering to a busy race schedule.  Intensified training and racing is the process, overreaching and overtraining are an outcome.

Training through races

Let me just say I really don’t like the idea of training through races.  A race is an opportunity to rise to another level of performance and to measure yourself against your competition.  If you are taking off work, spending $1000+ to fly to race and stay in a hotel, you want to give it the best shot possible.  A race will tell you how good you are on that one day and can be a big confidence builder for more important races.  If you are so fatigued from sabotage training that you are shutting down half way through the race, then how are you able to learn anything from the race or draw confidence moving forward?

A good approach when planning your race schedule is to prioritize races A, B, C.  “A” races would require a proper taper or at least a lighter week of training.  “C” races you can train through as long as they aren’t too long.  If you have a “C” priority long race, then consider moving that up to A or B priority and give it the proper attention it deserves.  If you are using races for your training, then try to select shorter, local races for the most part, unless you have a long break until the next “A” priority race.

Guidelines

Ideally, I like to see 4-6 weeks spacing between “A” priority competitions.  Of course, race organizers don’t always collaborate to make that happen.  Occasional back-to-back races can be ok as long as there is some time to regroup.  It’s when you have 4 or 5 race weekends in a row that it becomes a problem.  It’s like getting enough sleep, if you get 4-6 hours of sleep one or two nights it’s not a big deal, but when you have 10 consecutive nights of less than 6 hours of sleep then you function like you are intoxicated.

  • 4-6 weeks spacing for important key competitions
  • Include proper recovery weeks before all A and B priority races and you will not only perform better, but recover faster
  • Don’t underestimate recovery from long races (minimum of 2 days for every 1 hour of racing)
  • Take into consideration logistics for a race when planning recovery (travel time, doubling down on work/life stress, time zones).
  • Choose shorter distances for low priority training races.

Josiah Middaugh is the reigning XTERRA Pan America Champion and the 2015 XTERRA World Champion. He has a master’s degree in kinesiology and has been a certified personal trainer for 15 years (NSCA-CSCS). His brother Yaro also has a master’s degree and has been an active USAT certified coach for more than a decade. Read past training articles at http://www.xterraplanet.com/training/middaugh-coaching-corner and learn more about their coaching programs at http://middaughcoaching.com.

About Suunto

Suunto builds the tools to help you reach your goals. With an award-winning line up of GPS sports watches, heart-rate monitors, and mobile apps, Suunto helps athletes train smarter and perform better. Sophisticated design and rugged construction ensure each Suunto watch is ready to tackle whatever you (and mother nature) throw at it.

Learn more at www.suunto.com.

More Middaugh Coaching Corner Articles

How to Deal With Injuries on the Trail

XTERRA Ambassador Simon Edgett has been training for ultra runs all winter. When you live in the northeast, that means training in rain, snow, and freezing temperatures from November until April.

“Success in ultras is really dependent on consistent training,” said Edgett. “I’ve been doing a lot of hill repeats and running about 45-55 miles a week, which gives me plenty of time on my feet. About half of that distance is during the week and half on the weekend.”

Still, as Edgett found out during the XTERRA Wawayanda 50K, sometimes bad things (injuries) happen to good people (trail runners).

“A week before the race, I sustained a midgrade ankle sprain while running on the Appalachian Trail,” said Edgett. “It was feeling better and I decided to go for it in the 50k at XTERRA Wawayanda anyway. Four miles in, I hit a branch that I didn’t see and later found out I broke a small bone in my left foot.”

Edgett kept going. “About 14 miles in, I stepped on a root the wrong way and re-sprained my ankle. I hobbled to the aid station at the halfway point at mile 16 and called it quits.”

According to SheriAnne Little, head coach, at PRSFit, the best thing to do right after an injury is to apply ice. “RICE is still a good guide to follow: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevate. Icing for 20-minute increments is best.”

“If you feel like there is a possible fracture or rupture of a ligament or tendon, or the pain is sharp shooting and persists you should have it examined by a doctor,” said Nelson.  “If you heard a sound when you injured the area, you should also have it looked at,” advised Nelson.

As always, recovering athletes should listen to their bodies. “Let pain dictate what you are able to do,” said Nelson. “If it is too painful, continue to rest. If it’s just stiff, then gently stretch and work through a bit of discomfort to maintain mobility in the joint and continue to reduce inflammation.”

In the meantime, cross training can maintain fitness while allowing the body to heal, although that can be difficult for some diehards like Edgett.

“I’ve been trying to get into the pool and on my bike trainer but it’s hard to find motivation. I just love running. It never feels like ‘training’ or ‘working out,’ when I run,” said Edgett. “It’s just me enjoying the trails.”

 

About PRS Fit

PRS FIT is a community of athletes from all over the world. We are a team. Alone or together, from beginner 5k to Boston Marathon and 100 Miler, XTERRA racing to Kona qualifier, we strive and we conquer. PRS FIT lets you experience what we call Team and social fitness – connecting and motivating each through our one of a kind global team experience. No matter the weather, the circumstance, day after day, we provide a high-quality training experience that produces results. Learn more at www.prsfit.com

Middaugh Coaching Corner – The Intangibles

Presented by Suunto

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts”

We often talk about training metrics and how to use them to guide your training.  They can help define training targets, gauge progress, and give you confidence heading into races.  However, races are not competed on paper.  There is no resume submission and it doesn’t matter what your functional threshold power is if you don’t deliver on race day.

Nothing more, nothing less

One thing that separates many top performers from the rest is both the ability to put in the quality work and the discipline to hold back on easier or shorter days.  Time and time again the athletes I coach who make the most progress are those that follow the workouts to the “T.”  This doesn’t mean blindly following the workouts, but also logging the training, giving feedback, and being engaged in the process.  Key workouts are challenging and one way to tell if someone is overreaching is whether or not the workouts can be completed at the proper intensity.  If you are always carrying around a hefty load of cumulative fatigue and the thought of a structured threshold makes you feel ill, then you might be overreaching with too much unnecessary volume.

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts

Triathlon is about more than simply swimming, biking, and running.  They are not stand alone events, rather a series of consecutive tests of your speed, power, and endurance.  Fatigue is cumulative and so is the brain strain.  Staying in the moment and focused on the task at hand becomes increasingly difficult as the race progresses.  It might help to compartmentalize each section of the race, but know that each leg of the race is not entirely independent.

Once the gun goes off the body will know what to do

We are what we repeatedly do.  Key sessions around race intensity train the body and the mind.  Despite all of the angst leading up to a race, know that once the gun goes off, the body will respond in the way it has been taught through repetition.  I love the feeling of calm that comes over me once I hear that cannon sound.

Sometimes I hear people say, “I just didn’t have the legs today.”  That drives me crazy.  What happens when you don’t have legs in training, do you push on, do you battle back harder on the next interval?  If you feel like you don’t have legs at the start of the bike, don’t throw in the towel.  Dig deeper, narrow your focus, rise to the occasion.

Racing is about the intangibles

As a coach, I really like using field tests and lab tests for many reasons, but racing ability moves beyond the objective data.  The ability to rise to the occasion on race day is hard to predict.  I bet if you took field test data from top 5 performers overall and the same goes for the podium in each age group, you still would have a hard time predicting finish order.  Many triathletes find initial success by out-training others.  However, don’t leave your best performances in training, at the local track workout, or on a Strava segment.  Be honest with yourself and don’t pad the training log with junk miles that are only serving up fatigue but not contributing to overall fitness.  No pre-packaged excuses like “I’m training through this race” or “I put in 20 hours this week.”  Fuel off others, thrive on competition.  The evolution of a champion goes something like this:

  • Train to train
  • Train to compete
  • Compete to win

Race to YOUR potential

A race decides who is the best on that one day.  I used to think that I needed an extraordinary performance to reach my race goal, or I needed to go beyond my potential.  If your expectations reside somewhere in reality, then you are actually just looking for a performance that you are already capable of.  You want to get the most out of yourself on this one day.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Josiah Middaugh is the reigning XTERRA Pan America Champion and the 2015 XTERRA World Champion. He has a master’s degree in kinesiology and has been a certified personal trainer for 15 years (NSCA-CSCS). His brother Yaro also has a master’s degree and has been an active USAT certified coach for more than a decade. Read past training articles at http://www.xterraplanet.com/training/middaugh-coaching-corner and learn more about their coaching programs at http://middaughcoaching.com.

About Suunto

Suunto builds the tools to help you reach your goals. With an award-winning line up of GPS sports watches, heart-rate monitors, and mobile apps, Suunto helps athletes train smarter and perform better. Sophisticated design and rugged construction ensure each Suunto watch is ready to tackle whatever you (and mother nature) throw at it.

Learn more at www.suunto.com.

More Middaugh Coaching Corner Articles

XTERRA Couch to Trail – MTB Skills for Beginners

By Mimi Stockton, 4x 40-44 Division XTERRA World Champ

I’ll admit it, I’m completely devoted to my mountain bike.  You’ll regularly find me tearing through trails like a mad woman, competing in both cross country bike races and XTERRA triathlons.  Why am I in love?  Because mountain biking is pure joy.  I find it nearly impossible to not have fun when I’m out on the trails.

But this love affair didn’t start off so smoothly.  After having taken a break from mountain biking for about 15 years, I decided it was time to get back on the saddle.  I had missed it.  I was invited to join a group of guys one evening–they were going to show me how to navigate the local trails.  I couldn’t wait.  My fitness was excellent and I had been road riding for many years.  How hard could it be to ebb and flow through the forest again?  I would play it safe, I told myself.  As I jumped on my bike, I quickly realized I was in over my head.  A mountain bike is a different beast than a road bike.  I had forgotten simple things, like sometimes the best way past an obstacle is straight through it, that momentum is your friend and that the thing that nails you is the one you don’t see coming. Those two hours were painful, excruciatingly painful, and I saw my life flash before my eyes more than once.  Yet I kept pushing on because I knew without pushing my limits I would never learn how to exceed them. I would be okay.  I would make it out of the trails alive, perhaps a bit beaten up, but alive nonetheless.  I grew a little bit that evening and walked away with a smile on my face.  A tiny part of me kept saying “I’m never doing that again,” but I knew deep down I’d be back.

It was a few days later that my mind and body agreed to venture back into the wilderness.  I vowed to be better prepared the next time I went off with the boys.  So I practiced.  And practiced.  And practiced some more.  And I learned a few very important things that every beginner mountain biker needs to understand.  If you want to do an XTERRA or mountain bike race and improve your biking skills, this list is for you.  Read it, digest it, memorize it, live it.

  1. Pick a Trail That’s Suitable for Beginners

Don’t do what I did and hop on a trail that is above your ability.  Many roadies have been directed to a mountain bike trail that is much too hard for beginners. You’ll have a better experience if you begin on a relatively easy trail and increase difficulty as you improve skills. If this isn’t possible, for whatever reason, don’t be afraid to walk your bike across the hair-raising, death-defying hill sections.

  1. Figure Out Where You Want to Go and Trust the Bike

You have to be looking well ahead of your bike. Decide where you want to go and keep looking ahead on the trail. Don’t look at a section of trail and keep your eye on that section or obstacle until it’s under your front wheel. If you’re looking at what’s under your front wheel, there’s no way you can be ready for the next section of trail. Mountain biking takes tremendous focus.  Look away for just a split second and you might find yourself hugging a tree.

Once you’ve decided where you want to go, trust that your bike can handle the rough treatment. Mountain bikes, unlike road bikes, like it rough. They are built to crash into things.

  1. Don’t Stop Pedaling

Most of the time, power to the pedals and momentum are your friends. It is tempting to stop pedaling right before an obstacle. A little voice inside your head is telling you that the obstacle looks frightening and you need to take a second or even third look at the thing. Assuming you are beginning with a trail that is appropriate for beginners, much of the time just keeping the pedals moving and keeping even power to the wheels will get you around or over the technical section. Steady, even power will also help you climb a loose section of trail.

Remind yourself to pedal, to keep the momentum going.  Next time you’re out on the trail and you lose momentum you will quickly find out what happens.  Prepare to fall over.  Prepare to get muddy.  I guarantee next time you will not stop pedaling.

  1. Sometimes It’s Better (and Necessary) to Aim for the Rock

This probably sounds crazy, especially to a roadie who tries to avoid all obstacles at all costs.  But in mountain biking, sometimes aiming right for the rock and riding over it is your best and safest line. Remember, mountain bikes are made to ride over stuff.

  1. Move Your Body Weight Forward on Steep Climbs

When climbing steep trails or roads with loose sand, rocks and dirt, you will need to move your body weight forward so your rear wheel stays in contact with the ground.  This provides optimal traction. If you move your body weight too far forward, you lose traction, and if you move your body weight too far back, your front wheel can lift off of the ground.  After many hill climbs you will find that sweet spot.

  1. Move Your Body Weight Back on Steep Descents (Get Your Butt Behind Your Seat!)

You have probably seen photos or videos of mountain bike riders screaming down steep roads and trails where their body position is so far back, the seat is completely visible in front of their torso.  You want to mimic them.  This is an essential piece of advice…unless you want to endo and fly off your handlebars.

  1. Don’t Try to Be a Hero

There are going to be some sections of the trail where you are better off walking your bike.

Yes, even the best riders get off their bikes and walk some of the really crazy technical sections. Don’t expect to ride every section of every trail. In fact, sometimes it’s more energy and time efficient to just get off the bike and walk.

  1. Expect to Feel Unstable

On a mountain bike, expect to have a feeling of sliding around on loose dirt, gravel, rocks and tree roots while you’re riding. Unlike road riding, the ground is often loose and moving beneath you. Be prepared for that feeling of sliding out of control.  Accept it, try to relax and remain upright.  Being scared, hesitant and nervous will cause you to stop pedaling and lose momentum, and you know what happens when you do that.

  1. In the Beginning, Plan to Work on Skills and Forget About Aerobic Fitness During Some Rides

What does this mean?  It means you will get off the bike and complete several “do overs” on one or more sections of the trail that you want to master. Did you miss the line you wanted to take?  Hope off the bike and do it again until you get it right.  Your confidence will grow immensely on these types of rides.  When your legs get too tired to give a solid effort on tough sections or you find yourself unable to focus, call it quits for that day.

  1. Ride With Experienced Riders (But on Ability-Appropriate Terrain!)

Riding with people who want to take you to the toughest local trails on your first couple of outings on a mountain bike will most likely end badly and leave you discouraged and maybe even injured.  Find people that will take the time to help you learn new skills on terrain that is appropriate for beginners. Be patient.  It takes time and effort to master even small obstacles.  But having some foundation skills will help you be a better rider in the long run and will undoubtedly lower the likelihood that you’ll get discouraged, injured or worse still, quit.

So get out there!  All you need is a bit of practice, some determination and a kick in the butt to face your fears and push your limits…which happens to be a pretty good analogy for just about anything in life worth accomplishing.  #LIVEMORE

 

The XTERRA Couch to XTERRA training series is presented by SheriAnne Little, Jeffrey Kline, and four-time XTERRA age group world champion Mimi Stockton of PRS Fit.  Their new 12-week “Couch-to-XTERRA” training program is designed to do just that, get aspiring athletes off the couch, into training, and to the start line of an XTERRA.  Read past training articles from PRS Fit at http://www.xterraplanet.com/training/couch-to-trail and learn more about their coaching programs at prsfit.com.

Middaugh Coaching Corner – Tips for Pacing your Next XTERRA

Presented by Suunto

Pacing an XTERRA race can be a tough nut to crack.  It’s not uncommon for athletes to finish a race disappointed because they thought they could hold a faster pace or more power than actually panned out on race day. On paper an XTERRA race looks easy and the results can be deceiving.  No two courses are the same and even from year to year conditions can change the course significantly.  So how do you know how to pace yourself? We have a few tips that we think will help:

Know Your Zones and Fitness but Don’t Rely on Just One Metric

In general if an event is more than 2-3 hours in length, but less than 6-7 hours, you will likely spend most of your time in zone 3 if you are a well trained athlete. However, an athlete with little experience will find maintaining zone 3 for even a short time very difficult whereas an elite athlete can race up to 4 hours with most of their time spent in zone 4. Elite XTERRA athletes often finish a course in 1.5-3 hours. It is likely they will spend most of their time in zone 4 with bouts of zone 5 on short punchy climbs or when trying to separate themselves from their competition. That same course might take an age group athlete 3-5 hours. It is not realistic for these athletes to spend much time in zone 4 because they will be out on the course much longer.

One of the first things we like to do with athletes is set up their training zones based on heart rate, power, pace, and perceived exertion. Each workout is built around these zones, but the zones serve as a guide and you don’t want to be tied to any one metric.  For example, what does your heart rate do when riding at 100% of your functional threshold power for a given amount of time and how long can you stay there during a race?

Decoupling is a term used to describe the relationship between heart rate and power (biking), or heart rate and pace (running), during steady state exercise.  For example, if you keep the power steady during a somewhat hard, zone 3 ride you should observe heart rate ramping up into zone 3, plateauing for a while and then one of two things will happen.  Either heart rate will slope up as you hold the power steady, or heart rate remains in zone 3 and power drops.

Middaugh Coaching Bike Zones Calculator:
http://middaughcoaching.com/heart-rate-and-power-training-zones/

Middaugh Coaching Run Zones Calculator:
http://middaughcoaching.com/running-heart-rate-and-pace-training-zones/

Tune into Your Body

Whether you are using power, heart rate or perceived exertion, it is helpful to know your zones so that you can monitor your output during training and races. Even if you never race with heart rate or power, training with a variety of metrics can give you greater insight into your capabilities. Tune into your body during key sessions and think about how it relates to a race effort.  If you are performing two minute intervals for example, that would likely be 10-15% higher than race effort, so don’t expect to be able to race all out, all the time.  Another term to be aware of is Critical Power, which describes what power you can average for different durations.  So CP30 is a power you can sustain for 30 minutes, CP60 is your highest average for 60 minutes and so on.  The same would apply for pace while running.  During a race I am always asking myself, is this hard enough and is this sustainable?  On some dynamic XTERRA courses you might be able to push above that limit on an undulating course, because the is recovery waiting on the downhills.

Know Your Course Type and Distances

XTERRA can be super tricky because every course is so variable in both length and terrain and requires a different strategy when it comes to monitoring your effort. Some courses are very short and may take just over an hour to complete while others can take up to 4-5 hours. Obviously, these races require very different effort output. If you’re not sure how long a race might take, look up the last two year’s results for your age group. This will give you a general idea of how long you might expect to be out on the course. You also must know the course. Pre-riding or running the course if possible is always recommended, but if you can’t see if you can look at the race profile and description. Check Youtube as well. There might be some video of the course out there.

Flat Courses

A flat course requires a steady sustained effort overall unless you are trying to catch or drop a competitor. You can settle into a rhythm and depending on the length probably ride in zones 3 and 4 if you are well trained. If you are a beginner, zones 2-3 is a safer bet to start with. We like to encourage athletes to pay attention to more than one metric. Perceived exertion is still a useful tool especially for racing. If it feels too hard to maintain and you haven’t hit the midpoint of the bike, it probably is. This type of course you can measure out your effort pretty evenly throughout the day with the most effort exerted on the run. For a relatively flat course, think about trying to gradually ramp your effort as the race progresses, and likely your output will stay fairly even.

Mountain Courses

Mountain courses such as Beaver Creek, Ogden, and Maui have long sustained climbs.  A long steady climb can be somewhat self-limiting, but if you attack too hard in the first few minutes you can really pay the price later.  Try to settle into a sustainable pace at or slightly below threshold so you know you can hang in there for 20-30 minutes.  Output is usually 90-95% Threshold power for these long climbs.

I also describe these mountainous courses as very energetically hard courses.  The energy you expend in a triathlon is a closed system and this becomes very evident on these challenging mountain courses.  Running off the bike after 3000+ feet of elevation gain in your legs is tough and you are not alone.  Pacing is much more critical and if you get it wrong you pay a huge penalty on the run.

Undulating Courses

Many of the XTERRA courses are going to be a mixed bag. They might have one long climb, lots of twisty single track, short punchy climbs with short downhills and a few jeep road sections. For these courses, you still need to have a plan that you have simulated in training. Will you settle into zone 3 for long climbs and singletrack sections, hammer the short climbs and recover on downhills? These courses might require short anaerobic efforts less than 1-2 minutes in length. You might be able to attack each short climb at well above functional threshold power without your heart rate getting above zone 3-4. How do you feel when you do these efforts in training? Have you tried running after doing threshold (zone 4) or VO2 Max (zone 5) intervals on the bike? Remember, you can only go anaerobic so many times before you can no longer recover quickly.  If you are not fit and haven’t simulated this in training you will have fewer bullets in your anaerobic chamber to utilize.

Reflect on Each Race

Each race is different. It is its own experiment used to fine tune your pacing for the next race. In order to truly know how to pace yourself in a race you need to know how you have responded in a race and this takes racing and reflection. Write down a brief plan for each race and then take a few minutes to revisit that plan when you’re done. What would you do the same/different? Where did you make up time or lose time your competition? This reflection can help drive your training and guide you as you prepare to plan your next race strategy.

Swim Pacing

Proper swim pacing can help set up the rest of your race and it needs to be better planned than get out hard and find some feet. Getting out hard means something different for each person. If swimming is your strength it might mean sprinting nearly all out for the first 200+ meters, for a novice it might simply mean staging properly and starting just slightly harder than they plan to for the rest of the race for just 20-30 strokes. We train our weaknesses, but should race our strengths.  If swimming is your background, then you can burn a few matches there without it affecting the rest of your race.  If swimming is not your strength, you can pay a big penalty for going out too hard. In fact, I made this very mistake at XTERRA Blackwater this year. It was an 800 yard swim so I decided to go out very hard. I found myself just off the front and instead of backing off and settling into a hard, but manageable effort I kept the pace near maximum for too long only to get passed with a few meters left in the swim as I floundered. I stumbled into transition and I had to recover the first 5-10 minutes of the bike allowing a gap to form that I couldn’t close until near the end of the bike. I should not have sprinted for so long at the start of the swim, and I should have settled into my “strong” perceived exertion effort sooner. I likely would have come out of the water in the same position, but feeling much better. Luckily I wrote that down and will not make that mistake again.

Pacing Takeaways

  • Know your zones and use them to gain understanding of your own abilities.
  • Practice race pace efforts in training.
  • Be familiar with the terrain and distance of your race course.
  • Simulate the race course as closely as possible in training.
  • Don’t rely on just one metric to monitor effort.
  • Come up with a pacing plan for each race and reflect on it after it’s over.
  • Incorporate key brick sessions at race intensity and monitor how your pace, power and effort respond.
  • If you haven’t been able to do it in training, don’t expect to be able to do it in a race.

About Suunto

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Learn more at www.suunto.com.

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XTERRA Couch to Trail – The Benefits of Running Hill Repeats

XTERRA racing is fun and challenging! Developing off road running skills especially on the hills will add to your enjoyment of these great races.

One of the greatest tools to becoming a better XTERRA and off-road racer is running hill repeats. There is a tremendous amount to be gained from doing moderate and fast uphill running. It forces you to have good form and to develop strong calf and quad muscles.  Furthermore, it’s great practice to run hard while being tired, as you’ll definitely be tired at the top of a hill.

Here are some questions you need to ask yourself: Are you doing hill repeats at the proper time in your training cycle, and are you doing hill repeats properly? Without a doubt, hill repeats, next to aerobic conditioning, can be the single most beneficial part of your training cycle to make you a more efficient and stronger runner.

Over the years the biggest mistake I’ve seen in runners is incorporating hill repeats too early in their training cycle when getting ready for their XTERRA race, and performing hill repeats with bad form. Hill repeats should be added to your training cycle at the proper time in order to ensure that you’re going through the proper muscular adaptation process. As part of that muscular adaptation process there are two types of hill repeats that we’ll look at in this article.

First: Moderate effort, short hill repeats with a downhill circuit

Incorporating moderate effort hill repeats after you’ve come out of your aerobic base period of training is a great way to start conditioning your body for the harder phases of training to come. I like to have athletes repeatedly run a short, steep hill that takes about 10 to 30 seconds to climb in it’s entirety at a moderate effort.  This type of repeat allows you to work on your running form and proper foot plant.  It helps you strengthen your calf muscles, strengthen your Achilles and prepare your body for the harder hill repeats and speed work that you’ll do later in your training.

This is also great time to incorporate what I feel is one of the most overlooked aspects of running – downhill training. So many people take it easy on every downhill they come across in training, that when they encounter one in a race they feel awkward and unsteady. Downhills should be a place where you gain time! Downhills force you to turn the legs over faster than normal. One of the major keys to being as fast as you can be is to spend as little time on the ground as possible. For that reason, running downhill strides is especially awesome for those of you who weren’t blessed with a lot of natural speed.

Here is how to execute this workout:  Do an easy 10 to 15 minute run, allowing your body to warm up sufficiently. Then incorporate a few dynamic stretching exercises before you begin your hill routine. When you’re ready, start at a moderate effort and focus on body position, lifting your knees with a mid-foot plant for 30 seconds up the hill. Then turn around and practice running down the hill, again focusing on good form, with light fast feet landing under your center of mass. Try to have minimal ground contact. Practicing this is especially important for trail running because of the unpaved nature of trails.  You will undoubtedly encounter loose rocks, dirt and crevices forcing you to concentrate not only on your form but on where you are placing each foot.

Second: Long, hard gradual uphills

Incorporating long, hard gradual uphills into your training cycle is a key ingredient to becoming a stronger, faster runner. Again, after a nice easy warm-up and some dynamic stretches, start your repeats. You want the hill to be steep enough to be a challenge, but not so steep that one time up leaves you completely spent.  Remember, this is just one piece of the workout! I like to see my athletes do this workout at a pace that is about five seconds faster than their half marathon pace, or at your aerobic threshold. You want to maintain your race “effort” up the entire hill and then feel good enough to quickly get right back to your race “pace” as soon as you crest the top. Practice makes perfect.

Once again, incorporate running that long gradual downhill as well. You don’t want to do the downhill as hard as the uphill. The effort on the downhill should feel faster than you would on a normal run, but you should still be comfortable. Again the key focus on the downhill should be excellent body position, light fast feet, and keeping them under your center of mass so you’re not burning out your quads.

Always remember, no matter which type of hill repeat you’re doing, when you get to the top of the hill, practice running hard up over the crest. This will really develop your confidence and help you recover back into your race pace faster.

Developing your hill running skills by adding repeats will definitely make your XTERRA race faster, easier and more fun. Nothing puts a smile on your face like cresting a long climb with energy to push forward and attack the downhill on the way to your strong finish.

The XTERRA Couch to XTERRA training series is presented by SheriAnne Little, Jeffrey Kline, and four-time XTERRA age group world champion Mimi Stockton of PRS Fit.  Their new 12-week “Couch-to-XTERRA” training program is designed to do just that, get aspiring athletes off the couch, into training, and to the start line of an XTERRA.  Read past training articles from PRS Fit at http://www.xterraplanet.com/training/couch-to-trail and learn more about their coaching programs at prsfit.com.

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