Consider the Conditions: Adjusting Intensities to Your Training Environment
August 17, 2020

Triathletes know that temperature, humidity, and elevation have a significant impact on your training and racing metrics. But how do you know how much to adjust your pace or wattage in the summer heat and humidity or when training at a higher elevation? In this episode, TriDot founder and CEO, Jeff Booher, and exercise physiologist and TriDot coach, Jeff Raines, explain how TriDot’s EnviroNorm® (environment normalization) technology accounts for these variables to keep your training and racing spot on! Learn how TriDot localizes your prescribed training intensities to your anticipated environment to ensure that you are training at the intended intensity and producing the desired physiological adaptations from your training. And hear how TriDot normalizes your actual results to base values so that you can make real apples-to-apples comparisons of performances across different training environments.


TriDot Podcast .047:

Consider the Conditions: Adjusting Intensities to Your Training Environment

This is the TriDot podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile, combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We’ll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let’s improve together.

Andrew: Hey folks! Thanks so much for listening to The TriDot Podcast today. Hey, if you could just take a second wherever you are and whatever platform you’re listening on, do us a favor, be a friend of the podcast and hit the subscribe button to our channel. That really helps our show find its way to new audience members. We appreciate you listening and appreciate you being a subscriber of the podcast. Today I have TriDot’s two Jeffs with me and we’ll be talking all about how your external environment impacts your body's ability to perform in training and racing.  And more importantly, how you can adjust your pacing according to the conditions outside.

First up is TriDot founder and CEO Jeff Booher. Jeff is the creator of TriDot’s nSight Optimization Technology that powers TriDot’s optimized training. He’s a multiple time Ironman finisher who has coached dozens of professional triathletes and national champions, as well as hundreds of age groupers to podiums and PRs since he began coaching triathlon back in 2003. Jeff, how’s it going today?

Jeff Booher: It’s going awesome, Andrew. How are you doing?

Andrew: I’m good. I’m good. Ready to talk ENorm. Next up is Coach Jeff Raines. Jeff has a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and was a successful D1 Collegiate Runner. He’s qualified for the Boston Marathon multiple times and has raced over 120 triathlons from competitive sprints to full distance Ironmans. Jeff has been coaching runners and triathletes since 2009. Jeff, how's it going brother?

Jeff Raines: Going well, Andrew. I’m normalized, I’m localized, I’m ready to go for today.

Andrew: Lot of jokes in there that are going to make sense here in just a minute. I am your host, Andrew the average triathlete. Voice of the people and the captain of the middle of the pack. Today we’ll get rolling with our usual warm up question and then we’ll discuss TriDot’s EnviroNorm technology. Why it’s important, how it works and the significant impact it has on your training and racing. Then we’ll cool down today with a great race day story from one of our TriDot ambassadors. Andrew Soderberg will share about how he took on Ironman Lake Placid.

Time to warm up! Let’s get moving.

Andrew: Running & biking aren’t just imperative to our training as multi-sport athletes, they are also two great ways to get around town. A recent example of this comes from TriDot athlete Jenna from Washington State. Recently on Facebook she shared a picture from her trip to the dentist, where she rode her Cannondale Slice and laid in the dentist’s chair with her cycling shoes still on! It was amazing, and it leads us to today's warm up question: What is one occasion where you used running or cycling to accomplish an errand typically done by driving a car? Jeff Raines, what’s an example of a time you’ve pulled a “Jenna” and cycled your way somewhere?

Raines: Oh man, there’s so many to choose from. I always try to be efficient. So like if I drop my car off for an oil change (if I’m not changing it myself that time) I’ll go on a bike ride or a run to kill time while I’m waiting for my vehicle, stuff like that. But actually what really came to mind was I used to drive a school bus. I was a high school track and cross-country head coach and I drove the bus for not just our track time, football team…

Andrew: Somehow I can picture that.

Raines: Me driving with my hands above my head, not that big steering wheel. But, man, first of all, I’ll say that since driving a school bus and having a football team in the bus chanting and raving on the highway in the middle of the DFW area at the time is chaotic. It’s exactly what you think it is. But any time I’m on the highway now and I see a school bus, they have the right of way. I give them that space. Anyway, a lot of those football games I would drive the school bus to...I would drop off the team and park the bus and would go on a long run and then maybe by halftime I’d get back and get a bite to eat and watch the second half of the game. So that’s what initially came to mind, but I did that numerous times those couple of years.

Andrew: Jeff Booher, what’s some examples of ways you’ve used running and biking to run some errands and get some stuff done?

Booher: To me that hasn’t happened a lot. I love that about the sport, though. Swim, bike, and run, but things are just general fitness, but also ways to get places, you know? So I think that’s kind of cool. One time last year...my wife works at a senior center part-time and she forgot her lunch. She prepared something for her to eat, a little snack. It was mid-day and she said, “Hey, would you mind?” So, the thoughtful husband that I am (ha ha) offered to bring it to her. It’s exactly 3.1 miles from our house…

Andrew: And you knew that conveniently?

Booher: I didn’t at the time, but I found that out. I just took off. I knew I had to get some work done, but also needed to get in a run, so I ended up running it up there. It was 5K each way so it worked out about right. So I had to repack things so they’d stay cold in summer, Texas, 100 degree heat.

Andrew: Nice little productive 10K?

Booher: Yeah, yeah, so that was great.

Andrew: I’m also reminded talking about commuting using swim, bike, and running. I think I only mentioned bike and running, but there was an article floating around Facebook.

Booher: Floating around?

Andrew: Unintentional pun, I’m just that good. It was a satire article. It was clearly supposed to be a joke. But when you’re a triathlete, I thought it was real at first until someone pointed out it was satire. It was an article saying, “Local man commutes to New York City via swim. Swims across the harbor to commute to his day job in New York City.” It was written to be obviously a joke, but as a triathlete you see that and you’re like yeah, well sure. Of course a triathlete could swim to work if given the chance. But in that particular instance it wasn’t true. But for me, one that I did in my previous job working at a television station, there was a day my car needed some work. There’s a Midas car place that is between my house and work so I dropped my car off there and my wife took me the rest of the way to work. At the end of the day, multiple of my coworkers knew that my car was in the shop that day. So I had several people say, “Hey, you need me to swing you by the car place on the way home?” I said, “No, I’m just going to run.” I googled the route. It was about 4 to 4.5 miles. I had a 40-minute zone 2 run that day so it really worked out. It was a hot summer day so they all thought I was crazy. “You’re going to run there? You’re just going to run down the road to Midas?” Yeah, it’s only 4 point something miles. To them that sounds like...you’re going to run!? So it’s a great way to go pick up the car or visit the dentist or what not. So, hey guys, we’re going to throw this out to you guys on social media. I trust athletes in our audience have done this and have probably done some really creative stuff with this. Whether you’ve returned a Redbox DVD by running it back up or gone and visited the doctor on your bike. Whatever you’ve managed to do in your errand-running days. Go find us “I Am TriDot” on Facebook and we’re going to post this question out there. We want to hear from you on what you’ve used your biking and running abilities or swimming abilities to get some errands done during the day.

On to the main set. Going in 3…2…1…

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Us triathletes know that temperature, humidity, and elevation have a significant impact on our training and racing metrics. But how do we know how much to adjust our pace or our wattage in the summer heat or the humidity or when training at a higher elevation? Today Jeff Booher and Jeff Raines will explain how TriDot’s EnviroNorm technology accounts for these variables to keep our training and racing spot-on. So Jeff Raines, let’s start at the top today with just the why? Why are their training intensities? Just the paces and the powers that hold in a particular session, why are these so important to get right?

Raines: Well our intensities are prescribed and optimized in a way that’s catered to achieving specific results and outcomes to achieve a specific purpose. The goal, in general, of training is to be able to maintain a higher pace or speed over a set distance. There are certain types of these workouts that are set to achieve those specific purposes and to support different goals. It’s how we mix and match these different types of workouts and their underlying variables inside of them that we are able to maximize our own potentials in our performance levels. For example, you’ve got your intensity runs, long runs, tempos...what does it all mean? There’s kind of...long story short, 3 main categories here.

Booher: The variables, too: duration, intensity, frequency, technique, and sequence. How you’re pulling those five different levers…making up the sets.

Andrew: Within an individual session, those matter.

Raines: Inside of these three types of workouts, yeah, all mean something.

Booher: And the rest in between the intervals…How long the rest is...

Andrew: Whether it’s 2 minutes or 3 minutes...

Booher: Complete rest, partial rest…

Andrew: Those really, really hardcore run workouts that only give me one minute of rest in between.

Booher: That’s all very intentional and purposeful.

Raines: Just creating one plan for all those crazy variables for one person for one season just seems like a nightmare, you go cross-eyed, get a headache. Imagine doing that for every single individual person and optimizing their plan. And as hiccups or things come along the way, changing, monitoring that plan is {inaudible}. So there’s just a lot that goes on. But anyways, we’ve got our interval training. Some people know it as HIIT training--High Intensity Interval Training. The concept here is alternating between high and low intensities. That’s trying to achieve a balance of utilizing different energy systems and building your aerobic capacity, let’s say. This, in turn, builds your speed and efficiency of the cardiovascular system. So that’s kind of your speed. Long runs, the key purpose is to develop our aerobic endurance and tolerance from musculature, skeletal aspect as well. Unlike aerobic capacity from interval training, which is your max speed and max capacity of the cardiovascular system, to exchange oxygen and...Aerobic endurance here, though, is kind of like different gears in your car, let’s say. You’ll use for long runs a moderate gear or a level over a longer distance. And that’s kind of known as your running economy.

Andrew: So you’re not working your engine as hard, you’re just working it for longer?

Raines: Exactly. You kind of have somewhere in between intervals and long runs are like your tempos. These are designed for distances typically shorter than a goal race distance at a pace that is at that kind of race effort and sometimes maybe a little bit faster. But they’re typically even paced and can be split into multiple segments inside of a workout as well. These help teach that grit factor we always talk about and also just being comfortable at being uncomfortable at faster efforts and longer sets. So it builds a tolerance factor there. How far, how long, and how fast should these be? So all of these variables...long story short...long runs build your endurance. Short, hard intervals build your speed. And these fartleks, tempos or these targeted runs test your speed endurance at a target or projected race effort.

Andrew: So having those sets, those different types of training sessions is important so we want to get the paces right. Those specific paces are designed to test those different parts of our running and cycling engines. So when temperature or environment those sessions are done in we want to make sure we’re not...a zone 2 run on a hot day might not work what it’s supposed to work if we’re not accounting for the environment.

Booher: Think about even the time and the paces, how critical that is. If you’re objective, and that’s the whole principle behind intervals. If your objective is to get a certain amount of time duration in at your threshold pace. For example, you can go out and do that 30 minutes straight. Or you could break it up into three sets of 12 minutes with one minute rest. So you are able to partially recover and that allows you to get six more minutes in that session. So it’s very specific, but if you go too fast then you’re going to blow up and you’re not going to get it. You only get to 28 minutes and then you’re cooked. Or if you don’t work hard enough you’re not taxing the right energy system and you’re not getting the benefit of it.

Raines: And then there can be an overflow into other workouts, so now that ruins other workouts. So the cascade, the overflow…

Andrew: So wanting to get the paces right and get these intervals right in our sessions, it’s important to know the temperature and the environment in which these sessions are being done. So the way TriDot accounts for the external environment for each workout session is just another example of how TriDot is helping athletes do the right training right, each and every day. So TriDot’s technology for adjusting to the environment is called EnviroNorm or ENorm for short. Jeff, how did ENorm come to be?

Booher: Well primary research for TriDot started 2004-2005 time frame. After about...it took about four or five years, maybe five or six years to get the foundational metrics and develop some of the standardization and normalization methodologies to look at the data, construct the data, to be able to do some of the analysis and optimization. So after that time we started shifting to look at some of the other ways where we could factor in outside factors. To isolate the training you have to isolate some of these other things…

Andrew: What’s affecting the body in training.

Booher: Correct. So there are things that are outside, external factors affecting the body so you have to separate the performance variations that you’re seeing in the data and the response to that from what is environmental versus what is a response to the training. So what is performance improvement or lack of improvement or stagnation or what is changes in the outside environmental conditions? So we wanted to account for those. So over time we did all the literature out there, everyone who had done some work. There were a bunch of different approaches so we figured out which one worked the best and validated it with our own data. So we created what became ENorm, EnviroNorm technology to back out the noise in the data and be able to assess and draw those cause and effect conclusions of what training is effective, how much, and what’s optimal.

Andrew: Yeah, because if you’re an athlete and you’re not considering environment normally or some of those other external factors you would probably just go through the year thinking you’re getting faster and getting slower. I think back to...I had a 5K assessment back in March where I PR’d my 5K. As Andrew the average athlete, the run is my best. My 5K PR back in March was 18:16. And then just a few weeks ago I 5K assessed again and my 5K was 18:46. So you look at that and think, “Oh man, I’m getting worse! I’m not improving.” So ENorm tells me that the effort was around the same. So I’m not...unimproving. But for athletes who don’t consider that you just go throughout the year as temperatures drop off you think look at how much faster I’m getting. But you’re not thinking about the fact that it’s getting cooler outside and vice versa. So talking through those external factors and the internal factors, I know TriDot uses both in optimizing an athlete’s training. Internally we have...looking at biological information, we have our genetics. Back on podcast episode 7 is all about our PhysiogenomiX and how TriDot takes your genetic information to internally optimize your training and externally we have ENorm.

Booher: It’s like a sandwich with the training in the middle. The outside being the environment and the wind and all of that stuff and inside is your DNA. Both of those have influences and if you don’t know how they’re influencing you and to what degree then you can’t really optimize what’s in the middle, which is that training.

Andrew: So podcast episode 7 if folks go back and listen to that it talks about the internal factors on how our genetics affect how we train. Tell me how the external, how ENorm actually works in accounting for the differences in external environment.

Booher: Obviously it’s adjusting your paces and power, your FTP on all the paces derived from your FTP, which is your Functional Threshold Pace or Functional Threshold Power to accommodate or account for the environment. So that’s a process. It’s a two-step process. It’s bi-directional rather than two steps, I guess. One is it takes performances--it could be an assessment, a race, a workout--and your data file from xyz location at certain altitudes, certain temperature, humidity and then it normalizes that back to base value. So what would that individual athlete, what would you have done if it had been at the base values of sea level, 59 degrees, 30% humidity.

Andrew: Which is like the optimal…

Booher: Yeah, that’s the base. It’s a reference point. That is the base reference point for normalization. So normalization goes from an actual somewhere theoretical or whatever environment that is anywhere in the world and normalizes it back to a base value. Then going the other direction from base to any other location or environment is called localization. So now you’re localizing. You know the athletes base value for their FTP and other metrics so you’re able to push that out and environment normalize it in a localizing fashion. So you’re environment localizing it to Denver, Colorado at...whatever...or Galveston, Texas, 90 degrees and 80% humidity. Whatever that is, being able to account for that and to prescriptively give the appropriate paces on what you should do so that you’re in those right zones for the right amount of time.

Andrew: Because it makes a big difference. I remember vacationing in Colorado Springs. Just walking around Garden of the Gods on day 1 in Colorado Springs, I was winded. Versus I can run at sea level in Galveston and be more comfortable in a better heart rate place, lower heart rate running in Galveston than walking in Colorado Springs.

Booher: It makes a big difference. Not only location, but time of day. So from morning to afternoon some places have pretty static temperature, but some will have a 20 to 30 degree swing in temperature and humidity during the same day. We actually have some users that were in Sedona and they were increasing 2 to 3 to 4,000 feet from where they trained to where they lived. There was this big delta depending on where they did the workout that day. So they need to account for that. So you have two directions, bi-directional, you normalize it back to base values for a consistent reference point. From that reference point we can analyze tens of thousands of athletes and look at the data and know this is not environment related so we can look at the optimization algorithms there and then you can localize it and prescribe for any athlete anywhere in the world any time of the day in those environments. There’s two layers. We call them impact layers that we normalize for. One is their internal and external. Internal we’re not talking DNA here. We do that as a separate thing. This is still the environment affects you internally. What that means is it addresses all the factors that have a physiological impact on your ability to perform. Your ability to do work. For example, elevation there’s less oxygen so that has an impact that you can’t breathe as much. You have to breathe more.

Andrew: And that’s an impact on your body internally. The ability to breathe.

Booher: Internally. Physiologically. The same with temperature and humidity combined to have a certain heat. So your body diverts blood from your muscles to your skin surface to cool yourself. When you don’t have to do that you have more blood…

Andrew: So your heart is working harder internally because of the temperature.

Booher: So that’s internal factors that inhibit your ability to produce work or to perform. And there’s external variables and those are things that have a physical impact on the results of your performance. So at whatever level you perform, you’re putting out the work, so it’s not that you can’t put out the work, but what results do they produce? So in that case it’s wind speed and direction, wind exposure--are you in a cavernous area with lots of buildings or are you out on the plains, desert, grassland, beach, or coast? What’s the topography like--is it a lot of rolling hills, is it flat, is it uphill, surface conditions? How smooth is the road you’re riding or running on? If you’re in the water--is there a current, the water type, is it salt water, is there more buoyancy, are you in a wetsuit? Pool length, the format of the pool--how often are you pushing off? There’s all of these things you can normalize for to translate whether it’s a race performance or a training set back to a base value and assess. Factor out internal and external environmental factors--what were the results of that set? Prescriptively prescribing that back out.

Andrew: Just to make it tangible for athletes, for me my first couple years in the sport I had an excel Google sheet. After every single race I would sit down and log my splits, lot the temperature was that day, I would log...just hand notes about whether it was a hilly course, did the swim have current? That was my way of looking back very amateurly--okay, at this race my time might have been a little bit slower, but look at the elevation. You’re trying to compare for yourself--how did I do on this race versus that other race? Am I improving? Am I getting faster? Was that a really good race for me or did I underachieve in that race? So when you’re talking about just even on an individual training session bringing it back to that base level, bringing it back to that baseline it gives us a way of comparing how did that training session go? How did that race go? We’ve ENormed it, we’ve normalized the data so we can know this is how it actually went. So there are some athletes out there and most coaches out there, they don’t really take all this into account.

Booher: Some athletes don’t.

Andrew: Pretty much all. You take into account you know it’s hot outside so you temper your expectations, but that’s about all you do. You don’t know scientifically, data-wise how to adjust your workout. So TriDot is the only one in the game doing this and really on this level of detail taking environment into consideration on every single training session.

Booher: Yep. We have patents pending on this, of course. We’ve done a lot of extensive research. This particular component of technology we’ve been working on for more than 10 years. So we have multiple patents filed in the U.S. and abroad.

Andrew: So tell me for the athletes out there that aren’t currently leveraging this into their training, what are the consequences of not environment normalizing your training?

Raines: So you’ve kind of alluded to it a little bit earlier, your 5K that you were talking about, Andrew. You ran one and a month or two later and you slowed down. Mentally you may have thought, “Man, I lost fitness.”

Andrew: I’m de-training.

Raines: You’re de-training. Or now you even go your next month or two training at zones and paces based off of that slower 5K, but yet you’re a number of months into training, you’ve got to be fitter, you’ve got to be faster. But you did that 5K assessment in conditions that were hotter or whatever than that first test. So now you’re a little bit bummed out, thinking man, I slowed down. So there’s the mental or morale aspect to it all. But, really, if you used the ENorm factor here, maybe physiologically or internally maybe your body thinks you didn’t slow down 30 seconds, or let’s say maybe you did slow down 30 seconds, but physiologically your body thinks it ran 45 seconds faster. So you actually had a 15 second personal record. So that’s what it does. So now we can establish much more accurate training and pace zones no matter what conditions you run in. We can normalize those down and generate going forward much more accurate training zones. But if you don’t use this technology, there can be training loss. You can overtrain, you can undertrain. Maybe not being able to complete a session down the line. So a good example here…

Booher: One athlete that I was just acquaintances with, didn’t use TriDot, was just doing a run. He was only running. He was complaining about the Texas heat. The training he was doing (I don’t know where he got it from) was 3 by 8 minute at threshold was the set he was supposed to do. So he needed...3 by 8, that’s 24 minutes at threshold at a certain pace. But he said, “Halfway into the second effort I just blew up. I couldn’t do it anymore.” So he didn’t get hardly any of the benefit of that whole session.

Andrew: Because he was running too hard for that environment.

Booher: So he did the first one, halfway through the second one he blew up and didn’t get half of it. In that kind of workout you need the whole 24 minutes. The first 12 is not going to help you a lot. So he missed a whole session. The benefit of that session...you can’t go back and do it tomorrow...

Andrew: Just to quantify how much environment can affect what your threshold pace should be. So using that example of 3 by 8 minutes, for me, we’re recording this episode during summer time in Texas. So obviously there’s going to be different environment factors throughout the year depending on where people live. But, for us, my threshold pace in 98 degrees at 8:30 p.m. in Texas will currently at this present time be around 7 minute miles. Whereas normally that’s closer to 6:10/6:15/6:20. So you’re talking not just a little bit, but I need to be slowing down anywhere from 40 to 45 seconds per minute per mile to be running in the right zone. So in this guy’s scenario, if he doesn’t know that, he’s running almost a minute per mile potentially too fast and blowing up and not getting the workout in.

Raines: Yeah, and we can be stubborn as athletes. We know it’s hot and we know we should slow down, but we still want to hit that goal pace.

Booher: Push harder…

Andrew: It’s gotta look good on Strava, Jeff.

Raines: Actually this athlete that Booher was just talking about, he got 50% of the quality in, but let’s say 90% of the gains you’re going to get out of that workout might occur in the last couple minutes of that workout.

Booher: The first of most interval sets or most workouts, the first half to two-thirds are priming you for that last portion of the workout. All the gain is at the last part.

Andrew: It’s like a Tour de France race stage where the first 90% of the stage is just to wear the guys out for the last little bit.

Booher: The prologue is to get you conditioned and primed to accept the overload training at the end.

Raines: So let’s use a fun example here. If you’re not using this ENorm technology, you’re winging it, you’re guessing I should slow down a little bit because it’s hot, let’s put this into perspective. Let’s just say you’re 16 weeks out to a marathon. 4 months, great. I’ve got plenty of time to get ready for that marathon. I’ve got 4 full months. But, actually, if you’re going to do your assessments monthly, you’re going to update your fitness, your zones and all of that, 4 of those weeks there will be assessments.

Booher: Recovery weeks and periodized training.

Raines: Yeah, and so the rest of that week you’ve got recovery and all sorts of stuff. So four weeks of the 16 are already out right there so you have 12 more weeks to really train. But then you’ve got probably close to a two-week taper leading up to the last couple weeks there of the marathon. So really you only have 10 weeks of the 16 to super capitalize on maybe a long run session because we’re only doing one of those a week. Maybe that one hard interval session per week. So we have 10 more opportunities, 10 more weeks, essentially, to really capitalize, even though we’re 16 weeks out. If you don’t use this ENorm technology and you’re overtraining or undertraining, and you miss just one long run, or you have this scenario that this gentleman had, he only got...

Andrew: If you go too hard or too soft on a long run or an interval run…

Raines: ...you’ve wasted that entire week.

Booher: So it’s not one session, it’s the week because you only get one of those workouts a week.

Raines: Until the next one comes. So let’s say you’re 16 weeks out, but I just mentioned really you only have 10 of these quality weeks, let’s say, to capitalize on these things. But you’ve got one, two, or three not perfect workouts because not every workout is perfect, inside of that you are really, really losing 10-20% of your potential.

Andrew: I’m stressed out right now. I feel like I need to start getting ready for my next race like right now.

Raines: This isn’t to...I mean, it kind of sort of should scare some people essentially, but if you’re 16 weeks out from a marathon, really you only have 10 weeks, 10 opportunities to really capitalize on your potential, and if you have just one bad session, you get halfway through that long run and call it quits, that’s 10% right there. You’re 16 weeks out and one bad workout, you have just taken your race down potentially 10%.

Booher: Not 10% of your time, but 10% of your improvement potential. If it happens twice, that’s 20%. One-fifth of the amount that you could have improved. The thing is not to freak people out, like oh, he’s so hypersensitive. But it’s to use the tools and the technologies available to make the most from every opportunity.

Andrew: There’s a reason we (I say we as in you.) There’s a reason you’ve gone through all the effort to figure this out and get it right and dial it in to where athletes can leverage this in every single session.

Booher: It makes a huge difference, so much. We’re not even touching on injury and some of these other things. It’s the consistency of your training week after week after week that matters. When you have these fluctuations in overtraining and undertraining that’s when injuries happen. You don’t know you’re overloading yourself as much as you are. You bump up the volume, you bump something else, but if you also do it in hotter weather, there’s a number of things that can happen that lead to injury. That cumulative effect of all those is the big killer.

Raines: What a lot of people also don’t take into account, which we are, is how the weather changes during a race or during a workout.

Andrew: Which can be significant.

Raines: Yeah, if you’re out on that Ironman course for 12 hours, let’s say, the wind isn’t the exact same coming from the same direction or the same mile per hour the entire sustained 12 hours.

Andrew: Even a one-hour run outside the wind can change.

Raines: Absolutely. Some of the hills are 8% for a mile. Some are 3% for 10 miles. So all of these factors are just really, really cool. So we are accommodating for those things.

Booher: That’s getting a little bit ahead on RaceX so we can maybe cover that in a different podcast.

Andrew: That’s a whole different...We want to make sure people know how much goes into prepping you for race day and getting the weather right and the execution in the weather right on race day. So that will be a part of a RaceX specific podcast for sure.

Booher: I have another couple examples of how it affects people in scenarios where they don’t really realize the consequence.

Andrew: Do tell.

Booher: Early in the year a lot of people do an assessment or come February they have their run paces, their bike power, whatever that is. Let’s just say run paces. As they continue training and it gets warmer and the paces need to get slower, they keep pushing at the faster paces, but it’s gradual. So they’re gradually effectively overtraining. They’re doing more than they should so they’re not getting the benefit of the workout and they’re causing too much stress more than they can recover from, but they’re not realizing it. So it builds this chronic overtraining. This cumulative training load. They feel like they’re plateaued. So they’re plateaued because they keep overtraining on these workouts and they’re not recovering from the workouts so their body’s not absorbing that training. So it’s gradual over time and then they’re frustrated because they’re using non-normalized intensities. They’re perceiving it as a plateau, but they could have been getting faster if actually they slowed down a bit, did the workout they were supposed to, get their full time in the duration at the right intensity then they would’ve been improving.

Andrew: Without looking at ENorm they wouldn’t know they’re supposed to be slowing down and so you feel like, “Man, I’m not keeping the pace I should be keeping.”

Booher: The other one you mentioned, you alluded to before, with the getting cooler and people drawing connections and false conclusions. That happens a lot in marathon training. There’s a lot of people, it’s kind of a fallacy, when I do marathon training I really want to work on my run this year so I want to do marathon training. So they train long and they associate that good running they do because a lot of marathons are in the winter months. So it gets cooler…

Andrew: So they train in the winter…or they train in warmer climates and on race day…

Booher: So in the winter they train in cool climates and their run pacing is faster so they associate, “My running gets better…”

Andrew: “This run training is really working!”

Booher: But it’s the cooler weather. So they’re separate. They’re drawing a conclusion about the training when the biggest factor of that is the environment, not the training itself. So then they do the wrong training, they don’t improve the threshold.

Raines: Oh, they think because they’re running longer they’re getting faster, but it’s just cooler.

Andrew: They’re getting faster because it’s getting cooler.

Booher: Correct. So they’re not doing the right training that’s helping them increase their FTP and overuse all those other dangers and harms that come from that from an injury standpoint, too.

Andrew: So just kind of getting into the nuts and bolts of how it really works, what it really does...Tell me this--where does TriDot pull all this environmental data from?

Booher: Well the data comes from a number of different sources. One is the device itself. So after the fact…

Andrew: So either wearing your Garmin, your Polar?

Booher: Yeah, it’s going to pull in. So that will override it if you’re pulling in device data that’s what happens. So that’s kind of after the fact, when it’s normalizing back from actual to the base normalization. But other than that we’ll use weather feeds. We have multiple weather feeds so we’re checking those and prescribing it based on the time of day of the session and then the location. In your TriDot settings for each session you can say, you can have defaults like I want all my indoor to be at this temperature. This is the temperature and location so you can set those indoor settings for each one. It’ll take your...either you can set it to your current location, which is where you are. It looks at location services on your device, smart phone, or computer, laptop. Or your home location. So it’s kind of this descending--if there’s information in the device it uses that. If there’s not information in the device it uses weather feeds. If it doesn’t have weather feeds then it goes to predefined settings for inside workouts. Same thing if you say current location, it grabs that. If you don’t have a current location then it uses your home location. And you can also go in and modify it and manually enter it. That’s an important thing.

Andrew: So after the fact if you look at it, and for whatever reason if your device says it was 83 degrees and you know it was 93 degrees, after the fact you can go in and tell it no, it was really 93. So sometimes when we have podcasts like this we’re really talking through a feature of TriDot that I know athletes ask about regularly, I’ll reach out to Cindy, who is our lead TriDot support team member and I’ll say, “Hey, we’re covering this, I know you get questions about this. What are the top things you want people to know about this feature of TriDot?” So Cindy very specifically...talking about the home address reminded me of this...remind people of everything good and holy in this world. Remind people to on their account have the correct home address. Because if you move, if you don’t put that data in there, if you live at 6,000 feet and TriDot does not know that and it is not environment normalizing your workouts for 6,000 feet, so it’s gotta know where you’re at. So, for me, it knows I live in Flower Mound, Texas. It’s 537 feet above sea level and it knows that. So wherever you’re at, go check your settings and make sure that’s right because that is crucial.

Booher: Flower Mound is 5,000 feet?

Andrew: Five hundred! Flower Mound is five hundred thirty something feet.

Raines: It’s a mile high city in Texas!

Booher: That’s just a few miles from here.

Andrew: It’s a long uphill drive to Flower Mound. And the other thing with that is, too, if you’re ever traveling or you gave the example earlier of the guy who lives in a place where…

Booher: Sedona. Flagstaff.

Andrew: You could be at 6,000 feet or 2,000 feet depending on whether you’re at home or work. Go in, tell TriDot, I’m working out at 6 o’clock in the afternoon, this is where I’m going to be, and make sure it knows it can get your workout and your environment normalization right.

Booher: Yeah. There’s two things there. One is your home address--you don’t have to put that into your account, but it’s good that we use it for that. So it’s not required for any billing or we’re not going to mail you anything or anything like that. But that’s what we use it for, the address there. The other thing is when you first log on it says share your location. So that location sharing, just give permission to do that when you log on. Like Google Maps, all of that. They need to know where you’re at to be able to use the app, it’s the same way. So you’ll be able to hit current location wherever you’re at, it’ll update.

Andrew: Perfect. Do it, people! Do it. It helps a lot. It helps you get it right. Tell me this--what impact can an athlete expect ENorm to have just on a day to do training? Should we always check our workout in advance to see if the zones have changed or does it really take extreme conditions, those hot summer days, those cold winter days, high elevation, before training intensities need to be adjusted?

Raines: You know, it’s quick, it’s simple. Just pull up the phone app, log in on your desktop, it’s not hard to do. So the answer is 100% yes. Log in before your workout. Right before or hopefully within…

Andrew: So just make sure it’s going to be right.

Raines: Yeah, within an hour. Booher mentioned earlier, too, some people live in an area where like within a 10 hour window the temperature is not going to change more than a degree or two. So it may not be as prevalent to do that, but for a lot of us, man, that weather swings a lot all day long and so it is very important that if you want to get the most out of this ENorm technology here and the most out of your training that you do log in before the session. I just recently moved from Central Texas to West Texas and I went from 400 feet elevation to 3,000 feet elevation.

Andrew: Yeah. Not 5,000 feet.

Raines: I did a test and I got...my bike, my 20 minute FTP bike test, my monthly TriDot assessment. I got the exact same watts as I got from a month or two ago. And, you know, I was like okay...well, I haven’t lost fitness. I moved or whatever. I was a little bit bummed. I did both tests indoors, 70 degrees, about 30% humidity. I was within one beat of the same kind of average heart rate, max heart rate that I achieved. I was just thinking, “Man, what is going on here? I’ve been training hard, why didn’t I improve?” Well then I went back in there and I updated the city…

Andrew: Where you lived...yeah.

Raines: And 2,500 to 2,600 elevation change, actually the ENorm gave me an 8 watt improvement. So even though in person, in real time, I achieved the exact same score, the exact same average watts for that 20 minute period, that ENorm then saw that, flagged it, I was at a little bit of an elevation…

Andrew: Because it knew it took more of an effort to match what you had done at a lower elevation.

Raines: And now my zones are a little bit different going forward for the next month or two months.

Andrew: So, Raines, tell me this because I’ve had athletes ask me this before. I know they’ve asked you guys, the coaches, this before, because our athletes do want to do the right training right and they want to get it right. So athletes that have heard us talk about putting your location in ahead of time, letting TriDot know the temperature of where your workout is going to be. They’ll do that, they do the run, they do the bike, they come back inside. Their Garmin watch, their unit uploads the data then all of a sudden the zones change just a little bit. It’s just a little bit, but it’s enough to affect their TrainX score just a pinch. Why do we see a difference between our zones going into the workout and coming out of the workout if we’ve updated where we’re at in advance?

Raines: Yeah, I know, you mean, weather is not a perfect science. Even the weathermen have been perfecting these things for decades now. It says it’s going to rain and it doesn’t…

Andrew: Weather men can be fallible?

Raines: So you look at your training within an hour. It’s supposed to be 90 degrees. You go out to a track and your watch reports 92 degrees. It is what it is. So there are unique cases in there.

Andrew: So on the front end, TriDot is pulling the weather data from a weather service, correct? And then on the back end it’s the watch actually out in that environment reading and reporting what it’s seeing and that then…

Raines: Yeah, there’s a projected versus a historic weather pattern there. The device also has a temperature gauge. Most devices out there have temperature gauges inside of them. And sometimes, actually, there are defaults in some of these things. Or sometimes body heat plays into the actual temperature, as well. So if it’s 30 degrees out, but your body heat reports 40 degrees or that device reports 40 degrees. So there are different manufacturers and recommendations on things to do there depending on which device you’re using to collect that data. But TriDot will accommodate that actual weather, as well. And then you can also, like you said, if there was a unique discrepancy there from a device, let’s say, you can go in and manually update or complete those.

Booher: You can manually update it after the fact, for sure, adjust it, and attach the file. But if before you go over the training intensities page you can go in and put in whatever you want. So even if ahead of time...the best thing, all you can do, all TriDot can do and all any person can do is make the most of the data you have available. So if the data’s there we can use it. If it’s not there we can’t use it. We don’t know what it is. So if it’s a little warmer than you thought it was, just adjust as best you can. You’re going to get a whole lot closer because it’s already pretty accurate to start with.

Andrew: For me, I’ve had this happen a few times myself. It’s never far off. It may change my zone 5-10-20 seconds tops. But you’re not losing the purpose of that workout.

Booher: Right, right.

Andrew: So, Jeff, you give the example of your bike assessment where one month you were at a lower elevation and then the next month you were at a higher elevation. I gave my 5K example of being in a cooler temperature in March versus having a slower 5K but still bumping the dot because I was testing in the summer. So when athletes go look at their assessment page, they’re going to see very clearly on the page that the time that they’re recording for that assessment and then the EN time for that assessment. So we’ve both given examples for some context, but what are other things that athletes need to know about how environment normalization affects their assessment?

Raines: What’s really cool and it seems like there’s a lot going on here and there kind of is...but the beauty of it all is you don’t necessarily have to fully understand it. We have this podcast here to help in that aspect. There’s basically three layers to what we’re doing here. So TriDot knows the conditions at which you do your assessments, your tests. You do periodic tests to update your fitness and your zones going forward. We need to know how your fitness has changed so we can adjust your zones. So TriDot knows the conditions at which you do your tests so now we can establish much more accurate training zones. Then there’s a whole other layer to it all in that each day when you do your training, TriDot knows the weather and how it changes basically every hour throughout the day so every day when you do your training, TriDot knows the conditions at which you do your training and it normalizes that data and localizes it and gives you much more accurate power and paces. Your heart rate zones in TriDot always stay the same until you test again. So that power for cycling and those pace zones for running will change all day long as the weather changes in your city to try to keep your heart rate the same and you get those physiological more accurate effects from that. So that would be the second layer. The third layer in all of this is what your future races are. We’re not just training you for 70.3 miles, 140.6 or whatever. You can customize all these distances in your races in TriDot, but we know that historic and projected weather of your race coming up as well. We know the temperature, humidity, the elevation gain within--flat courses and hilly courses are different. So that third layer is we are training you for the conditions that you’re going to be racing in for your individual fitness levels on your specific conditions on your specific race course. So we can normalize your race day strategy and how to race on your specific course inside of all that, which would be that third layer.

Booher: So another race you might be biking 112 miles and that could be a six hour effort or a five hour effort. Or 7 ½  or 6:45:00. So there could be a big difference in what you’re training for. So if you need to go in a certain amount of time on race day based on the terrain and all the environmental conditions, we know that your long ride needs to be x proportion of that. So we’re adjusting your long rides, how much are you going to build up in the long ride from week to week to week.

Andrew: It knows I’m going to take longer at Lake Placid than at Ironman Texas.

Raines: Yeah, exactly. And a lot of coaches use this, it’s on Google. But you just...to establish or prescribe training zones the old school way of coaching is okay, go do a 5K. Great, you ran a 20 minute 5K? You should be able to run a 3:20:00 marathon.

Andrew: Nope.

Raines: Okay, great. Now you’re going to go do Lake Placid full Ironman. Are you going to train for 3:20:00 all year long? You’re not going to be fit enough to do that until later on in the season. Or you’ve still got a long swim and a long bike. So do you add 10 minutes to that? 20 minutes to that?

Andrew: Or I might have done that 5K in February and Lake Placid isn’t in February.

Raines: There you go. And there’s just so many things. So do you add 10 to 20 minutes to that 3:20:00 because you’re swimming and biking before? But what if there’s 5,000 feet of climbing on the bike and 1,000 feet of climbing on the run? Do you guess and add another 10 or 20 minutes to the marathon time off the bike? So coaches have gotten decent at kind of guessing that. They may have raced that course, they have an idea of all that. But if you want to be exact, there’s just nothing out there.

Andrew: Use the data. Use the data that ENorm has...

Raines: The data doesn’t lie.

Andrew: ...and get it right. So whether we’re just getting to know a new training partner or just talking shop with another athlete, we often go through this comparison list. What’s your FTP? What’s your 5K pace? What’s your base 100 in the pool? Etc. etc. And when we talk about FTP we’re used to talking about these like it’s an absolute number. It gets ingrained in you. My FTP is a 181. My FTP is this. My FTP is that. When we talk about ENorm and we’re talking about assessments just now, Raines. It’s making me think--if we’re so used to talking about FTP like it’s an absolute it feels like when you incorporate the environment FTP shouldn’t be absolute.

Booher: Yes and no. So, yes, absolute in the sense of your fitness at any one time is absolute. But the way that’s expressed depends on the conditions under which it’s expressed. So your fitness may be the same, but what that turns into on one day, one time of day, in one environment to another could be different.

Raines: Yeah. It translates to a different outcome.

Booher: Yeah. It translates to a different outcome, exactly right. So when you’re thinking FTP and how that’s expressed and your paces are going to change in your workout. Also when you’re measuring stress we’re talking about a lot prescriptively here on what your paces should be and what should your FTP--if you’re working at 90% of that or 75%, whatever your workout is, that FTP value is changing, so your prescription is changing. But also when you’re measuring training stress after the fact. So not only looking at performance improvement, but when you’re calculating how stressful was that. Different types of day your FTP changes so that percent of FTP change so the amount of stress from different types of workouts is also dynamic. So your FTP is dynamic, your results from performances and training is dynamic, as well as the assessment values and the stress values so that doesn’t stay the same day to day.

Andrew: So we need to be humble in knowing that even if I know my FTP might be right now 180, that doesn’t mean I can hold 180 watts for an hour in 100 degree temperatures.

Booher: You can think of it back to the base values. My ENorm FTP is...and that number is the same until you retest. So that’s the environment normalized, what it would be at 59 degrees, 30% humidity, at sea level.

Andrew: So last question that I have when I think about environment normalization and its impact on our training, so let’s kind of land the plane in the main set with this. If my race coming up is, whether it’s hot, whether it’s humid, whether it’s at altitude, is there any value in trying to train in those conditions or can I train where I’m at with the weather I’ve got and let ENorm guide me on race day?

Booher: I think eNormalization handles those different impacts of physiology, the physics of impeding your actual results due to those external factors of the environment. It doesn’t address the climatization so getting used to something, so there’s still that period when you get on site at altitude or getting used to the conditions, but it does transfer your performance abilities. So that’s really the thing that it’s focused on. So that’s about your physiological ability and the physical results produced from that ability. But there is tremendous value in training in the conditions that are going to be as close to race day as possible. From a psychological importance, getting used to it, being comfortable with that, what it feels like. It feels different even though you’re working just as hard, it just feels different. Your hydration, your fueling, all of those things change. So especially race rehearsals, the more that you can do as near to race day scenarios and environment the better.

Andrew: Just biologically, your body has to adapt to those conditions biologically.

Booher: Right. Regardless of how much work you’re doing, you’re doing stuff a little differently to do that. In different heat you’re going to tolerate stuff digestively different. It’s not a performance, fitness ability, but you’re going to digest differently. There’s less blood in your gut and your intestines. So I think it’s additionally just the familiarity with the conditions fosters confidence. So if you’re familiar with it, it’s not new. On race day there’s going to be enough new stuff to deal with so the more familiar you are and comfortable you are in that environment the better you’re going to perform.

Great set, everyone. Let’s cool down!

Andrew: The day before a big race we all do our best to relax and get a good night’s sleep. But for TriDot athlete Andrew Soderberg, a restful evening just wasn’t in the cards the night before he raced Ironman Lake Placid. Here he shares the unexpected race eve drama and how he fared out on the race course the following day.

Andrew Soderberg: Hey, there, fellow TriDoters. My name is Andrew Soderberg. I am from Irvine, California. I’m an 11-time Ironman and today I want to tell you about my third Ironman--Ironman Lake Placid 2015. This story starts the day before the Ironman at about 6 o’clock after I finished dinner. I went back and laid down in the hotel to get off my feet. I heard a commotion in the street, looked out into the street and the building across the street from my hotel had caught on fire. I instantly called David to get him back to the hotel because he had gone for a walk. They were starting to close off our street and I didn’t want him to get stuck outside. We sat and watched the fire for quite some time. Our room started to fill with smoke. We turned off our air conditioner and wrapped the air conditioner in the bedspread to try to keep the smoke from coming into the building. We watched it and it kept getting bigger. At 9:30 the inevitable happened and the firefighters came and evacuated our hotel. So we’re now 9 ½ hours from the start of the Ironman and we are in a parking lot. So I did what I thought I should do and decided to try and sleep in the car. We had rented an SUV so the two people that weren’t racing sat in the front seats. I was in the back seat and Donny, who was a little bit smaller, was able to lay down in the back of the SUV and we tried to sleep. There was a lot of commotion out there and we didn’t really get any sleep in the car. I had kind of fallen asleep, then at about 2:30 David came and woke us up and said they were letting us back in the hotel. We got back to the hotel and it really smelled like smoke. The firefighters were still in the street fighting the fire. So it’s 2:30 in the morning. I got maybe 30-40 minutes of sleep after we got back in the hotel. The alarm went off at 4 and it was off to the race. I got everything set up in transition, got to the swim start, and the cannon goes off and away we go. I had an okay swim--1:24:23. If you’ve ever done Lake Placid you know there’s a little bit of a run from transition and the swim so it had a little bit longer transition and I was tired, but that was okay. I got out on the bike. I was doing okay the first lap, but it’s hilly and it started to get really hot and I completely messed my nutrition up. I was dehydrated, I didn’t get enough food in and I started cramping. I ended up having to stop. I finally get through the bike and my bike split was 7:53:39, which was not a great bike split. But I got there and I was able to hit the run course. In transition 2, I was done. I just wanted to be done, and hoped that they would medically say, “Hey, you can’t go. You look awful. You’re done.” But no such luck, so away I go. I saw David as soon as I came out of T2 and told him to get comfortable because it was going to be a long night. So I kind of did a shuffle/walk/run, and got through the first lap, first half marathon. The volunteers that were at the timing mat, I heard one of them whisper to the other one, “Hey, he just finished his first lap.” I turned and smiled and said, “I have to finish today. Not finishing isn’t an option.” What I haven’t told you guys at this point was that I was doing this Ironman on my birthday. So not finishing and DNFing on my birthday just wasn’t an option. So they said, “Happy birthday. Go get ‘em. We’ll see you in a little bit.” I take off and just kept fighting through as I got a little bit more energy. I ran when I could, walked, but just relentless forward progress was all I could do. I got back to the timing mat and had finished the second lap and was turning to head in and they said, “Congratulations! You did it! Happy birthday! Go get it! You got it!” I went to the oval. I hit the oval and at that point it felt like I was in an all-off sprint because I was so excited to be done. The oval has so much energy on it with Mike Reilly and the crowd. Amazing experience. I came around the corner, Mike Reilly called me in as an Ironman for my third time. It was a pretty cool experience. I had a 6:57:20 marathon, which was more of a walk-run marathon, but I got it done. I finished in 16:41:09. I guess the moral of this story is that relentless forward progress pays off. No matter what happens, just keep going. Keep training and you can get there.

Andrew Harley: Well that’s it for today, folks. I want to thank TriDot founder Jeff Booher and coach Jeff Raines for helping us realize the importance of environment normalization on our training. Also a big thanks to Andrew Soderberg for sharing his Ironman Lake Placid story. If you have an epic race day war story that you want to share on the podcast, head to TriDot.com/podcast and click on “Leave Us a Voice Message” to record your story for the show. A lot can happen out there on the course on race day and we want to hear your stories. We’ll have another show coming your way soon. Until then, happy training.

Thanks for joining us. Make sure to subscribe and share the TriDot podcast with your triathlon crew. For more great tri content and community, connect with us on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Ready to optimize your training? Head to TriDot.com and start your free trial today! TriDot – the obvious and automatic choice for triathlon training.

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