Your Questions Answered: Z2 Running, Returning from Injury, & More
September 7, 2020

TriDot coaches John Mayfield, Elizabeth James, and Jeff Raines are in the hot seat on this round-robin, rapid-fire episode! The coaches answer your questions about a variety of topics. Learn strategies for maintaining your "zone 2" heart rate during aerobic sessions, how dehydration impacts heart rate, and how to build your awareness of Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE). We'll also discuss returning to training after an injury or illness, helpful transition tips, and free training opportunities with the TriDot staff and coaches at the TriDot @ the Races events.


TriDot Podcast .050:

Your Questions Answered: Z2 Running, Returning from Injury, & More.

Intro: 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: Welcome, everybody, to episode 50 of the TriDot Podcast. We did it. We started a podcast and we’re still here. Thank y’all so much for being a part of the TriDot Podcast family. Thanks for the listens, the comments, the questions, and the support.  If you’re out there and have listened to all 50 of our episodes give yourself a high five or a pat on the back and just pretend like it's directly from me.  If you’re just now finding us, or if you’ve listened to an episode here and there….You’re pretty ok too. Keep up the quality podcast listening and we’ll keep up with the quality podcast producing. Let’s keep the show rolling.

In honor of Episode 50 we are taking the entire episode today and asking your questions. I have three TriDot coaches with us and we are going to go one by one answering actual questions from actual listeners in the actual podcast audience.

First up joining me today is Coach John Mayfield. A successful Ironman athlete himself, John leads TriDot’s athlete services, ambassador, and coaching programs.  He has coached hundreds of athletes ranging from 1st timers to Kona Qualifiers and professional triathletes.  John has been using TriDot since 2010 and coaching with TriDot since 2012. John, you ready for episode 50 today?

John: I am ready for episode 50, even more so than episode 1. So I am looking forward to this. I am calm. This is going to be fun. Episode 1 I was more nervous than the start of a race. That was quite nerve-wracking, but 50 episodes in I’m starting to--hopefully--starting to get the hang of it.

Andrew: By episode 100 John is going to be parlaying this into a successful radio career. So the growth through episode 50, you’re on a good track, my friend. Next up is pro triathlete and coach Elizabeth James. Elizabeth came to the sport from a soccer background and quickly rose through the triathlon ranks using TriDot. From a beginner to top age-grouper to a professional triathlete. She is a Kona & Boston Marathon Qualifier who has coached triathletes with TriDot since 2014. Elizabeth, thanks for joining us!

Elizabeth: My pleasure. I get excited for all these episodes, but I’m especially excited for today. We’re going to cover a lot of ground and a variety of topics.

Andrew: And last, but not least, is TriDot Coach Jeff Raines.  Jeff has a Masters 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, what’s up, man?

Jeff: Hey, thanks, Andrew! Happy 50th episode, everyone! And special thanks to you, Andrew, for all that you’ve done to create this great resource and this opportunity to nerd out on triathlon each week. Also thanks to all the athletes and all the listeners. I’m excited to give this episode back to the listeners.

Andrew: Yes, and we do plan on doing more of these in the future. So, again, if you guys ever have any questions about any aspect of your triathlon training, shoot them our way at tridot.com/podcast. There’s a spot where you can submit feedback and that sends an e-mail directly to me. A lot of our questions today came from the e-mail inbox and then there’s also a spot where you can leave us a voice message. You can actually record your voice for the show asking a question to our experts. So take advantage of those resources because we want to be the podcast of the people. We want to be the podcast that asks the questions that you guys want to know about. So who am I? I am your host, Andrew the average triathlete. Voice of the people and captain of the middle of the pack. We’ll roll through today's warm up question and then get into the good stuff--your multi-sport questions asked to our panel of coaches. Then we’ll wrap it up with some reflecting thoughts as we hit episode 50 of the podcast. I’m going to have each one of our coaches share their favorite episode of the TriDot Podcast so far.

Warm up theme: Time to warm up! Let’s get moving.

Andrew: Part of the experience of doing an Ironman event, or really any well-organized multi-sport event is the Race Expo! In the days leading up to the event vendors and companies will set up shop in the race village surrounding packet pick-up, and athletes and spectators can roam around and see what goods and services they have to offer.  It’s a great way to check out some name brand products in person, and maybe even discover something new. Elizabeth, Jeff, John, I know y’all are no stranger to the pre-race expo experience. So my question today--when you head to the expo, what is the first vendor tent that you typically want to visit? Jeff Raines, let’s start with you.

Jeff: I go straight to the run shoe section or the run shoe vendors. I like to see if there’s any good sales on models that I know and love and maybe I want to get a good deal. But, also, a lot of times they will have demo of new products coming out or new technology. A lot of their reps on site to let you know what’s coming out, so…

Andrew: It’s a great chance to try on a shoe that maybe you’ve been eye-balling, have heard some good stuff about. Because you’ve got to make sure it fits your foot, right?

Jeff: Absolutely. I have to throw this in there--don’t buy a pair of shoes then do the race the next day in a shoe you’re not used to. Because that has happened before. And also grab a coffee mug like to collect. Race weekend, race coffee mugs.

Andrew: Do races usually have an official race day coffee mug?

Jeff: A lot do. Ironmans especially do. I’m kind of a coffee mug nerd, as well as a shoe nerd, I guess.

Andrew: Gotta have things to collect. Elizabeth James, what is your go-to race expo vendor tent?

Elizabeth: When you were saying we’re no strangers to these expos, I feel like I kind of have the “Debby Downer” answer here. I must admit that I have only fully experienced two race expos as an athlete.

Andrew: Elizabeth!

Elizabeth: Yeah, I really just have done the Boston Marathon expo and the expo at Kona. I loved both of those. I really enjoyed those. I was able to talk with a bunch of vendors, do some of the things that Raines was talking about. But I could do that 3 to 4 days prior to racing. The ones that are right before the race...I get so nervous before racing and I do much better off just to be in my hotel room by myself rather than visiting with vendors. I hardly talk to my family let alone strangers at that point. Also, as Raines was mentioning, I don’t want to be tempted to try anything new in the days before the race. So I’m usually part of that check in and leave crowd. I’m also a little superstitious about buying anything with the race name on it before I cross the finish line. Even though I’m not frequenting the expo ahead of time, you will definitely find me in line for some awesome Ironman gear the day after the race.

Andrew: That’s when it’s always 25-50% off anyway.

Elizabeth: There you go. Get the deals, too. Bargain shopper!

Andrew: John?

John: It’s not so much going to the tent or seeing the gear, it’s seeing people. Over the last several years I’ve spent a lot of time on the road. We are at the vast majority of all the U.S. Ironman races. It’s oftentimes the same folks out there. These are some of the folks I end up hanging out with. In a city that’s not our home, on the road, staying in a hotel. All the athletes go to bed at like 6 o’clock so there’s all of us that are there in these cool places, not racing, so we have a little group that we get together across the country. That’s what I always look forward to is going and seeing those friends out on the road. In each town we have some spots we tend to hit and it’s always fun to explore new cities, find new places. I always indulge in the local fare and see the local sights. So it’s more so about the people.

Andrew: What a guy. Not the products, but the people. John Mayfield, man of the people. I love it. So I always just like going by ROKA and throwing some of their new sunglasses on my face and see what looks good. And, John, actually, while I’m talking about this…

John: They all look good.

Andrew: You’re totally an enabler. Do not go to any tents with John Mayfield. I kept putting on ROKA sunglasses--there’s different models--and I would put one on and John would look at me and go, “Oh, you need those.” I’d take them off and put a different pair on and he’d say, “Oh no, you need those.” John was trying to sell me on several different ROKA models. I actually now race in ROKA sunglasses and as a guy with fairly terrible vision, my eyeglasses are now ROKA because I tried a couple of their models on at a race expo and really liked the way they fit my face. So I always really like the ROKA tent.

Main set theme: On to the main set. Going in 3…2…1…

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Andrew: When we started the podcast, the mission was never necessarily to use the show to promote the brand. We believed the quality of the training and our encouraging community speaks for itself. The podcast is simply here to educate athletes in all facets of our crazy sport. The athletes in our podcast audience and in the TriDot family frequently ask excellent questions. So in honor of episode 50 we decided to pull some of the questions we have received from the athletes since we launched and have our coaches talk them through one by one. Guys, we’re going to round robin this and I’m going to pull a question up and direct it to one of you. Let’s give our athletes...let’s give the people what they want--give them the answers to the questions they have.

Number one, this is Matt from Ontario, Canada. “I would like to hear your coaches’ input on double workout days. Back-to-back versus morning and afternoon workouts and fueling for these longer days.” Elizabeth, let’s throw this to you. What do you have to say to Matt?

Elizabeth: Alright, I often see athletes ask this question when they’ll have bike intervals and an easy run scheduled for a day’s training. Unless the run is specified as a transition run, these sessions can be completed separately. If time allows and you’re able to complete them as back-to-back sessions, I would just say to be very careful that you aren’t compromising the intent of the training session. For example, I almost always do bike intervals followed by an easy run on Tuesday morning. But I have to be careful that I stick to my zone 2 heart rate for that easy run, even if I’m doing it off the bike and not later in the day as a separate session. I, personally, like the additional practice of running off the bike and practicing my nutrition for a 2-hour workout session where I’m switching between disciplines. I also love doing my Friday morning swim followed by an easy session on the bike for that same purpose of practicing the swim to bike transition. But for many athletes the decision to do workouts back to back or as separate sessions really just comes down to scheduling. It’s not detrimental for these sessions to be split up. If you need to do the sessions as a morning and an evening workout, that’s 100% okay. You’ll still have the opportunity to practice those transitions between disciplines on those longer workouts that are on the weekend and you can practice the race nutrition during those sessions, too. I guess just one other thing that I would note for athletes that will see the discipline specific sessions and then a strength workout, I would recommend that they do the discipline-specific sessions first and then follow that up later on with the strength training.

Andrew: Yeah, I think John always says it this way--the best practice for you on getting better as a cyclist is to cycle. The best practice to get better running is to run. So the strength sessions are important, but we want to make sure we are nailing our runs and our swims and our bikes first before moving into those training sessions. And to that...that was from episode 19 on the podcast when we talked about how to incorporate strength into your routine. So for anybody wondering how to balance triathlon training with strength training, I would encourage you to go back and listen to episode 19. But, Elizabeth, I do exactly what you said--I take it by the day and look at my schedule and see how it works out best. There’s some days where I have that zone 2 run scheduled and then a bike scheduled and just due to the weather or what we’re doing, it might be easier for me to do the run in the morning and keep it in zone 2 and then after work when the sun is high in the sky and it’s hot outside, do that bike session controlled, indoors, on Zwift. So I just flex it depending on how it works out. Some days it’s doing it back-to-back. So I think an important takeaway for an athlete is if you’re doing the session correctly there’s no wrong answer here. It’s just thinking through, “Okay, am I doing...what is the purpose of this session?” If I’m protecting the integrity or the purpose of that session you can kind of do whatever order you need to do it. Is that right?

Elizabeth: I really like how you said protecting the integrity of the session because that’s really what we want to do. We want to make sure that you’re getting in those quality sessions and where it does need to be the aerobic work and the zone 2 work that we’re still sticking with that as well.

Andrew: Yeah. You shouldn’t be practicing running off the bike at the expense of staying in the right zone.

Elizabeth: Correct.

Andrew: Alright, moving on to our next question. This is from Sarah, a Zimbabwean athlete in the TriDot family who lives and trains in Zambia. She said, “Hello, TriDoters.” (What a great greeting!) “Hello, TriDoters. I have been with TriDot a few months now and have managed to bump my dots in each assessment. But since my last assessment I’m really struggling to hold my zone 4 power on the bike. Has anyone else struggled like this? How long did it take for you to settle into your new zones? RPE for those workouts is a 10 currently.” I’ll throw this to you, Jeff Raines. This is an athlete that had a great assessment, bumped their dots, they’re seeing improvement, but now their workout zones have adjusted, they’re really having a hard time hitting the zones in their training. What would you say to Sarah on this?

Jeff: First off, I would say congrats on bumping the dots multiple months in a row. That’s...

Andrew: We need a “bump the dot” sound effect on the show. Anytime we talk about someone bumping the dot we just hit a little {sound effect}...

Jeff: Ding, ding, ding! That delta of improvement in gains can get harder to achieve each month as you approach your true peak threshold. There’s a saying that I’m reminded of--it doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger. I think that’s Greg Lemond.

Andrew: Famous 1970-1980’s cyclist Greg Lemond.

Jeff: It’s a joy and it’s amazing to have a bump the dot. You’ve gotten stronger. You did an assessment. You tested your fitness. You say, “Awesome! Great! I had some new gains this month!” You celebrate, but you don’t always celebrate for very long because that means until I test again, now my workouts are going to get harder. I have earned harder zones, so to speak. But that first week or two into a new mesocycle in TriDot, that month...the first few weeks of the month, the quality zone 4 sets are shorter than weeks 3 and 4. So, Sarah, if you go back and look at each month you might have some 4-minute long zone 4 repeats. You might have 4x4 minutes at zone 4. And then that third, maybe fourth week, you have some 8-minute, 10-minute sets even at zone 4. What you can do is your first week or two in a new mesocycle is start off...if you have a zone 4 range, start off that first set maybe in the lower zone 4. Get a feel for it.

Andrew: So if your zone 4 is 160 watts to 180 watts, target the lower ranger. Target...okay, let me try to hold 160 for a little while before building up deeper into the range.

Jeff: Correct. So if that zone 4 range is 30 watts, start on the lower end of that. Then as you have a 4th or 5th set inside of one workout, maybe the 4th and 5th set you try to achieve mid to upper zone 4. Then maybe weeks 3 and 4 you go out that first set in the middle of the zone and do all of them in that middle to upper. So there are little tricks you can do to test your fitness. See how you feel that day. Is it necessarily the zones? Or are you feeling unique that particular day? Also know that if you are going to automate and download your TriDot workouts to your smart trainer and have those workouts automated, at any time you can bump up or down those little white arrows in Zwift. Up or down up to 10%. So you can fluctuate even automated Erg mode sessions you can change where you sit inside of zone 4.

Andrew: Even for an athlete who doesn’t have Zwift or doesn’t have a power meter or...however you’re training. If you’re trying to hit zone 4 and you’re just not able to hold it for the duration that you’re given, do the best you can. Try to come as close to the targeted range as you can. Your body will in time get there.

Jeff: Absolutely. Lastly, what I recommend Sarah does is go back and look at her zone 4 sets from previous weeks and see what her heart rate or max heart rate got to inside of that zone 4 set and compare it week to week and what cadence was she holding while she achieved that? Because if her RPE is 10 out of 10 like she said and her heartbeat is actually 6 beats lower than the week before then she just felt unique that particular day and it wasn’t a fitness issue or something like that. So there’s just a number of different games you can play to accommodate those zone fours.

John: So this really points out the reason and the need for ongoing testing. Every TriDot athlete has assessments on an ongoing basis. As a rule of thumb it’s every 3 to 4 weeks. What that allows us to do is to ensure that the athlete is training at the proper intensity level. This is what we want the athlete to experience is they somewhat grow into those power zones. As soon as they do that they get new power zones. But we don’t want to automatically across the board have these linear constant increases in power because it may exceed what that athlete should be training at. So that’s why we test regularly to ensure that they’re always training at that intensity level that will produce those gains. So what we don’t want to do is always train at the same level. Those zones that were easy last week, that’s a great indicator that you’re there and you need to move on--move up to the next level. So that’s what we want to do is to test and make sure the athlete is training at the proper intensity level so they can continue to bump those dots and make those gains.

Andrew: The next question I’m going to throw your way, John. This is another zone 2 run question. We get from time to time the zone 2 training questions. The questions we’re getting, guys, from athletes on zone 2 workouts are getting more specific. So you can tell the athletes are learning. They’re learning the “why” and now we’re talking through the “how” a little bit. Athlete Terry has a great question about zone 2 runs. If you can’t maintain a zone 2 pace without elevating your heart rate to zone 3, is it better to run at a zone 2 pace without walking breaks as needed? To run at a pace that keeps the heart rate in zone 2 even if it’s zone 1? Or does it not really matter as long as you keep your heart rate in zone 2? John, what is the best approach for athletes to take when they’re trying to keep their heart rate in zone 2?

John: So the important thing to do is find the pace that allows them to hold zone 2 for as long as possible. We have some very specific intent. When we hold the zone 2 heart rate it’s developing that aerobic efficiency it’s doing all those things we’ve discussed time and time again. All those advantages of being able to maintain that zone 2 heart rate. It’s important to maintain that zone 2 heart rate in these sessions. The pace is not particularly relevant. What we want to do is ensure that we’re holding that zone 2 heart rate for as long as possible. Until the athlete has a good foundation of that aerobic efficiency, oftentimes it’s going to require the to run a little bit slower. If they hold that zone 2 pace what we’re going to see is the heart rate is going to escalate up into zone 3, especially as environmental conditions change--as elevation increases, as heat index increases--it’s that much harder to maintain that zone 2 heart rate for that given pace. So what we need to do here is not pay attention to the pace, we want to pay attention to that zone 2 heart rate so we get all those benefits of training at the zone 2 heart rate.

Andrew: I actually created a field on my Garmin watch that all it shows me is heart rate because if I toggle between heart rate and pace, I’m always tempted to overdo the pace on zone 2 so I make myself...if it’s a zone 2 run, I don’t look at any other data field. I just have time and heart rate and that’s all that matters on that day is making sure the body’s not working too hard.

John: Exactly. Walk or slow down as needed, but you need to stay ahead of that. If you’re waiting until you hit that top of zone 2 to start that walk, that’s going to be too late. Heart rate is a delayed response so it’s going to take longer. So stay ahead of it. So know what your max is, know where you need to take those breaks in order to really maintain that zone. We want to stay in the zone and not max it out. Oftentimes what we’ll do is try to push to that one beat per minute. I’m guilty of that. But, really, what we want to do is stay in the meat of that zone 2 zone. Do what you can to manage that. This is something that I really started focusing on a couple years ago. I did it on the treadmill. I took advantage of some of those sessions there because the pace wasn’t really accurate anyway and I was using heart rate as my metric. So I did the same thing that you did where I just had time and heart rate and I didn’t really pay attention to my speed on the treadmill. I really dedicated to maintaining that zone 2 heart rate. It’s really paid off for me and I’ve really been able to see the benefit of it. So not only now am I able to maintain my zone 2 heart rate all day long at a zone 2 run, I can actually push higher faster paces and stay at lower heart rates at higher intensities. So my threshold pace...I’m now able to maintain my threshold pace at a lower heart rate than I was before. So I have a little game I do now. I continue to do a lot of these sessions on the treadmill, especially in the heat of the summer. What I do is I still do a 9 to 1 run walk protocol. I do my easy hour run and I push up the pace each segment. I see how fast I can run while maintaining my zone 2 heart rate. Actually what I’m able to do now is do about half that session at my marathon pace while still maintaining the meat of that zone 2 heart rate range.

Andrew: It’s fun because you don’t even know it because you’re not even looking at pace until after the workout.

John: The great thing is I’m able to increase the output. So I’m running faster with less input. So that heart rate is lower. So my body is not working as hard, but I’m able to increase the output. So running faster with less taxing on the body.

Andrew: Our next zone 2 question I’m going to throw this to Elizabeth. This is from Jeff. “How does hydration or, more appropriately, dehydration affect heart rate? I’ve noticed that as I go further into a long run--say 35, 40 minutes--I have to walk more frequently. Currently I’m not taking any hydration with me as these runs are only an hour to an hour and twenty. I know some of the increase in walking is due to fatigue, but how much is dehydration? Wondering if I should take hydration with me to increase the amount that I can run.”

Elizabeth: If you are dehydrated even slightly, your heart does have to work harder to pump blood, which can and will increase your heart rate. So dehydration is going to thicken your blood because blood is mostly water and so as you dehydrate and the water is removed or less, your blood thickens and then makes the blood vessel walls constrict. That can cause the higher blood pressure, can strain your heart a little bit. So, yeah. The shorter answer there is yes, dehydration can affect your heart rate. Having to walk near the end of some of those longer sessions could be attributed to fatigue or the lack of hydration. For any session that lasts an hour or more I always take hydration with me. I think it would be very worthwhile for Jeff to take some hydration with him on those sessions and look to see what the impact of that might be. Also for those looking for more specific hydration strategies, more information about that, Dr. Austin did an excellent job back on episode 30 on the sweat science episode where she talked much more specifically about hydration, hydration strategies. So that would be a good resource to go back and check out as well.

Andrew: Next question. Let’s hear from John on this one. It comes to us through Facebook from William in Charleston, South Carolina. He said, “I am about three weeks in with this training program.” Welcome, William! Glad you’re here. “I am really enjoying it and learning a lot. A question to y’all is when do you do your intervals? I was on a threshold repeat run and I got to wondering how does the rest of the world do this? I do my intervals up front after my warm-up and then run the rest of my 10K or zone 1 or zone 2 depending on what the workout tells me to. I do the same with the bike rides as well. I get the intervals out of the way at the beginning of my ride and then endurance are easy the rest of the way home. How does everyone else do their intervals?” So, John, this is an athlete who’s talking about you’ve got that run hour workout and you know you have to hit a certain amount of time with those intervals. Is there a strategy where it’s better to do them at the beginning of the workout versus the middle or the end?

John: Some of the workouts will call for a specific protocol to be done. So it will be a specific warm-up time then intervals then the cool-down. For example, some of the long run sessions will prescribe the higher intensity on the back half of the run. So that’s going to help prepare the athlete for that race scenario where on the back half of the run it gets harder. So you’re going to help develop some of that tenacity, that grit factor, of going hard when you’re tired and fatigued. It’s also going to mirror endurance or mirror duration, so you’re running faster, running harder on the back end of that so it’s going to create a similar training effect to do doing a longer run session. Beyond that, most of the sessions it’s up to the athlete. The only caveat is we always want to make sure we have an adequate warm-up. So we don’t want to move to the higher intensity too soon. We want to make sure the body is ready and you really can’t have too much of a warm-up. You can certainly have too little, it’s hard to have too much. I tend to delay mine a little further back. Really the main reason is for me the easy stuff is always easier before the intervals than after. If I do my warm-up, go straight into my intervals, knock out the intervals, sometimes the back half of that session feels like an eternity. Especially if it’s a one-hour session on the bike and I’ve got 30 minutes of zone 2 on the end, that 30 minutes seems like forever. So I like to have a longer warm-up, get in my intervals, and have a couple minutes on the back half of that session. But it’s really up to the athlete as far as that goes. Whatever works. Obviously the long sessions are a little different than the shorter ones. There’s certainly flexibility there. Get in a good warm-up. Do what you need to do to have a lot of success to be able to nail those higher quality, higher interval, higher intensity sessions.

Andrew: I’m very much like you, John, on the bike. I’m different for the bike than the run. For the bike I don’t want to do the intervals so early that I’m just spinning in zone 2 for 30 minutes on the back half. So I stage the warm-up and I stage the zone 2 time to where my main set is like right in the middle of the workout. So once I’m through all the main intervals, there’s only a couple minutes of zone 2 left before I start cooling down. For the run, I like to hit the quality work as soon as possible. So get in an adequate warm-up. I’m an easily injured athlete so I make sure I get a good warm-up in, running the 5 to 10 minutes and doing the warm-up drills that are prescribed to me before I get to the quality. But once my body is warmed up I want to get those quality intervals out as soon as possible and then almost relax. I find running in zone 2 quite relaxing. So I kind of relax into zone 2 for the rest of the run.

So our next question comes from Raul de la Rosa. Raul sent in a voice recording for us. He wanted to ask this question himself. So let’s check out what Raul wants to know.

Raul: Hi, my name is Raul de la Rosa. I’m here in Southtown, California. But a year ago, or about 9 months ago I was training using the TriDot program for Ironman Arizona and then I suffered a heart attack. Long story short, I had a bypass surgery. Now I’m cleared by my cardiologist to start training and racing. What kind of training do you think has TriDot ever trained someone with that kind of surgery that I had? Thank you very much. Bye bye.

Andrew: Alright, great question from Raul. An important question for us to cover, as well, so thank you for putting that out there for us. Jeff Raines, what would you have to say to him?

Jeff: First of all, I’m sorry about your heart attack. I’m glad you are bouncing back, you’re back in the saddle--no pun intended. So kudos there and God speed your recovery. Really what I would do first and foremost--especially easing back into your training--it should be done in a way that is according to what your doctor recommends first and foremost. And that information and those recommendations should be translated to your coach. If you’re not working with a coach, I would recommend if ever in your life you’re going to, this is a situation where that would be crucial. So working with a coach is the best way to tweak the plan and through good communication find what’s best for you in this scenario. Now if that just isn’t an option for you then know that in your preferences section you can change your volumes, you can make your workouts bike and run only, you can minus the swim, you can take off runs, stuff like that. So you can change those preferences and your volumes. Also what you can do is incorporate cross-training. Something with lower impact things that aren’t going to put as much stress on the heart. So working with a coach, changing your preferences, cross-training...if you miss a workout the beauty in what TriDot does is it sees it, it knows it, it flags it, and future sessions can and will be altered. So if you need to modify something in the moment that is totally fine. Work with your coach also to maybe prescribe less quality as you start coming back. So maybe getting rid of or modifying those zone 3, zone 4 sets. Incorporating more zone 2 or maybe incorporating longer rest periods in between those intervals. All are things you can do to safely return into those quality sessions.

Andrew: Yeah, and the important thing there is obviously whatever you do make sure it’s in alignment with whatever your medical doctor has recommended you do because they are the experts there for sure. Next question comes from Shannon.

Shannon: Hey, everybody, this is Shannon from Bellaire, Maryland. I’ve got a question for the data geeks. Since I’ve started at TriDot I’m curious why there are not more high intensity rides. Believe me, I am trusting the process. I’ve seen incredible results in my swim and in my run, but previously when I’ve really focused on cycling specific programs, there’s been a lot more VO2 work, a lot more anaerobic work with the idea of pulling up your FTP rather than improving your FTP by riding at zone 4, which is what I pretty much do for TriDot. Other than power builders, 30/30s, 30/90s, I really don’t see a lot of zone 5 work. The occasional step-up ride. But I’m spending probably 90% of my time at least in intervals riding at zone 4. Can you explain to me the reasoning behind that? What am I not seeing as a relative noob to triathlon and am I letting my cycling background color my thoughts here?

Elizabeth: Gosh, this is a great question. So I’m really, really glad that Shannon asked this. I guess going back a little bit...zone 4 is your 60 minute threshold. Athletes can do more of that than they can do of the zone 5 or zone 6. So zone 5 and zone 6 by definition are the muscular and the neural stress. Those are rather self-limiting. You are getting the zone 5 and zone 6 work that is prudent because if you spend more than the optimal amount of time in those upper zones, it becomes very counter-productive. An athlete’s training stress profile provides the right amount of training stress for each athlete to maximize their potential without that overtraining, without those counterproductive effects.

Andrew: And it knows that based on your age, your biomechanical indicators, your genome files. It knows how much stress your body can handle in zone 5 and 6, correct?

Elizabeth: Yes, absolutely. There are so many factors that are taken into account there so that it can accurately prescribe how much of each intensity zone would be appropriate to really see the benefits of that. I guess as a side note here, this is why it’s so important to follow the environment normalized pace and power so that you’re not pushing the muscular and neural stress beyond what is productive. I know that Ryan Tibball also did a great job of going into this a little bit further on the podcast episode on respiratory health when he talked about VO2 max and the benefit of really developing your threshold and how that zone 4 threshold really translates into your best race results even more so than training that zone 5, zone 6.

Andrew: Yeah, and talking specifically about the bike, there’s road racing when you’re racing with a team. There’s crit racing where it’s a lot more sprinting in and out of corners. As triathlete, we’re time trialists, right? We get in our position, we have a certain distance we have to cover and we have to cover that distance at a steady clip, as fast as possible. So holding zone 4 for a longer period of time is probably more applicable to how we have to race isn’t it?

Elizabeth: Yes.

John: I would add in that whole train smarter not harder. Certain people can only have a certain capacity to handle zone 5 and 6. So certain people can only absorb the benefits of that so much. So doing a whole bunch of zone 5 and zone 6 does not necessarily make you faster. You also gotta think that if you’re updating your zones and doing your monthly assessments and you’re doing them right, every month you're achieving a new higher, harder zone 4. So every month your zone 4 gets harder. So if you think of it that way it kind of helps bring home the fact that doing just a bunch of zone 5 and 6 isn’t how you improve your zone 4.

Andrew: I know TriDot founder Jeff Booher has put it this way before--since we’re a multi-sport sport, you can only pull on each lever so much. If you train more in zone 5 and zone 6 on the bike, let’s say from month to month or for a month or two you might increase the bike FTP more than if you do more of that work in zone 4, but at what cost to your running and swimming? At what cost to your bike FTP maybe six months from now?

John: The second half of your season.

Andrew: So the training is designed to balance it all for you to grow in all three sports at a proper rate. Great stuff from both you guys there, so thanks for that. Great question, Shannon. The next one comes from Alex from Oceanside, California. John, let’s have you talk to this. Alex says, “I love the data and numbers, but during race day tech can and sometimes does fail. Sensors, etc. So what tips or drills do you have to build self-awareness for perceived exertion knowledge?” John, I know we’ve talked on the podcast before about Garmins failing and things not connecting correctly on race day. It’s happened to me, I know it’s happened to you.

John: It’s not ‘if’ it’s ‘when.’ Inevitably if you race enough there’s going to be a day where your device isn’t going to work. The battery is going to be dead. It’s not going to connect. Something is going to happen. It’s not ‘if’ it’s ‘when.’ So you need to be prepared for this and be okay with it when it does happen. Especially if it’s that big “A” race, don’t let it sabotage your day. Just say, “Yeah, I knew this was going to come at some point.” It sucks. But carry on. Your fitness is still there. Your fitness is not dependent on that device working. You can still execute your race. Every session is an opportunity to dial in that perceived exertion. It’s important to pay attention so this is something that comes with time. We really see this on the swim. Oftentimes we get questions of how do I know what pace I’m swimming at because I don’t have those real-time metrics when I’m swimming. It really points out the importance of learning what those paces feel like so when the athletes are intentional of swimming at a certain pace, they dial it in, they know exactly what that pace is. That’s also true for cycling and running, as well. You ride long enough, you run long enough, you get a really good feel for what your power output is, for what your pace is. I’ve been doing this long enough that I can go to a track and I can run a 7 minute mile within 2 or 3 seconds several times over. It’s just something I’ve done it enough, I know what that feels like. I know what my easy pace feels like. I know what my threshold pace feels like. So come race day if my device does fail I still know where I should be and have a good feel for when my heart rate is low, when my heart rate is elevated. Really just use every session to dial that in. That’s true for a lot of things that we want to do. Use those training sessions, especially the long sessions if you’re racing long-course to dial in those race day skills. So even things like nutrition and pacing and all these things. So every session is an opportunity to learn what those things are. Oftentimes we see that pros sometimes don’t wear a watch. There’s a lot of reasons for that, but one of the reasons is they don’t need it as much. They’ve been doing this long enough, they know exactly what those intensities feel like. So they’re not as dependent on the device for that feedback. They have it dialed in so they know what they need to be doing and what they are doing. They have a very high perception of that output.

Andrew: I know for me when I came on to TriDot and started training with the training, it was almost like taking mental inventory as you’re going through the training session of what does zone 4 feel like? What does zone 3 feel like? What does zone 1 feel like? Just being aware of that instead of mindlessly running or spinning your legs on the trainer in zone 2. Take some time to think, “What does this feel like right now? What is my breathing like in this zone? What does the exertion from my legs feel like in this zone?” I learned very quickly on the track running--okay, this is what zone 4 feels like in terms of the cadence my legs have to spin at. Now to your point, I can run pretty well in zone 4 on the track or off the track just from having done that in practice and just being aware of what it’s feeling like and how it’s taxing your lungs and taxing your legs.

Next up, this is from Vanessa. She says, “If you have to take a few weeks off of training because of an injury, how do you get back into it especially if you have a race coming up?” Coach Jeff Raines, what do you think about this--coming back from injury?

Jeff: We get this sometimes with injury, a little bit more like vacations especially. But people will panic if they have to miss four or fie days or if they miss that big bike ride and they’re on vacation and worrying oh, am I losing bike fitness? Things like that. It takes roughly 10-14 days before you really start to detrain and lose fitness. So I understand being stagnant or static for a number of days or a week or so. Coming up to a race...you mention you have a race coming up. First of all, if you were injured, should you be racing at all? If you got the clear, maybe you will race it at a much easier intensity than you once thought you would. Anyways, don’t try to play catch up. Don’t squeeze in extra sessions. Don’t try to cram fitness in there. It won’t work. It will only hinder you. Just get back on the plan is what I have to say. If you’re far enough out from a race maybe you will update your assessments so now you will have updated training zones and see if you did indeed lose fitness. But ease back into the lower zone, the lower ranges of your zones, just for that first week or two to get back into the swing of things. What I like to do is maybe the end of that first week back or maybe even that second week back, negative split the ranges. So if you’ve got a 10 minute run where you’re supposed to stay in zone 4 for 10 minutes, maybe every second minute inside of that you increase 10 seconds per mile or something. You can negative split the set and test your fitness a little bit. But that way you are safe that first week or two so you kept the integrity of the prescribed workout. But also you were patient and smart and didn’t just shock the body going right out of that.

Andrew: I know I am a more easily injured athlete. I thought that about myself already and then when I did my genomics through Ancestry.com I found out very quickly that’s confirmed. I’m an easily injured athlete so I know for me if I feel anything coming on that isn’t right that’s more than just day-to-day soreness, I take a second, I take a day or two just like we said--pull back on the intensity a little bit. Do the duration, but pull back on the intensity. Make sure your body feels alright because it goes a long way in preventing injury. It goes a long way in not letting these things develop. If you’re coming back from injury, not rushing it and coming back healthy is more important than rushing to hit certain zones and hit certain intensities before that race day, right?

Jeff: Absolutely. It’s listening to your body and knowing when to hone back and maybe even skip a zone 4 set and just finish the duration at an easier zone 2 when in doubt.

Andrew: We have a really, really solid list of questions here and, guys, we are going to do these kinds of episodes a little bit more often. We’re not going to wait 50 more episodes before we do an athlete’s question one because we do get great questions from you guys. I’ve got some here that we’re going to skip today and we’ll do another one of these soon, but just for time there’s two more I want to get to. This is from Sarah who is from Alberta, Canada. She says, “Transitions. I am useless and just so slow. My hands are usually freezing cold, especially after the swim, sometimes after the bike as well in cold weather. I just can’t function to do anything. How do I make transitions faster and how do I learn how to use my hands when they are so cold. Are there any tricks to warm hands up so that they are functional?” I will say we got several questions about transitions. So many, in fact, that we put out a whole episode on transitions just a few weeks ago. So go back to episode 44 and hear all of Coach John Mayfield and Coach Elizabeth James’s tips and tricks to transition faster and more efficiently. But we actually didn’t cover cold hands on that episode. So, Elizabeth, what do you have to say about tips and tricks to warm those hands up on cold weather days?

Elizabeth: I can absolutely relate to this so I’m glad you threw this question my way. If you are having trouble in transition one of the first things I would say is utilize the volunteers. They are more than willing to help you snap your helmet, put on your shoes. Use their help. If your hands stay cold on the bike out of the water...you even mentioned, Sarah, that your hands are still a little bit cold on the run, I recommend using the little hand warmers. The Hot Hands.

Andrew: Hot hands!

Elizabeth: Yes. I personally use those. I open up a packet of those as I’m setting up my transition area if the weather is a little cooler that day. I put a pair of them in the gloves that I’m going to use on the bike and this has been a lifesaver for me. My hands are often so cold coming out of the swim that it’s been difficult for me to change gears or use the brakes so I have found that to be a very helpful thing for me and hopefully helpful for her as well.

Andrew: This final question comes from one of our TriDot athletes, Arthus. He recorded this for us. He tells us a little bit, guys, about his tri club that he races for. So we’re going to hear about that and then he’s going to close with what I think is a really fun question to close with for today.

Arthus: Hello, coaches. My name is Arthus. I am a 2020 TriDot Ambassador and retired military. My tri club is Team RED4. Racing for everyone deployed. Established back in 2018. You can check us out at TeamRed4.org. I enjoyed the sport of triathlon after quitting smoking three decades ago. Kudos to that. A question to the coaches: I was wondering if there are any organized schedule in place already or plans in the near future to have an organized meet the coach in their respective home base. A scheduled training on weekends once a month, swim, bike, run, or a brick workout. Example--Coach Jeff in the Austin area. Just wondering, TriDot coaches. Thank you for your time. Arthus Del Rio 2020 Ambassador. Austin, Texas.

Andrew: Alright, John, so are there any events in the works for us to get some events going in Texas or abroad?

John: Yeah, so there’s actually lots of opportunities. I would say the best is our at the races events. So we are on-site at all of the U.S. Ironman races and several of the 70.3s. We typically have coaches and staff at those events. Some of those are led by ambassadors, but these are great opportunities to come together whether you’re racing in the race or not and meet some fellow TriDot athletes, get in some fun training sessions. Oftentimes we do dinner, happy hour, coffee, just different fun stuff to hang out and get to know people as well as network with some athletes that have done the race. So just a good opportunity…

Andrew: Try to make everybody’s race day weekend as smooth and eventful as possible.

John: So, yeah, I would say keep an eye out for the at the races schedule. Also we have different training camps that we offer throughout the year. We do Ambassador Camp. So lots of great opportunities to come together with coaches, with staff, with fellow TriDot athletes.

Andrew: Nothing concrete we can tease yet, but we’ve been throwing around some different potential locations for future Ambassador Camps and we’re trying to get around, you guys. We’re trying to work it around and meet you guys and provide opportunities for all of our wonderful TriDot community to come together. Great question, Arthus. Guys, be on the lookout for future TriDot events.

Cool down theme: Great set, everyone! Let’s cool down.

Andrew: Our 50th episode slides into its cool down with a fun look back over the 49 episodes that preceded it. A lot of fun has been had and tri wisdom shared. Each of you guys have been an integral part of this show from the beginning. So as we look back let’s go around and have each of you share two of your favorite episodes so far. Let’s say your first pick has to be an episode you were on and your second pick has to be an episode you were not on. John, let’s start with you. You were there from the beginning--episode 1.

John: Yeah, kicking it off. Thinking back, even as we’ve gone over these questions today I’ve thought several times about how cool it is that a phrase to come out of this is, “We have a podcast for that.” It’s been so great to be able to use that resource because, again, some of these questions come up and we’ve got such good answers. We’ve got great experts, great coaches, a lot of knowledge. So it’s been a great way to share our collective experience and education and all that. I’ll say probably my favorite episode that I’ve been on was the one we did not that long ago. Episode 41: Is Aero Everything with Jesse Frank, the specialized Win Tunnel engineer.

Andrew: He was a fun guy. He was really fun.

John: Super cool guy. Lots of great information.

Andrew: Loves his Taylor Swift music.

John: Yeah! That was interesting. Just a unique perspective that we don’t always have that information so it was great to have him. Then I would say probably the one that I was not on--episode number 10: Escaping the Power-Stamina Paradox. That’s probably the one I’ve used the most. To answer that, “We have a podcast for that,” is just one of those things...there’s so many misconceptions. So many outdated myths that triathletes will follow and that one really cuts through with some great information for the athletes.

Andrew: Yeah, that one...if you guys haven’t listened to Episode 10: Escaping the Power-Stamina Paradox, it’s one of the handful that are very foundational to what we believe at TriDot to what TriDot training is and how it works and why it works so well for athletes. So go back and listen to number 10 just for some perspective on why your training is laid out the way that it is. Let’s go to Jeff Raines. What are your two?

Jeff: My favorite episodes are the Brendan Hansen week episodes where three-time Olympian, former world record holder, swam on the relay with Phelps...that we got to interview him and got to get a lot of his advice there. Those are probably my favorite. One that I was not on that is my favorite I would say is episode 31 and I think 21 and 22 were the Brendan Hansen episodes. 31, the Luca Parmitano episode.

Andrew: The Luca Parmitano episode.

Jeff: He has an amazing, amazing story to tell. That is his story from spaceman to Ironman and the things that he encountered on his spacewalk and how he tied it all in to his training in Ironman. Everything really hit home with me.

Andrew: What was so fun about talking to Luca is how when you’re talking to him about outer space and living on the International Space Station and being Commander of the International Space Station it’s just so unrelatable. He’s almost like this super human, right? Super smart guy. Super cool experiences he’s had. Then you get him talking about triathlon and it’s like you’re peers. You’re just buddies shooting the breeze talking about racing and he lights up when he talks about triathlons. I really enjoyed getting to know Luca on that episode. Elizabeth James, what are two episodes you want to give a little shout out to?

Elizabeth: I think one of the favorites that I was on was episode 23 with Raines. That was the Improving Your Run Efficiency with Better Biomechanics. Just for us to sit down and gush over all of the great biomechanics of running and then to really dig into all of the numbers and the angles and--gosh--body lean. Everything there was super fun. I feel like that had...it was jam-packed with information all about running.

Andrew: It sure was.

Elizabeth: That would definitely be one of the favorites that I’ve been on. One that I was not on, but is still my favorite is number one. I love the history of TriDot and how the episode talks about how I Am TriDot came to be. That’s one that I’ve honestly listened to multiple times. It’s one of my favorites. So episode one. Going back to the beginning.

Andrew: The OG. The OG episode. I do think my absolute favorite, Raines, is one you mentioned. I’ve been on all 50 episodes, so I can’t say…

Elizabeth: You can’t say one that you weren’t.

Andrew: So just to add a new one because the one with Brendan (episode 21, specifically) where he shared his Olympic story and his approach to coaching and after he felt called to coaching after his Olympic career. He was such an engaging guest. That was probably my all-time favorite episode from the 50. One you guys haven’t mentioned that I’ll give a shout out to is episode 27. It was called Don’t Miss the Most Valuable Training Block of the Season. John, this goes back to when you talk about episode 10--the Power of Stamina Paradox. Episode 27 was foundational to what TriDot is and why we believe in it, right? Because so much of the triathlon market believes in long, endless base miles, long slow development base miles and the closer you get to race day that’s when you start to do your fast work and trying to get faster. TriDot really preaches the opposite. It really preaches, “When you’re not preparing for a race, try getting faster now.” Once you get closer to race date is when you start building up the stamina and the endurance. Just a foundational episode to what TriDot is. So go check that out. Guys, there’s 50 of these things. I hope you’ve been with us for part or most of the ride. We’re going to keep the show going and keep the triathlon talk going and hope that you, our athletes, benefit. Keep the questions coming. Keep the podcast listening going and…

John: Great set, everybody!

Andrew: Well that is it for episode 50 of the TriDot podcast. A big thanks to coaches John Mayfield, Elizabeth James, and Jeff Raines for answering all of our triathlon questions. Thanks to all the athletes that sent my questions my way. If you have anything--anything at all--that you’ve been wondering about being a triathlete, head to tridot.com/podcast and send me your questions. We want to do more episodes like this where we get directly to the things that our athletes want to know. Bonus points if you click on “Send Us a Voicemail” to record your own voice asking your own question. If you’re enjoying the podcast, do us a solid and hit the “Subscribe” button on whichever platform you use to stream our show. We’ll have a new one coming your way soon. Until then, happy training.

Outro: 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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