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freak sport triathlon

Training strategy for 2021 v2

This article is an update of the previous one. I have mostly done Z2 training since the middle of september and I had time to reflect back on this and stuff like HIIT and VLamax…

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic I look for new challenges. I like sports and I like to train. Having strategies to test boosts my sports endeavors.

The challenge of racing is fun and with tapering days and recovery periods it gives a nice rhythm and flow to the year, but these days, with all the unknown ahead, I like the idea of relieving the pressure of an A race and just enjoy the process of doing sports regularly.

TL;DR :

  • zone 2 training becomes the bread and butter of training, sometimes low cadence work to try to modulate muscle fiber types
  • I will favor 4×8 min to boost VO2max and FTP, I will work on a high cadence on these to maximise stroke volume adaptations

My first goal is to stay healthy, or better say cure little niggles first. These niggles happens with running. They are very mild but to me it’s still an orange flag that impedes running, especially long « soul runs » and « energetic fast runs ». Keys to this are smart training : no back to back runs, spread mileage through the month, sleep, food and taking it easy. Eventually when I take the big picture, doing less volume than in 2020 and being more fresh should be better for health isn’t it ?

Second goal I have found is to eventually build technique in my swim. When I started swimming I was told to first enjoy swimming, then build fitness  and finally add technique. It ‘s debatable but I am ok with the concept. It’s a long term process. I have found many stuff to work on. But the pools openings are quite random these days. So I might put this in the long-range instead of a real 2021 goal.

And the big chunk is that I want to improve my endurance/fatmax. I would like to be better at long endurance feats. I had the project of a solo mountainous Ironman but logistics are quite difficult to manage, it’s doable, but I don’t like the idea of asking too much of those around me. I found another project of a week of cycling with quite some elevation (going around Corsica is 850 km and 15 000 m of elevation). That’s less difficult I think but still a good endurance feat.

getting fit to live bliss times

I am 173 cm and 62 kg. My fat mass is lower than average (Tanita BC 601 says 7,5% but I know it’s much different on DXA scan and I don’t see my veins like <5% fat cyclists). My VO2Max might be around 54-59 ml/kg with slight bumps over 60 when I am top fit (Garmin says 57 for running and 65 on the bike). I train 500 hours a year. I think than naturally I am more built for 1-5h races. The half-marathon would be my race of choice if I had to choose something where I could have success (and no niggles). Or a 40 km TT. I think that speaking of muscular fiber types, I am a mixed person. I like some bursts of explosivity and I like endurance but I am not good at sprints and I suffer on very long bike rides or runs (maybe a little bit more mentally than physically but it’s a hard question to decipher). I have been running since 2010 and started triathlon circa 2014-2015.

2019 and recent PD curve

What about my diet ? I have always eaten a lot of bread. It’s my comfort food. Also I have been an advocate to train with carbs since we can optimize carbs burning this way and I used to refuel quickly after workouts (Jeukendrup « philosophy »). My opinion against low carb/fat burning strategies was that food was available during races and I am not highly proned to GI distress. Clearly I define myself as a natural « carb burner » if this means something. I don’t have a psychological issue with food but I had when I was a child. I think that my diet could be richer in fruits and vegs (hence fibers). Eventually I know that there is no perfect diet since everybody is different. (Anyway I see mediterranean and some asian cuisines as models). I don’t drink alcohol anymore because it messed up my sleep, recovery and early bird trainings. For fun and curiosity I am interested in testing continuous glucose monitoring at the beginning of 2021. I like people at lifetizr but the project is late and I think I will give a shot at SuperSapiens (what a branding 🙄) project from Abbott.

One of my favorite place : Le Bec Jaune, Morzine, french Alps. So good and friendly, especially after hard riding on cols.

So I want to improve my fat oxidation because I’d like to do long endurance feats with duration between 12 and 24 hours and maybe ultra bike packing races in a far future.

If I understand things well, to build endurance, volume of easy training is key. Ok. But since I am no professionnal athlete I cannot do 5h rides 3 times a week. But I will do some on sundays for sure. The strategy for my next long sunday rides is first have a breakfast with a light amount of carbs to dampen the insulinic response to the meal. Then keep intensity smooth during the ride without during surges loading the glycolytic pathway (lactate inhibits lipolysis). I will also try to go a bit harder than I use to go. Usually with friends my average power ends up around 135 W  and NP 150 W with average HR of 110-120. (We have very gentle rides for everyone to enjoy chit chat and not getting dropped. So my IF for these rides if < 0.65) I shall rise this up a bit going more to the front pulling for others or do some long rides alone. I will not eat on the first 2 hours (I found that after 150 g of carbs « burnt » estimated through met cart analysis and a Connect IQ app) and then take some carbs.

Thinking about my intensity distribution I think I will level up the endurance side. I am too light during endurance sessions. And I need more « zone 2 » training. My estimation is that I should ride around 180-190 W (78% FTP) to multiply mitochondrias like Jesus did with breads 😉 Maybe it’s good to lower the cadence during some of this workouts. Good to mimic the effort I will do in the mountains and maybe to turn the machinery of some muscle fibers to something more « oxidative ».

Then, I will still do workouts like my early bird fatmax where I do one hour at 165 W first thing in the morning. I follow my average HR on this workout so I have a proxy for fitness and heart adaptations with my power/HR ratio (efficiency) on this clamped effort. I have notice that these sessions are easy ones and the one hour fatmax is not a big stimulus, so I have to keep it for easy days and not fill my schedule with it. I have done too much of it and fasted rides in may/june of 2020 and I have felt this blunted my fitness, I was ok during 3-4 hours rides but clearly I was lacking some top speed for turns and so on. And frankly this blunts a lot the riding pleasure.

I think I have understood something about FATMAX. There is a kind of confusion between FATMAX, the idea of burning fat, and the zone where mitochondria/TCA cycle work the most while keeping a good energetic balance and milieu. So, it’s not than I need that much to improve fat burning capacities than training in « high endurance zone » where mitochondria are highly stimulated and then hope for adaptations and growth in aerobic capacity (size, number and mitochondria machinery). And with growth of aerobic capacity comes more fat burned for same absolute effort. This is also why it might be good to clamp a workout to RPE and/or HR since when you work close to a metabolic turn point you are highly likely to drift in another zone where mitochondria can’t process the lactate anymore and you fatigue much quicker both short term and long term. So it’s maybe not that much about tinkering with nutrition and fast (also I don’t see much a problem of fat availability in studies, more a challenge to get through the beta oxidation process) but more a challenge of discipline to work in the right zone. 

Speaking of diet, I will try to balance carb with more proteins. I have monitored for roughly a week my food intake (it’s not fun) and I get this : carb 36%, fat 47%, proteins 17%.  255 g (4 g/kg) of carb per day (if I go 150g/day I sleep really bad), 113 g of proteins (1,8 g/kg). I will check if proteins impacts my blood glucose concentration. It’s just a short term game because I think I don’t have an issue with proteins in my diet and I would even say that for longevity goals, eating less animal proteins, especially meat, should be better. (A tiny tweak would be to add more proteins from peas and mushrooms)

For the second part of my preparation (« build phase ») I let down the idea of doing bursts of intensity like 30/30s or 15×1 min at « max aerobic power » 320ish (and not above). I had this idea with this justification : I thought it was good to work VO2max without increasing too much VLamax because these exercices rely on creatine P and myoglobin more than let’s say 3/4/5 min efforts ? At least it’s what I have understood after watching a conference from Laursen & Buchheit. But after listening to some podcasts and chatting with people, I don’t know how take seriously the VLamax concept. The mystery for me is still this : is a 0.6 mmol.l-1-s-1 VLamax a burden for long endurance rides I do ? Does it have a serious impact on my carb consumption during a long Z1 ride ? a kind of obligatory carb cost ? Is this completely flawed or is there some truth in that but more when you’re « highly glycolytic » with VLamax around 1 and above ? Eventually, I will forget thinking too much about VLamax, I don’t get the articles on basic science on this. I can get some stuff on sprints and rate of appearance of lactate but how it would impact long efforts ? I don’t get how these things are intertwined. Sebastian Webers explanations are a good narrative but as I discuss with people knowing the history of the Cologne (Köln) physiology school I assume there might be some good and bad in this theory. Also I see plenty of sources of errors here : distribution volume of lactate, very short time frame to do the sprint, so a second might change things, the difficulty to get lactate measurements, etc. So, especially for an long endurance goal, I shall forget thinking too much about this physiological mystery.

Eventually I will do 4×8 min à-la-Seiler in the build phase since it was highly effective for me last year. These kinds of workouts are also good for building mental strength. Next year I will keep and eye on HR to avoid burning myself in each workout and stay a tiny bit conservative (I know that in the original paper it was effort guided with the indication of doing the best the subject could do in 4×8 min, but I don’t wanna burn myself). Maybe I will add some shorter and higher intensity intervals, we will see. On « VO2max » intervals, I might try to accelerate my cadence to help venous return and maybe optimize stroke volume adaptations. For the peak period, I will polish my game with some FTP work, 2×20 min, the classic one. Maybe with some low cadence work.

Will I stay on the path ?

One thing I would like to incorpore a little bit but I have no idea of how and when is a bit of strength training. Especially with super long term goal of a better health span, embracing this lifestyle of maintaining muscle mass should be good. For sure, winter should be the best time but I am so newbie on this so…

The periodization thing is not something important for my level. I think I just have to have some variations around some kind of consistency 😉 It’s one of my life motto and I stick to it 🙂

If I feel brave, I would monitor my CP6 and CP 20 sometimes during the season to see how the needles moves. The dream would be to rise the CP 20/CP6 ratio (But it’s already not so bad at 0,83). When I had good results my training distribution (in time spent) in the 3 zones model was roughly 76-79/16-18/6-9 so I will try to stay in this range. Being polarized is a good strategy to avoid overtraining because it prescribes a lot of very easy efforts and still good to have some high efforts for fitness and fun. Nevertheless, I also believe that some « between thresholds » efforts have some value, a key message of 80/20 is to avoid going too often in this zone I think. And the polarized model was found out of more speed sports like cross country skiing where the pace is more stochastic than in long distance triathlons.

There is a trap I will closely monitor : doing too much. I have had good results in 2018 and 2019 doing less volume than in 2017 and 2020. So volume is not a key regulator of success for me. There is some kind of glass ceiling I shall avoid. Working and having on calls requires smart choice in the training process. I cannot always do the plan sessions and that’s ok.

Of course sleep and recovery will be key. I think I get this.

entrelacs/intertwinnings from Leonardo

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