T1 and Where We Are Going

Coach Commentary 3.18.2008

AIMP™ – Advanced Ironman Program

T1 and where we are going:

Many of you are retesting these next few weeks. I wanted to clarify a few things for all of you as you get the results from re-tests, whether you are new to my coaching or have been with me for a few years.

Many of you look at the numbers (T1 & T2) and think the only sign of progress is the improvement of these values: i.e. if T1 does not increase, my training has not improved me as an athlete. I will start with my own self as an example.

If improving T1 is the only marker of improvement, I stopped improving years ago. Whether at Endurance or in my blood lactate tests with Craig, my T1 (or VT1) has yet to ever improve. I start the season around 310-315 Watts, and progress to 320-330 Watts. If we look at that in percentage, this is maybe 5%. Many seasons it starts at 312, and ends at 318 Watts. But, for some ODD reason I continue to improve in triathlon, and in my cycling. Without my watts going up…


What does this mean? It means 4 simple things/goals/outcomes:

1) We are looking to ride the bike in a triathlon at a lower cost – You have heard Craig say it plenty of times; the lower your lactate accumulation below T1 (flatter curve), the better you can hold wattages/efforts for a longer period of time below that T1 marker. If you ride better below T1, you will get to the bike/run transition feeling better, and you will have a much higher likelihood to hold your usual training pace for running vs. the slog many of you go through on the run (or at least run as fast as you can run every time in training either off the bike or just straight up). This is all about lowering the cost at T1, NOT pushing it up.

2) We are looking to hold a higher wattage relative to T1: 4 years ago my T1 was approx. 300 watts, yet I raced Ironman at 255 Watts. I gradually moved that to 275, then 285, last year I held 300 Watts for Ironman – all while my T1 has been at 310-325 Watts. I have been gradually increasing my ability to hold a higher wattage relative to my T1 ceiling. Do you all think Lance Armstrong’s T1 has changed dramatically during his 7 TdF’s? NO! In his books you can read his 450 Watt test at threshold was ALL he was trying to get to for the season – if he hit that he knew he was ready for the Tour (combined with weighing 70 kg) – every year, every season. He did not improve that number, he even raced the Tour 2x at below that number. BUT, his ability to remain steady below that threshold number improved every year. Its called cycling economy: basically watts per pedal stroke. The balance between watts per pedal stroke your muscles can handle at a cadence your cardiovascular system can sustain. Lance’s cycling economy increased every year, and hence he was able to push a higher pace (and with it the peleton!) without fatiguing. Then he had the ability to slingshot up long climbs and nail the TT’s better since IT COST HIM LESS than the other riders.

3) We are looking to improve our ability to ‘tolerate’ surges and rollers within the race better: As we get more comfortable working below T1 wattages/effort, our ability to withstand relatively longer periods at above T1 increases. Why? Because our ability to hold a higher wattage/effort relative to T1. Therefore rollers, surges or short stretches in races do not knock us out when we are above T1 HR/Watts, nor do we feel intimidated by being there for a bit – we know we can recover and return to a longer, go all day effort without blowing up.

4) We are looking to determine an effort/intensity at which we can still maintain our nutrition and hydration: This is a key ingredient to our racing success. If we are riding at a lower cost, if there is less of an accumulation of lactate, if we are in optimal balance of muscular power producing pedaling force and the cardiovascular system delivering oxygen, fueling the muscles and removing waste products such as lactic acid, THEN our stomachs’ ability to process food, calories, electrolytes etc. is greatly improved. Think of that pace where all this remains in balance…wattage, HR, nutrition & hydration….THEN think of gradually increasing that pace…..through training. You have all been there: going a bit too hard to properly process the food. Then get to the run….and ooops: bloated, sick or empty with no energy.

SO, the training does NOT revolve around IMPROVING T1, it revolves around getting more efficient and economical at it. Each and EVERY one of you will have a GREAT race if you were to ride efficiently and effectively just below T1. It means a solid bike split (faster than you think!) and a solid run (one that you’ve always felt you are capable of but have not yet had)…

IF T1 increases: Sure, this is an added benefit, but it does NOT mean you will be racing at a higher wattage/effort. Because we will still want to be in that efficient and economical ‘zone’ where all the above takes place. An increased T1 means we have plenty more work to do in the months and years to come….:-)

As always, let me know of any questions.

e: * p: 415.888.3712 * m: 415.465.0443 * Mill Valley, Ca