|Posted on March 16, 2021 at 5:10 PM||comments (10)|
Incorporating Skills Practice into your Training Plan
It is hilarious to me that people neglect skills practice on the bike when it can truly make or break your race. I think the main problem is athletes don’t know how to approach it (and also don’t want to) and/or their coaches don’t know how to implement skills into a training plan.
I was already planning on this topic for the blog and trend for this weeks social media here at TST before the recent triathlon in Florida. The race being Challenge Miami. Fortunately, the race and content produced immediately following will help drive home the importance of practicing bike skills and honing your technical ability. If you’re a fan of the sport and follow along with the triathlon “influencers” like Eric Lagerstrom + Paula Findlay, Lionel Sanders and a host of others you’ll notice a common theme among ALL of them with their post-race thoughts and the importance of having the confidence and ability to ride the bike course well, and the impact it had/has on race performance.
For most of us in the States we have not had the opportunity to ride outdoors much (#winter) and we especially haven’t had the opportunity to ride in groups of really any size for the most part (Fortunately that looks to be changing for the better). With races now popping up on the calendar, how can athletes expect to go racing and perform to their potential when they don’t have the confidence/ability to ride their bike to their full potential?
Confidence and competence on the bike comes with practice. An athlete will gladly perform intervals of any duration at a set intensity knowing that the repetition and consistency will pay dividends when they go to perform that power in a race specific scenario. So why don’t athletes approach skills in the same way? Repetition of skills starting with basics and building to applicable uses for race type scenarios!
Who needs to practice bike skills? Every person riding a bike, whether you’re a beginner triathlete to a professional MTB racer, everyone can benefit from practicing bike skills.
When should you put skills in your training plan? It depends on the time of year and what you’re racing. A lot of folks, as mentioned above, can’t really practice skills during the winter because they are mainly stuck on the trainer (There are ways around this). As far as skills implementation during the week once the weather permits, you can begin by having 1 or 2 specific skills days a week at any point in the year. The skills day will simply take the place of a recovery ride. Along with these 1-2 specific skills days, if you desire more you can focus on one task/skill for 5-10 min at the end of every ride if you want. As said above, repetition/consistency of practice is key!
Why practice skills? Simple…
Confidence on the bike= Better performance on the bike
Where should I practice bike skills?
Beginning on soft surface (Grass preferably) where consequences are minimal if you happen to fall over. All skills should follow a progression (similar to normal training) that eventually build to real race application. If you’re racing on the road, eventually progressing to skills specific to your discipline on the road. If you’re racing MTB, eventually taking your skills progression to the dirt.
What should a skills session look like? There are so many ways to approach this, as I mentioned above, anyone and everyone should be practicing skills, and many athletes already do on a regular basis.
However, a skills session for an elite BMX racer or XC MTB racer will look completely different than a skills session for a beginner triathlete. Start where you are and progress with skills that are applicable to give you more confidence in your discipline.
Here is an example of a skill that a lot of my athletes will be familiar with. I use this for anyone riding/racing on the road.
The LEAN: 5min of leaning the bike but maintaining a straight line....basically get your weight as far over the right side of the bike (crouching down helps) and lean your bike to the left, but roll in a straight line... then vice versa.
Move around on the bike and experiment with how far you can lean your bike to one side while maintaining a straight line. Be mindful of where you are on the bike and begin the play around.
I’ll let you guess what this drill can progress into and where it is applicable as you progress through!
There will be two separate FREE plans coming out this coming weekend, one for triathletes building to their first race and looking to gain a bit of extra confidence and speed going in, and one for cyclist with the same premise.
These FREE PLANS will have full skills sessions outlines in them! Want to get faster without having to smash Intervals? DO SKILLS!
|Posted on March 9, 2021 at 9:10 PM||comments (0)|
One of Coach Miles’ core beliefs when it comes to run training is that 10K or half marathon training are very similar and can provide you with a solid foundation for going up or down in race distance.
Why is that a relevant thought for right now?
Well, it’s relevant because races are slowly beginning to pop up on the calendar, but they are still overshadowed by a cloud of uncertainty. That being said, consistently training as though you were preparing for an upcoming 10K or half marathon can have you ready to adapt your training to any distance that might pop up on the calendar. That is, unless it’s a half or 10K. Then you simply carry on.
Why is 10K or Half Marathon Training so adaptable?
Great question. Training for these 2 distances complement each other well because they each, usually, involve increased aerobic volume, threshold work, and tempo work. The increase in volume you receive from your long runs as well as longer supporting aerobic runs, can easily be transferred into a marathon training plan. Along with the increase in volume, the threshold and tempo work done in 10K and half marathon plans can serve as a great base for more speedwork and focus for 5K’s or shorter distances.
So, coming out of a 10K of half marathon focus, you can increase your long runs and add in some specific pace work if you’re shifting to a marathon plan. Or you can trade one of your tempo workouts for more speed specific work if you’re shifting to 5K or shorter. The 10K or Half marathon plan is the Swiss Army Knife of running plans.
That being said, we’ll be dropping a FREE 10K training plan on the TST Perform website this weekend! The plan will also include notes on how to convert the 10K plan into a Half marathon version. Thank you for reading and happy training!
Your friends at TST Perform,
Eric and Miles.
|Posted on February 23, 2021 at 1:10 PM||comments (0)|
The focus of the blog for this week will be on FTP/Threshold testing, training, and development. This will be a brief overview on those areas and is by no means an in depth detailed description of how to execute each aspect. This blog will be followed up with a few “FREE PLANS” for cyclists and triathletes to help navigate the murky waters of developing threshold power. These plans will be posted on Saturday February 27th.
So what is FTP/Threshold power? It is the power you can theoretically produce on the bike for an hour if you were to go all out.
How do I find this number? Well this process is hotly debated and many coaches have different tests to help them identify an athletes threshold power number.
First you need a power meter on your bike, or bike trainer that has an internal power meter.
Then you need a testing protocol.
Some of these tests include… but are not limited to:
• 20min test all out (multiply your 20min power number by .95 or .90)
• Ramp Test (There are even different protocols of this (ramping intensity in 20w increments every minute until failure… whatever your last 1min power was multiply that by .75)
• 30min test all out similar to a 20min test but you can typically multiply this number by .95 to have an accurate threshold number
• 8 min test or 2x8min test separated by 10min recovery.
• Inscyd Training software protocol (30sec, 3min, 6min, 12min all out…this is a specific test designed for Inscyd software)
• 4DP Test where you will test max sprint, 5min power (vo2), 20min power, and 1’ power
I think you get it…there are a lot of different tests and they can be intimidating. When it comes right down to it, your identity as a person and cyclists should not be tied to this number! I can’t stress that enough. This is simply a tool to help you and your coach help develop you into a stronger cyclists.
I find most riders overestimate their threshold number and if they have anxiety about testing to acquire this number sometimes they will underestimate what they are actually capable of. It is important to be realistic and objective when approaching the situation, whether you are self- coached or have a coach.
If you are about to embark on improving your threshold power, you will certainly want to test using one of the methods above (be sure to keep this testing protocol so you have consistent data through this period). You will want to test at the end of a rest/recovery week where your volume is substantially reduced from your normal training.
Once your number is established, you will need to decide how much time you have to train and how you want to structure your training block. By structuring your training block I mean whether you will do 2 weeks on progressing intensity and volume followed by 1 week rest/recover or if you will do 3 weeks on and 1 week rest/recover. There are a variety of factors that go into this decision that I won’t dive into here.
You want to be able to dedication anywhere from 8-16 weeks to focus on this task.
A typical week of training will look something like this:
Mon: Recovery ride or day off
Tuesday: Threshold workout
Wednesday: endurance ride or tempo
Thursday: Recovery ride or day off
Friday: Threshold or Vo2 OR HIIT session depending on what you’re training for
Saturday: Endurance ride…Longer
Sunday: Ez endurance or recovery
The specific sessions can and should change as you progress which is why I did not put any specific intervals or ride durations into the above basic week structure. These sessions will change drastically depending on your experience and level of athlete, also depending on if you happen to be a cyclist or triathlete.
A KEY POINT:
You should focus your energy on those hard days. In order to do this, you need to support your ability to hit theses sessions with easy endurance riding and recovery rides or days off….this is CRUCIAL. Don’t try to be a hero and ride hard all the time, this will only hurt your performance. Make the hard days count! Go in as rested and recovered as possible with how you’re training is structured.
Another KEY POINT:
Remember your FTP number was realistically set when you were rested and fresh…unfortunately in a normal training week you will not be nearly as rested or fresh, This is why threshold interval length is important 8-20min with half the length of the interval as recovery is a reasonable range (Depending on ability of course) Beginning with 30min worth of work when you’re starting out, building to an hour or slightly more work as you progress and get more experience
As you get closer to race season your workouts will be more specific to your race demands and I recommend keeping this in mind when you’re planning your training days/weeks/months.
It is important to note that consistency is key when it comes to any kind of training program. The same is obviously true here. You will need to be consistent throughout this process to see the best benefit. This reinforces the point of not overdoing on ez days and not over doing it on endurance days. Help yourself by giving ample time to recover between hard sessions and be SMART!
I hope this was a helpful introduction for more content to come this week regarding threshold training.
Keep your eyes out for some “FREE PLANS” posted on the website this Saturday February 27th!
|Posted on February 15, 2021 at 9:30 PM||comments (0)|
So, you’ve been cooped up all winter. Maybe you’ve been putting in some base work or following a strength plan. Maybe you’ve been focusing on a single discipline. Or maybe you haven’t. Maybe you’ve taken some extended time off and are finally ready to get back into the swing of things.
At TST Perform we’re here to tell you that any of the above options are perfectly fine. As we approach the end of February, spring is right around the corner and maybe, just maybe, some races are beginning to pop up on the calendar. Not only that, but soon we’ll have more daylight in the evening which means it’s time to emerge from our winter hibernation.
When emerging from your winter hibernation it’s best to take things slow and steady. You should slowly begin to build back up some volume in all three disciplines. Take 4-8 weeks to slowly build yourself back up and maybe sprinkle in a little bit of intensity. Any intensity is best sprinkled in on the bike and in the swim.
As triathletes, we can build our aerobic engines through the three separate disciplines of swimming, cycling, and running as opposed to a single discipline. This means we can afford to take a more conservative approach to running since this is the discipline where injury is most likely to occur if we push too much too soon. That is, unless you’ve been focusing on your run this offseason. If we build your body back up properly at this point in the year, we are sure you’ll have a more successful and injury free 2021.
If you’re just emerging from your hibernation maybe your next 4-8 weeks of training, look something like this:
Swim: first 4 weeks are drill heavy as you get your feel back for the water. Sprinkle in some endurance focused 100-300 reps between drills and you’ll be set. From weeks 5-8 keep the drills in your week but now you can add in a pure quality focused swim a week and maybe one swim where you accumulate more aerobic volume.
Bike: first 4 weeks steadily increase weekly aerobic volume with one HIIT session per week. Try to get outside on the weekends and build up your long ride again. For weeks 5-8 you can begin to integrate some more intensity into your volume.
Run: For the first 4 weeks, slower/shorter runs should be your bread and butter. This will help your muscles and tendons adapt to the pounding of running again. Include a longer run on the weekend when/if you have more time but don’t push the pace. For weeks 5-8, slowly increase the duration of the long run and sprinkle in 1 run a week that includes a bit of tempo/ progression ranging from 6-8/10 RPE.
Follow these general guidelines for 4-8 weeks and you should emerge from hibernation ready to enter more race/goal specific work and set yourself up for a fruitful 2021.
And if you’ve read this far, then lucky for you we will be dropping a FREE 8-week Emerging from Hibernation Plan this Friday (2/19) on the TST website!
Stay tuned and Happy Training from your friends at TST Perform, Eric and Miles!
|Posted on February 8, 2021 at 4:05 PM||comments (0)|
So you have decided to get in the gym and lift some weights… but where should you start?!
Strength training in general can be an intimidating prospect for endurance athletes. It takes you out of your comfort zone, and throws you into the world of barbells, protein powder, and muscle tanks. Don’t let the initial hesitation stop you from following through on something that will have a massive impact on your athletic performance, along with general well-being.
Having a coach or personal trainer is certainly a great option to get started in the gym with strength training. However, I know it is not feasible for many people.
My goal with this blog post is to give you an example workout that you can do as an introduction to strength work. Please be mindful throughout each exercise if you choose to give it a try.
Feel free to put this session in to your training plan twice a week (can be 3 depending on time of year and type of athlete). It is best to put this workout on a quality day as the last session of the day.
For your first few sessions focus on getting the correct movement of each exercise with low weight and higher reps. (You’re an endurance athlete. Not a powerlifter) Once you’re familiar with the routine and confident/comfortable with the exercises, begin progressing the weight each session and reduce the reps.
Allow 30-60 seconds rest between sets.. allow for more rest between exercises
Don’t be afraid to look on youtube for videos on proper form/technique…or feel free to consult in a coach
Ez 5min jog/5min spin/ or jump rope
1: Squats 3-4x12-15 reps with bar only or very light weight.
2: Deadlift 3-4x10-12 reps with bar only or very light weight. Get the movements correct, be careful of putting tension on your back
3: Lunges with kettle bell or dumbbell 3x10 reps each leg with light kettle bell or dumbbell (KB)
4: Deadbugs (Core): work up to 2-3x50 reps
5: Lunge with dumbbell overhead press-work up to 2-3x8 reps each leg: light dumbbells or start with having your arms stay overhead
6: Box Jumps-- 4x6 nothing extremely high and have a controlled landing on and off the box--POWERFUL
7: Russian Twists (Core)--3x15 with plate or med ball
This is by no means a one size fits all approach. Some athletes will certainly need more, some will need less.
This is a great session to get you started and experiment with, you will touch on a bit of everything and get a good sample of what a strength session looks like and consists of.
If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out.
Also have a look in the “Free Training Plans” tab for a 10 week strength build for cyclists!
|Posted on February 3, 2021 at 4:05 PM||comments (0)|
I thought beginning February with a blog post about strength training would be fitting because the lack of emphasis many athletes put on this important training discipline. This is a brief introduction to anyone who is thinking about getting in the gym and starting a strength program. I have left out many intricacies and I can certainly go into more detail in the future.
Who should strength train?
Everyone…. All endurance athletes….all ages can and should implement some aspect of strength training and CAN see a positive impact on performance and general well-being.
*It should be noted that strength training for aging athletes (40+) is arguably more important than other age demographics. (More details in the “Why” section below)
What is strength training?
Performing movements or movement patterns to improve muscular strength, function, and efficiency (typically under load)
When to implement strength training in your training plan?
This can and will change depending on the athlete of course, but here is a brief outline:
Begin a strength focused period of training following your off season, before you begin increasing volume significantly, this will allow for maximum adaptations as you will not be accumulating significant fatigue and stress from whichever endurance sport you’re participating in. (you will be sore from strength training…that’s good!)
How long? If you can get in 8-12 weeks of focused strength work that is ideal and certainly doable for many athletes. Keeping strength in your program throughout the year is great and should be considered.
How many days a week? Between 2-4 days a week depending on the athlete and time of year (be sure to have proper recovery between sessions…especially as you increase training volume)
How long will I spend in the gym per session? You can plan on spending 30min-90min per strength session depending on your prescription. (have a plan, warm up and get the work done)
Where should I do my strength sessions?
At Home: It is quite easy to have a great “at home” gym set up to have a productive strength training program. It certainly is more efficient than a gym membership if you have the right equipment at home It will eliminate any travel to and from the gym (and nowadays, unnecessary exposure to other people #COVID)
Things to Have to get started at home: The following items are great to have, but all are NOT necessary to be productive in the gym. You can get everything on this list for relatively cheap.
Squat rack: with bar and weights
At the Gym: If you do not have the space for an at home gym, or don’t have the money, or simply prefer to go to a gym, you can still get the necessary strength work done.
It is important to know your gym layout. When you get to the gym it will be important for you to know the exercises you are doing, where the equipment is, and how you will flow through your session without taking up too much space or equipment.
Take your first few sessions to learn a system that works for you, that way you can be efficient and get the work done.
Why should I do strength training?
There are many reasons in favor of strength training and almost no downside when implemented into your plan correctly.
I have listed some of the more prominent reasons to strength train below, there are MANY more reasons not listed.
The famous reason for strength training quoted by many endurances athletes is “Injury Prevention” While this is one benefit of strength training, I would say it is highly overstated compared to other additional benefits.
Increase fatigue resistance: this is a HUGE benefit of strength training and can be quoted in many studies. One being, with a proper strength program you can convert Type IIX muscle fibers to more fatigue resistant Type IIA fibers
Improved exercise economy:
“Cycling economy is commonly referred to as the steady-rate oxygen cost of a standard power output measured as L·min” https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2010/08000/Maximal_Strength_Training_Improves_Cycling_Economy.26.aspx
The study listed above is one of many, that look at the benefits of strength training (in this case, heavy weight) and its positive impact on cycling economy. There are many studies concluding similar results with runners.
The result that stands out to me from this 8 week intervention is the time to exhaustion improvement in the group that had strength training. The results are as follows : “time to exhaustion at maximal aerobic power (17.2%) in the intervention group were shown”
For the aging athlete: there are many more specific reasons for older athletes to strength train, this is simply a starting point to give a sense of the importance.
The benefits above are even more pronounced for those older athletes. “The strength training induced a significant improvement in MVC torque in all the subjects, more pronounced in masters (+17.8% in masters vs. +5.9% in young” https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00421-011-2013-1
Muscle mass begins to decrease after the age of 30 and will begin to rapidly decrease after the age of 60 as reported in several studies.
Get in the Gym!
Some simple health benefits for older athletes lifting are listed below.
“counteract the age-related changes in contractile function, atrophy, and morphology of aging human skeletal muscle.”
“enhance the muscular strength, power, and neuromuscular functioning”
These quotes are from a statement from the National Strength and Conditioning Association
Tips and Myth Busting:
• Anyone and Everyone should strength train
• Don’t be afraid to lift heavy weights
• You’re an endurance athlete, not a power lifter, BE CAREFUL
• Going to the gym is not going to make you “bulk up and gain weight” that’s just not how it works, especially when you have a proper program in place.
• Riding big gear on the bike or hills on the run is NOT a substitute for strength training
• Start light, ensure you’re moving correctly before adding weight to your lifts
• Have someone film you so you can review your form or have your coach review technique
• You will be sore…don’t let this steer you away
• Consistency is key, give yourself an 8 week planned block of strength training to see adaptations
• Get a coach familiar with strength training
• Get in the gym and improve
Why do you strength train?
Why have you not started?
What is your favorite exercise in the gym?
Would you like to see a sample workout for your specific sport?
|Posted on December 18, 2020 at 11:20 AM||comments (0)|
ROAD2DAYTONA (lets gooooo)
2020 has been the first time in around 10 years that I have only raced once. This year, even though marked with uncertainty, was one of the most successful years I have had. Thanks to Eric, I have had the most consistent and productive training seasons ever. This I believe, came down to three things I learned this season.
To appreciate, enjoy training, and trust the process
This year while the pools were closed, I truly did miss them, even though after three months of the pools being closed, and taking a month to return to decent swim shape, I made sure that every time I went to the pool it was a quality session. Throughout the season, I learned to enjoy each session that I could, I would explore new routes, go trail run, gravel ride and mountain bike, small changes to the routine made a big difference in sometimes getting out the door. I learned to set benchmarks during my assigned sessions while staying inside my zones, and this let me gauge my improvements throughout the season while not having to race.
Before, I would always try to push my recovery workouts harder than I should, and this led to not being able to properly push myself on big training days. This year, I finally learned that going easy is good, and that going easy is required.
Get the fuel in
I never would consume the right amount of fuel while training, and this led to nutrition deficits when I would race because I would never train with the right amount of nutrition. When the time finally came, I believed in my fueling process
When it was finally time to race in December after patiently waiting all season and biding my time, I felt very confident in my training, as well as excited and appreciative of the opportunity to be racing at Challenge Daytona.
Another way that I improved my training this season was training with a sports psychologist, this made sure that I was confident in my training, and that when it was time to race, my mental game was locked in. As soon as I got to the Daytona start line, I was mentally dialed in and ready to race. I knew that when it was time to race, it was going to be a great freaking day. During the race, I made sure to focus only on what I was doing, this was my own race, and not anyone else’s race. Having this mindset allowed me to not worry about if someone passed me on the bike or in transition, or if I saw people drafting too much. I had been training well this year, so holding wattage on the bike was not an issue, it felt like a comfortable racepace, and knew that if I just stayed consistent and nothing else happened I was going to have a great run. However, I have raced three half distance triathlons before, I was never able to finish the race strong. But, in Daytona, mentally I was locked into the race and feeling confident, so I just got my shoes on, grabbed some gels and started running.
One thing I was not anticipating was how fast and smooth I felt, and the pace was faster than I had even written down for my “A” split. But, I was picking off people that passed me on the bike, I was feeling good, but I also remember if that the pace ever started to feel too strong, dial it back and finish the race, I had the best race up to this point, and I wanted to make sure to finish the race well. As I reached mile 10 during the run, I could start to feel the presence of the cramp, so I brought my pace back a bit, just to make sure I finished the race well enough.
My post race emotions were all over the place, truthfully it was a huge accomplishment, and it was a mix of ecstasy, relief, the thrill of a great race all piled into one. Eric had coached me the whole season and without a doubt in his mind knew I could achieve a race like this, and I just need to execute.
|Posted on December 3, 2020 at 11:20 AM||comments (2)|
I finally made the jump. By learning hard work made me a better athlete, I worked my way onto the varsity squad. While I made the connection between hard work and progress, I was still completely ignorant about how to properly rest and recover from all the hard work. I flipped a switch but had no idea how to, or when to, turn it off. By the middle of my sophomore season, I had lowered by 5K time down to the 17:50’s but a few weeks later I couldn’t walk without constant pain. I had no idea what was wrong with me. I remember my legs were in so much pain that I decided I better have someone take a look at me. I remember explaining to my coach, parents, and a few teammates about how much pain I was in. I even mentioned that my hips seemed to click every time I walked. They all pretty much had the same reaction and scolded me a bit for not having said anything sooner. But like I said, I was all hard work and no recovery.
It turned out that I had a pair of extremely tight IT bands. Your IT bands (short for iliotibial bands) are ligaments that run along the side of your leg from your hips down to your shin bone below the knee. This is a pretty common overuse injury for distance runners commonly referred to as “IT Band Syndrome.” However, I did not have just any old tight IT bands. It turns out I had the tightest IT bands that all of the school’s athletic trainers, various massage therapists, and even my pediatrician claimed to have ever seen. While I am not proud of injuring myself, you better believe part of me still holds a little bit of pride to the fact that I had worked myself into the ground. I spent the second half of that year in the training room, learning how to stretch and massage myself for better recovery, and slowly working my way back to running.
While I was disappointed to not be competing alongside my teammates for the rest of the season and to not find out just how much more I could improve, I was still elated I had improved my 5K time by almost 3 minutes in just under a year. Even in October/November, I was already dreaming about the next summer. If I could jump from 20:38 down to the 17:50’s from one summer and half a season, then what could I do with my new fitness, more cycling, better ability to recover, another summer, and a full season? In my head, the possibilities were endless.
Side Note: Some of you might be wondering if I ever ran Track in the winter/spring following cross country. I only ran one season of track in the spring of my sophomore year and I really did not enjoy it. For the remainder of high school, I would choose to not run track and solely focus on triathlon in the spring. This irritated my coaches at the time, but I knew I didn’t have a future in track and preferred to explore my abilities in triathlon.
At the start of the summer of 2014, I was giddy with the idea of just how much I could improve over the summer. I consistently ran 50+ miles a week, peaking at one three-week stretch where I ran 60, 65, and 70 miles per week. All of this while riding over 100 miles a week on the bike and still teaching myself how to swim. That summer I competed in three triathlons opposed to only the one the year before. The first two showed significant improvement over the previous year, while the second did not go so well and left a bitter taste in my mouth. At the beginning of the summer, I had also acquired a triathlon specific bike which allowed me to ride in a more aerodynamic position. This meant I was beginning to ride further and faster and taking triathlon much more seriously. My parents deserve endless praise and thanks for this part of my story (and for all of it to be quite honest) because even though they were learning about the sport alongside me, their support was always un-matched.
Once again, I made some big gains in the running department. On the river trip that summer, I ran a 16:45 5K and ran under 5-minutes for the mile for the first time ever. Unfortunately, this would be the quickest I would run all season. I don’t remember much about my times that season, but I do remember never running under 17-minutes again. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, though. I gave my best efforts in practice every day and did everything I was told to and then some.
For whatever reason though, I just could not seem to align my stars and show the same fitness I had at the end of the summer. I was extremely frustrated all season long. This led to some pretty in-depth conversations with my coach and teammates about what the problem might have been. In hindsight, now I can confidently say I believe I had unknowingly peaked myself way too early. Combine this with the different training style of my coach while in season versus my high-volume approach in the summer, and it was most likely a perfect recipe to keep me from improving. Now as a Junior, I was voted as one of our team’s 3 captains. I was frustrated with how my training and racing was going, but I loved being a captain and I loved my team. All of the laughs, inside jokes, and adventures we had made up for my frustrations in some ways.
As for triathlon at this point, I never rode my bike during official cross-country season. This was due to my coach asking me to stop cycling during the season. He claimed it would interfere with the training we were going to be doing in season. I didn’t want to rock the boat too much as I knew triathlon already left a bad taste in my coach’s mouth, so I didn’t argue with him. However, I did continue to swim a few times a week after practice. This is because swimming boosts recovery and adds to aerobic fitness without adding a significant amount of fatigue in the legs. I also knew if I wanted to be anything significant in triathlon, I had to be like Dory and just keep swimming. Thank God I did keep on swimming because it so happened that one day at a post cross country practice swim, I would have a conversation that would shift the direction of my life once again.
That evening I ran into Tripp Davis. Tripp had been an assistant coach with the cross-country team when I was in middle school and was one of the first people to push me hard. As in, run directly behind me during a workout and tell me to suck it up kind of hard. Tripp is also a beast triathlete when he wants to be, and he had taken an interest into my recent triathlon endeavors. Tripp and I remain good friends to this day. He comes to me for coaching from time to time which has been one of the coolest full-circle moments of my life so far. He has even helped me on an occasional bike KOM hunt on Strava. We happened to be swimming side by side that evening when he struck up a conversation that went something like this:
Tripp: “So, have you started looking into where you might want to go to college?”
Miles (me): “Not too in-depth yet. I know I need to start being more serious about that process but I’m just not sure.”
Tripp: “Do you have any interest in attempting to run somewhere?”
Me: “Well I thought I would run better this season and maybe I’d have a shot at running D1 somewhere, but I don’t think I want to go and run at a smaller school. I’d rather go to a big school and continue with triathlon on my own.”
Tripp: “Hmm OK. Well, an old coach of mine named Sonni Dyer is starting a collegiate triathlon program at Queens University of Charlotte. I’m going to send him an email about you if that is alright with you.”
Me: “Yeah sure that sounds great! I’ve never heard of Queens before, but I guess it won’t hurt to see what Sonni has to say.”
At the time, circa 2014, the only collegiate program in the U.S. that offered scholarship for triathlon was Marymount University in Washington D.C. I knew of this program because one of the runners, that I wrote about in the previous blog who inspired me to try triathlon, Tony Morales, went there. Also, it so happened that Tony’s roommate at Marymount was a guy named Eric Kirouac. Small world. Anyways, I knew I was nowhere near Tony’s level at the time, but I figured checking out Marymount wouldn’t hurt. I figured the worst they could tell me was “no.” However, after that conversation with Tripp, I soon began to forget about Marymount and started investigating Queens University of Charlotte.
I’m guessing Tripp’s word still carried some weight with Sonni. In February of 2015 I found myself on an official recruitment visit to Queens. I fell in love with the university from the moment I arrived. I met with Sonni and for the first time I sat across from someone that could completely “nerd out” with me over triathlon. Sonni and I got along from the moment we started talking. While on my visit, I also had the privilege of watching an official practice for the Queens swim team. I watched the swim team practice because the triathlon team didn’t exist yet. It would begin the following school year. I had never seen anything like it before. This practice was special because it was their race day simulation practice. The swim team was only a week or two out from their national championships, which they would go onto win. They also won the next 4 national titles making it 5 in a row for them at the time I’m writing this. Safe to say, I witnessed some fast swimming on my visit.
It’s fair to say their sales pitch worked. I was now hooked on this small university that I didn’t even know existed a few months prior. I was also completely enticed by the idea of being on a triathlon team with other kids my age that were passionate about the sport. The triathlon journey had been pretty lonely for me up to that point. I was ready to finally be surrounded my like-minded people my age. Also, Sonni explained to me that the goal was to grow the program into a powerhouse and win a national title within 5 years. My visit kept getting better and better. While I was frustrated with how my running career was going, the sky seemed to be the limit when it came to triathlon.
It’s also important to note that while the men’s team at Queens is not NCAA affiliated, it is still treated as a varsity level sport with athletic scholarship. This little detail had my gears turning. I realized that without any NCAA association, we did not have to comply with the same set of rules, either. This meant Sonni could start coaching me through his private coaching business almost immediately. So, I left Queens that day in February having been completely sold. I wanted to make sure I took complete advantage of this opportunity.
My new path was now clearer than ever: With my first real triathlon coach, I would work my hardest and smartest all 2015. I would race as many triathlons as I could find that spring and summer. Then I’d have the best cross-country season of my life where I would achieve all I had imagined. After this, Sonni and Queens would be sold on my abilities and offer me a spot on the roster for Fall of 2016.
However, if my road to Queens was as simple and laid with golden bricks like that, it wouldn’t be much of a story worth telling now would it?
|Posted on November 9, 2020 at 11:55 AM||comments (0)|
My first 3 years running for the Lexington Wildcats were nothing special. For my first cross country race I clocked around a 25:30 for the 5K. However, this was the only race that year where I did not finish last on the team. I outsprinted another 7th grader in the final 100 yards, and for the rest of the season I would not have such luck. But hey, I was a 7th grader on a high school team so that made it all worth it to me. That season I improved from 25:30 down to 22:30 for 5K. Nothing crazy, but a 3-minute improvement over my first season was something I was proud of.
Next year, in 8th grade, I improved my 5K time down to around 20:30. In fact, I guess there was something about running 20:30 5K’s that spoke to me on a deeper level. I ran that time on five or six different occasions between my 8th and 9th grade seasons. This was the first plateau I had experienced as a runner; I was frustrated and wondered where I was going wrong. I never missed a practice and completed every workout. At the time, I didn’t have this hindsight, but that was just it, I was only doing what was asked of me. You see, as a freshman in high school, I was far more interested in my social life and friends than I was about putting in the extra work required to excel in running. I was enjoying life as a vibrant freshman far more than as a cross country runner, and for the first time in my life I began to question if I wanted to continue down this path.
Oh, and the team I was on? State Champions in XC and multiple distance track events for 4 years in a row - 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. To this day, watching that team in practice and in races are some of my most fond sporting memories. It was the first time in my life where I was in an environment where excellence was demanded and eventually, expected. I admired those guys more than they will ever know. They inspired me to aspire to achieve so much more than I could have ever expected. But like I said, that’s all hindsight. 9th grade Miles was not merely as aware of the environment he was in.
So, having reached a plateau I just couldn’t’ seem to break through, I was seriously contemplating walking away from the sport all together. But then what would I do? Running had been a part of who I was for so long and I wasn’t sure of any other sports I could easily get into. At the high school level, 9th grade is usually a little too late to pick up a new sport. And, going back to my social endeavors, I had the first real crush of my teenage years. Although we were never official, this crush and I “talked” for several months (if you’re not sure what “talking” means, ask your kids). We had class together every day and even hung out some on the weekends and after school. It’s safe to say that running was far from being the number one thing on my mind.
Although similar to my running career at the time, this little fling hit its own plateau and eventually came to an end. Not only did this little fling end, but after freshman year, all of my best friends were moving to the new high school that opened on the other side of town. It would now seem like my decision was being made for me. With my vibrant 9th grade social life exploding in my face, I was lost, and my heart was broken.
Filled with adolescent angst and heartbreak, I decided it was time to break through the one plateau I could control. My mind was made up. It was time to double down on running. Luckily, this change happened as my freshman year of high school was coming to an end. This meant that I had the whole summer to now focus on breaking through the plateau. For those that may not know, the summer is when cross country seasons are won and lost. It is the time for making big gains and carrying that fitness into the fall season.
So, it seemed like my plans for the summer of 2013 were pretty simple: run. For the prior three summers, I didn’t run more than 25 miles per week. This was because I wasn’t highly motivated and would have rather played Call of Duty or hangout with my friends. This summer was different though. I was motivated like never before. I needed to let out a lot of angst and heartbreak and 25 miles per week was not enough to ease my restless soul. I started out with 25 and quickly increased to 40+ miles a week and up to a peak of 50 for a few weeks. There was no structure to these runs however, I would just head out the door and run. My knowledge of training science was still very minimal, but I figured the more I ran, the better I would become.
However, running would not be my only endeavor that summer. It just so happened that a few of the best varsity runners on my XC team also competed in a sport called Triathlon. So, along with running, they were constantly cycling and swimming. I made the connection that if Triathlon had helped them become some of the best runners in the state then it would for sure help me as well. I was able to convince my parents to purchase a road bike and soon I was adding cycling to my training along with the increased running volume.
Unlike running, cycling came to me naturally. Where running was harsh on my body, I felt with cycling I could finally push myself as hard as I wanted to on a regular basis. Cycling is the one sport where I feel I have some innate talent and pretty quickly I was riding all over the South Carolina countryside. I was even joining group rides with much older cyclists and holding my own. This left one piece to the triathlon puzzle: swimming.
As it turned out, the gym I was a member of at the time had a pool with a handful of lanes for lap swimming. It’s safe for me to say that as much as I had a talent for and loved cycling, the exact opposite was true for swimming. Through Google searches, YouTube videos, a few books, and advice from other swimmers at the pool, I slowly taught myself to perform some sort of activity that resembled freestyle swimming. It would be over 5 years from that point until I learned to love swimming as I do running and cycling. However, at that point in time, it helped me improve at running, and that was good enough for me.
I can tell you from experience that when you’re a 15-year-old boy and explain to your parents that you would like to try this thing called Triathlon, you receive the same reaction as if you had spoken fluent Mandarin Chinese. Nonetheless, in late July of 2013 I completed my first triathlon and won my age group. It was a 350-yard swim, 13-mile bike, and a 5K run. Plenty more on Triathlon later…
So, this was all in the pursuit of becoming a better cross-country runner? You bet. How did that play out? Well I’m glad you asked. At cross-country “try outs” consisting of a 2-mile time trial, I won the time trial and ran around 12:00 for the 2-miles. A six-minute per mile pace. I still remember cruising to that finish alone and seeing the smile on my dad’s face and the jaw of my coach, which had hit the floor. My guess is that if you had asked him who was going to improve the most that summer, I would not have been in his top 5.
This performance not only surprised my coach, but in the span of 12 minutes, I gained the respect of my teammates for the first time. My sudden jump from JV to Varsity gained me respect and a new brotherhood that I didn’t have for the previous 3 years. Over those 12 minutes I also earned an exclusive invite to the River Trip. This was an annual retreat that the Varsity and top JV runners took the first weekend of August each year to kick off the new XC season. This trip is filled with adventure, games, team bonding, good food, and most importantly benchmark one mile and 5K time trials. I don’t remember my time for that mile, but for the 5K I clocked an 18:38. An almost 2-minute improvement from my streak of 20:30’s. Mission accomplished. Plateau shattered.
|Posted on November 1, 2020 at 3:10 PM||comments (0)|
Well everyone, WE DID IT! We successfully raised $2,855 for No Kid Hungry. This money equates to approximately 28,550 meals which will help hundreds, if not thousands, of children across the U.S. who need it most.
We have been overwhelmed by the support from our community from day 1 of this challenge. For that, each and every one of you has our sincerest Thank You. Whether you walked 1 mile, rode 1,000, or just donated, you helped change lives.
While our challenge may be over, the fight against ending child hunger in the US is not. We hope that this challenge has opened your eyes to an issue you may not have even realized was an issue. Please remember No Kid Hungry and their mission with any charitable donations you may continue to make over this holiday season and in the future.
We will announce the winner of either the running singlet or cycling Jersey within the next few days. Also, as you start to look toward your goals for 2021, remember Eric and I are here to help! Contact us at email@example.com.
And again, we cannot thank you all enough for your help! We hope to see you out there somewhere in the near future.