Adding Light to the Dark Side of Ironman

Ironman training and racing can bring with it, a dark side, and bright side. Both a beginner, and seasoned veteran, should be aware of both.  The demands of Ironman changes lives, but it is the responsibly of coach and athlete, to ensure the change is going to make the life during and after Ironman healthy. The health of the athlete should be physical, but also mentally and socially.  There will be a time, when swim/bike/run will not be part of the prescription for the day.  Hopefully, this isn’t during a training block, but it ultimately will be a prescription someday once the athlete moves on from the Ironman lifestyle.  As I navigated through my own racing career, and continue to navigate life without Ironman training in it, the bright and dark lessons learned along the way have become clear.  I move athletes through training to gain faster splits, but also pay close attention to the impact this training has on the circle of life that surrounds them.

I call them approval points.  The bank account of approval points I have for athletes are high, and their own approval points are the same.  It is the reason we are working together.  We both approve of the amount of effort we put in and as a result we move forward towards an outcome.  The measure of how healthy that process and outcome will have on the athlete, won’t be measured long term by the output of watts, pace, or swim splits, or even placement in an age group.  Instead, the health of that whole process will be measured by impact it will have on the lives of those not in the training log.

A large burden of time, energy and stress is required to meet the demands of preparing for an Ironman.  This unique demand can strain relationships in an unhealthy way.  Daily schedules are altered, diet, sleep patterns, moods are all different from the norm.  We become this unique, solo entity navigating through a world that isn’t quite comprehending the whole process of what goes into the preparation to grab at a dream. This world that surrounds us, as we endure this process must have our full attention in order to support the health of the life after Ironman.  The athlete will come out of the Ironman experience healthier physically, mentally, and emotionally.  However, the true measure of the success of the training, as well as racing, will be if those around us are better as well.

A coach, and athlete, must pay attention to the lives impacted by the seasonal plan. There are always key workouts, and weeks that are critical to the preparation for race day.  It is the time around those important moments that can allow us to embrace those outside of our solo training to feel like they are part of the process and also reaping the rewards this sport brings.

As athletes, we are either training to get somewhere, or training to get away from something.  A coach needs to recognize the difference between the two.  An athlete that is using training to get away from something, is on the path to the dark side of the sport.  They are using training, as a filler, or excuse to not have to deal with underlying issues at home, work, or inside themselves.  Training becomes a way, to not have the time, or energy to deal with becoming a healthier human.  What we do is amazing, and can be a positive vehicle to inspire and help others to learn how to live out dreams and become more active and happier.  This responsibility should not be held for only you, and those that follow you on social media, but instead should be shared with those in your daily life.  We tend to measure success by data, instead I challenge my athletes to measure success in the happiness they have, and the happiness of those around them.  DO a recovery run with someone close to you. GO on that vacation.  RIDE around the block with your kids.  HAVE the whole family do that 5k you have on your schedule, and DON’T do it at race effort.  Run with your KID, and be sure they beat you!!!!  DO a hike with others, instead of a long bike ride. VOLUNTEER for a charity ride, or an aid station at a race. My fondest memory from triathlon, is not crossing the finish line first, but instead working the 8-12pm aid station at mile 24 of Ironman Lake Placid.  The coach, will take care of the stress missed, it can be made up.  That moment of being with others humans, can’t be made up. Those are the things that will make you faster in that last mile of the Ironman run, not the fact you didn’t do a 5k 4 months ago at race effort.  

Once you start looking away from the watch, you start to see the amazing gift that Ironman is about.  It will bring you to beautiful places, and you will meet amazing people.  You can only access the bright side of this sport, by ensuring you hit the key moments in training, but also you are there for the key moments in the lives of others.  That is when you start going somewhere in your training, instead of getting away from something.  It is the time off the bike, not in running shoes, and away from the pool that will stoke the fire to push you beyond what you thought you could do.  Make these moments a priority in your seasonal plan, you will never regret it.

~Vinny Johnson - QT2 coach

Read Full Story

Mastering The Open Water Swim

Whether you are an aspiring open water competitor or a triathlete, open water swimming can be an intimidating skill to conquer. Unlike the pool, open water can have varying conditions (think glassy smooth to whitecap chop) and poor visibility. Add to that a few hundred swimmers around you, and it’s no wonder even elite pool swimmers can struggle in open water. Read on for some tips to help you master the skills of open water swimming.
Read Full Story

Strength Training Phases

Triathletes talk (a lot!) about swim-bike-run training. That can depend on coaching philosophy and individual training protocol. There is no one set periodization that should be followed for all individuals. A big mistake I see a lot of athletes (particularly with the bitter winters of the north east) do is scale back over the winter and arrive in April with a blank slate, scrambling to get fit for their first race in June. The problem with this is they have no foundation or groundwork to work upon to increase fitness safely without getting injured. April is too late to try and build a base to gain fitness from, work on skill development and spend time getting their race fueling protocol, bike fit, run shoes, wetsuit etc. in racing form.
Read Full Story

Keeping Your Hip Flexors Happy!

Imagine this scenario. You are in your final weeks of preparation for your A race - a 70.3 distance triathlon. This weekend, your Saturday ride is a preview of the bike course at race intensity followed by a short brick run. The race is a three hour drive from your house, and so you wake up and immediately hit the road. You get out of car and jump on your bike. You start easy for the first 10 minutes and then settle into your race pace. You finish the ride feeling good, grab your running shoes and set off for a quick 20 minute run. You are feeling strong, so you decide to kick it hard at the end. Training is done and so you hop in your car and make the three hour drive home, reflecting positively on how good your fitness is. That evening, you are feeling a little tightness in your hip flexors, the group of muscles which connect your upper legs to your lower back, hips and groin. You figure you’re just tired from the day and don’t think much of it. Off to bed for another day. You wake up a bit more stiff, but figure it will work it’s way out and so you set off on your session for the day - a 10 mile run with race-pace intervals. No time for a warm-up, you just start running. At the beginning of the run, you are feeling some pain in your upper legs and groin area, but it seems to ease up as the run goes, so you do the workout as planned and all seems ok. You head home and decide to rest, sitting on the couch. Then it happens, you go to stand up and feel a sharp pain in your hip and upper leg. You try to walk and the pain worsens. You can’t walk without a limp. Lifting your knee to your chest is difficult. You can’t hop on that leg. Now you are in a panic - what just happened????
Read Full Story

Manage Self Doubt. Don't Let It Manage You.

Self doubt can be an athlete’s worst nightmare. It can impact your workouts, keep you up at night, and taunt you on race day. At some point, all athletes will experience some form of self doubt in their career, and it's important to learn to fight these feelings so they don't debilitate us. As I always say, mental toughness isn't something athletes are born with it's something they learn over time and something there is ALWAYS room for growth in. Below are some tips when you are experiencing self doubt.
Read Full Story

Making the Runner-to-Triathlete Transition

One of the things that make triathlon so interesting is the diversity of the athletes who come to the sport. Triathlon can be thought of as the “melting pot” of all sport. There is not one athletic background that can “make” a triathlete. An advanced swimmer, cyclist, or runner, may have some advantage starting up in the sport, but the training approach, as well as the mental outlook, of what made them an advanced athlete in that sole sport, may have to be adjusted, once initiating triathlon training.
Read Full Story

Translating Pool Fitness to Open Water Success

We swim countless miles, staring at a black line, going back-and forth, back-and-forth, with lane lines on either side of us. And then we go and race, and gone is the black line. Gone are the walls, every 25 seconds. Gone are the lane lines that keep us on path. Gone is crystal clear water. Oh, and now there are what feels like, a few thousand people surrounding us, trying to occupy the same space! YIKES!
Read Full Story

And it's...back to the races!

After taking a little over 20 months off racing, first from burnout and then from injury, I have my first “race” coming up in a little over a week. (My least favorite distance too! The Olympic!) I have been reflecting lately, over both my absence from racing and my return to the sport and have come up with a top ten list of what I miss most (both good and bad) about racing!
Read Full Story

So you want to swim fast? Propulsion. (PART THREE!)

Once you have worked on the specific techniques to help reduce drag in the water and improve streamlining, you can work on increasing propulsion in the water. Propulsion is improved first and foremost by working on stroke mechanics and then becoming efficient in applying a force to the water. The combined effects of body balance, streamlining and good stroke mechanics are what lead to faster swimming.
Read Full Story

So you want to swim fast? An introduction to drag (PART TWO!).

In the last ORR blog, I introduced you to the first facet of swimming fast and provided you with the first 5 of my top 10 drills. In this article, I am going to illustrate the next 5 drills that will help to improve your balance and alignment in the water. Each drill can be performed with or without long fins.
Read Full Story

Ironman training and racing can bring with it, a dark side, and bright side. Both a beginner, and seasoned veteran, should be aware of both.  The demands of Ironman changes lives, but it is the responsibly of coach and athlete, to ensure the change is going to make the life during and after Ironman healthy. The health of the athlete should be physical, but also mentally and socially.  There will be a time, when swim/bike/run will not be part of the prescription for the day.  Hopefully, this isn’t during a training block, but it ultimately will be a prescription someday once the athlete moves on from the Ironman lifestyle.  As I navigated through my own racing career, and continue to navigate life without Ironman training in it, the bright and dark lessons learned along the way have become clear.  I move athletes through training to gain faster splits, but also pay close attention to the impact this training has on the circle of life that surrounds them.

I call them approval points.  The bank account of approval points I have for athletes are high, and their own approval points are the same.  It is the reason we are working together.  We both approve of the amount of effort we put in and as a result we move forward towards an outcome.  The measure of how healthy that process and outcome will have on the athlete, won’t be measured long term by the output of watts, pace, or swim splits, or even placement in an age group.  Instead, the health of that whole process will be measured by impact it will have on the lives of those not in the training log.

A large burden of time, energy and stress is required to meet the demands of preparing for an Ironman.  This unique demand can strain relationships in an unhealthy way.  Daily schedules are altered, diet, sleep patterns, moods are all different from the norm.  We become this unique, solo entity navigating through a world that isn’t quite comprehending the whole process of what goes into the preparation to grab at a dream. This world that surrounds us, as we endure this process must have our full attention in order to support the health of the life after Ironman.  The athlete will come out of the Ironman experience healthier physically, mentally, and emotionally.  However, the true measure of the success of the training, as well as racing, will be if those around us are better as well.

A coach, and athlete, must pay attention to the lives impacted by the seasonal plan. There are always key workouts, and weeks that are critical to the preparation for race day.  It is the time around those important moments that can allow us to embrace those outside of our solo training to feel like they are part of the process and also reaping the rewards this sport brings.

As athletes, we are either training to get somewhere, or training to get away from something.  A coach needs to recognize the difference between the two.  An athlete that is using training to get away from something, is on the path to the dark side of the sport.  They are using training, as a filler, or excuse to not have to deal with underlying issues at home, work, or inside themselves.  Training becomes a way, to not have the time, or energy to deal with becoming a healthier human.  What we do is amazing, and can be a positive vehicle to inspire and help others to learn how to live out dreams and become more active and happier.  This responsibility should not be held for only you, and those that follow you on social media, but instead should be shared with those in your daily life.  We tend to measure success by data, instead I challenge my athletes to measure success in the happiness they have, and the happiness of those around them.  DO a recovery run with someone close to you. GO on that vacation.  RIDE around the block with your kids.  HAVE the whole family do that 5k you have on your schedule, and DON’T do it at race effort.  Run with your KID, and be sure they beat you!!!!  DO a hike with others, instead of a long bike ride. VOLUNTEER for a charity ride, or an aid station at a race. My fondest memory from triathlon, is not crossing the finish line first, but instead working the 8-12pm aid station at mile 24 of Ironman Lake Placid.  The coach, will take care of the stress missed, it can be made up.  That moment of being with others humans, can’t be made up. Those are the things that will make you faster in that last mile of the Ironman run, not the fact you didn’t do a 5k 4 months ago at race effort.  

Once you start looking away from the watch, you start to see the amazing gift that Ironman is about.  It will bring you to beautiful places, and you will meet amazing people.  You can only access the bright side of this sport, by ensuring you hit the key moments in training, but also you are there for the key moments in the lives of others.  That is when you start going somewhere in your training, instead of getting away from something.  It is the time off the bike, not in running shoes, and away from the pool that will stoke the fire to push you beyond what you thought you could do.  Make these moments a priority in your seasonal plan, you will never regret it.

~Vinny Johnson - QT2 coach

Whether you are an aspiring open water competitor or a triathlete, open water swimming can be an intimidating skill to conquer. Unlike the pool, open water can have varying conditions (think glassy smooth to whitecap chop) and poor visibility. Add to that a few hundred swimmers around you, and it’s no wonder even elite pool swimmers can struggle in open water. Read on for some tips to help you master the skills of open water swimming.
Triathletes talk (a lot!) about swim-bike-run training. That can depend on coaching philosophy and individual training protocol. There is no one set periodization that should be followed for all individuals. A big mistake I see a lot of athletes (particularly with the bitter winters of the north east) do is scale back over the winter and arrive in April with a blank slate, scrambling to get fit for their first race in June. The problem with this is they have no foundation or groundwork to work upon to increase fitness safely without getting injured. April is too late to try and build a base to gain fitness from, work on skill development and spend time getting their race fueling protocol, bike fit, run shoes, wetsuit etc. in racing form.
Imagine this scenario. You are in your final weeks of preparation for your A race - a 70.3 distance triathlon. This weekend, your Saturday ride is a preview of the bike course at race intensity followed by a short brick run. The race is a three hour drive from your house, and so you wake up and immediately hit the road. You get out of car and jump on your bike. You start easy for the first 10 minutes and then settle into your race pace. You finish the ride feeling good, grab your running shoes and set off for a quick 20 minute run. You are feeling strong, so you decide to kick it hard at the end. Training is done and so you hop in your car and make the three hour drive home, reflecting positively on how good your fitness is. That evening, you are feeling a little tightness in your hip flexors, the group of muscles which connect your upper legs to your lower back, hips and groin. You figure you’re just tired from the day and don’t think much of it. Off to bed for another day. You wake up a bit more stiff, but figure it will work it’s way out and so you set off on your session for the day - a 10 mile run with race-pace intervals. No time for a warm-up, you just start running. At the beginning of the run, you are feeling some pain in your upper legs and groin area, but it seems to ease up as the run goes, so you do the workout as planned and all seems ok. You head home and decide to rest, sitting on the couch. Then it happens, you go to stand up and feel a sharp pain in your hip and upper leg. You try to walk and the pain worsens. You can’t walk without a limp. Lifting your knee to your chest is difficult. You can’t hop on that leg. Now you are in a panic - what just happened????
Self doubt can be an athlete’s worst nightmare. It can impact your workouts, keep you up at night, and taunt you on race day. At some point, all athletes will experience some form of self doubt in their career, and it's important to learn to fight these feelings so they don't debilitate us. As I always say, mental toughness isn't something athletes are born with it's something they learn over time and something there is ALWAYS room for growth in. Below are some tips when you are experiencing self doubt.
One of the things that make triathlon so interesting is the diversity of the athletes who come to the sport. Triathlon can be thought of as the “melting pot” of all sport. There is not one athletic background that can “make” a triathlete. An advanced swimmer, cyclist, or runner, may have some advantage starting up in the sport, but the training approach, as well as the mental outlook, of what made them an advanced athlete in that sole sport, may have to be adjusted, once initiating triathlon training.
We swim countless miles, staring at a black line, going back-and forth, back-and-forth, with lane lines on either side of us. And then we go and race, and gone is the black line. Gone are the walls, every 25 seconds. Gone are the lane lines that keep us on path. Gone is crystal clear water. Oh, and now there are what feels like, a few thousand people surrounding us, trying to occupy the same space! YIKES!
After taking a little over 20 months off racing, first from burnout and then from injury, I have my first “race” coming up in a little over a week. (My least favorite distance too! The Olympic!) I have been reflecting lately, over both my absence from racing and my return to the sport and have come up with a top ten list of what I miss most (both good and bad) about racing!
Once you have worked on the specific techniques to help reduce drag in the water and improve streamlining, you can work on increasing propulsion in the water. Propulsion is improved first and foremost by working on stroke mechanics and then becoming efficient in applying a force to the water. The combined effects of body balance, streamlining and good stroke mechanics are what lead to faster swimming.
In the last ORR blog, I introduced you to the first facet of swimming fast and provided you with the first 5 of my top 10 drills. In this article, I am going to illustrate the next 5 drills that will help to improve your balance and alignment in the water. Each drill can be performed with or without long fins.