Race faster and endure longer without adding more miles: just train your brain.

In college, my track coach introduced me to the concept of visualization training. I’ve been using this unique type of training ever since. You might feel a little silly at the start. But when you buy into the process, visualization provides a major benefit to your training.  

How to visualize:

Find a quiet place without distractions and sit or lay comfortably. Consciously think about relaxing every muscle. Think about the best race you’ve ever had. Picture the course, the environment, how you felt, the spectators, overcoming every obstacle. Now picture your upcoming race. Imagine every detail from the time your alarm goes off to crossing the finish line.

The good, the bad and the ugly:

Visualizing the perfect race puts you in the moment and helps you develop your race strategy. Obviously, we all dream of the perfect race. But, what happens when that’s not reality? How are you going to react to the event? Crumble and quit? Or maintain composure and find a solution to the problem?

Pick a few motivational words or phrases:

I always end my visualizations with a few of the phrases I use when things get tough. For me, “you owe it to yourself” has the largest impact. When race day comes, I know that I need to get everything I can out of my body. I need to make the sacrifices and countless hours of training pay off. If you can remind your body what’s at stake, you will always walk away from a race knowing you left it all out on the course.

Control the Controllable

Part of the thrill of this sport is the anticipation of the unknown. You can’t control everything on race day. A lot of athletes have a habit of worrying about the weather and the competitor lined up next to them that they inhibit their own performance. You can’t control Mother Nature. You can’t control who shows up on race day. It all comes down to preparedness and controlling the controllable. Focus on these instead:


Race fueling is something that should be practiced all season long. It’s something that shouldn’t just be thrown together randomly. You should have everything planned down to the milligrams of sodium. If there’s any question as to what you should be consuming, Coach Amanda and Steve can help you determine the proper breakdown of nutrients for every race. As you click off mile after mile don’t think about the person behind you, instead focus on your fueling plan and make sure you stick to it every aid station.


There’s a handful of things you can’t control, flat tires, goggles getting kicked off, etc. But there are a series of things you can do to limit the likeness of those issues. Before I leave for the race I make sure my bike has been tuned and I’ve checked and rechecked my packing list (I’m a Type-A, it’s a pretty extensive checklist).  When you get to the race, do a solid inspection of your bike. Lay out your equipment and arrange it according to when you’re going to use it in transition. Look at the event schedule and make sure you know what needs to be where are when.

Your attitude:

If you believe you can, you’re right. If you believe you can’t, you’re also right. You are in control of your attitude and it will have a direct effect on your performance. Over my 15+ years of competition and coaching, I’ve never seen someone put together an excellent performance without the right mentality from start to finish. Even if the race isn’t going your way, smile. Remind yourself you can. Give a volunteer a high-five. Ultimately, you’re in charge of your performance. So, stop worrying about what athlete is there, the type of training they did, Mother Nature or the course. The only things that matter are the things that you can control.

-Coach Amanda

Video: Ironman Athlete Swim Analysis

In this video, Coach Steve goes over an athletes swim consultation that happened the 1st week of May.

Typical swim consultations take 90 minutes to 2 hours per person. From the initial consultation, the pre session movement screen, the swim consultation, video feedback during the session, and the wrap up.

Steve also does many remote swim consultations per year. If you don't live in Madison or able to travel, we can do a remote swim consultation with you sending over multiple videos of you swimming. Once we review the videos, we set up a 1 hour consultation to discuss. 

Lets us know, enjoy!

3 Things That Happened When I Stopped Eating Sugar

Next Level Triathlon athletes were challenged to eliminate any added sugar for the month of February. I have an above average diet and an above average knowledge of the macronutrients my body needs. But I’m not perfect when it comes to sticking to it. The combination of training, coaching and work often leaves me with very few hours at the end of the day and I often default to a protein bar for dinner. That changed and three major things happened when I stopped eating added sugar.

I lost weight. I cut three pounds without changing caloric intake or training volume. As endurance athletes, we all want to be lean and fit. There’s no denying that it provides a huge benefit when it comes to ripping up a hill or cranking out the last few miles of a run. But it’s often challenging to shave those final few pounds. There’s no short cuts, there’s no magic pills, but I now believe that the simplest way is to eliminate added-sugar. The rule of thumb is that if you can’t pronounce or don’t know what the ingredient is then you probably shouldn’t buy it. It’s that easy.

I recovered better. Typically, I wake up fatigued the day after an intense workout. This gradually changed as I stayed away from added sugar. Instead of eating bars riddled with sugar, I began eating more antioxidant rich foods like blueberries, spinach and kale. I ate more natural sources of protein like nut butters, turkey and chicken, all of which are proven to aid in recovery. I felt less fatigued and didn’t experience any soreness that I would have previously. That alone was enough to keep me on track.

I spent less money. There are very few options when it comes to eating on-the-go which meant that I had to be prepared no matter where I went. I spent a lot of time meal and snack prepping which left no excuse. I didn’t dine out and I wasn’t spending $2 per protein bar. Instead I was making multiple nutrient dense meals for same price. At the end of the month (yes, I kept track) I had spent $50 less than the previous month on groceries and dining.

We’re halfway into March and I intend on continue to avoiding added sugar. The benefits are too significant not to. Regardless of what your goal is, one short month can have a powerful impact.

-Coach Amanda

5 Reasons You Aren't Riding Faster

Over the past two years, cycling transformed from my biggest weakness to my greatest weapon. I hate to disappoint, but I don’t have a shortcut to offer you. However, I do have a handful of tips to get you on the road to your best bike split.

You hate the trainer.

You’re alone in the living room and it’s hot. Or you’re alone in the garage and it’s cold. I’ve done both and yes, we would all prefer to be outside. But cycling success is built on the trainer. You have to learn to love it. Workouts on the trainer can be tailored to achieve specific goals. It allows you to hit every zone from recovery to neuromuscular endurance that you wouldn’t be able to control as well if you were out on the road. If you’re willing to invest some money, a power meter can help you achieve the results you’re looking for by allowing you to accurately stay within the prescribed zones. Although it’s not as ideal, heart rate and perceived exertion are good measures to take advantage of what the trainer can offer.

You never ride alone.  

Until this year, I never did a long ride alone. My reasoning for that was two-fold 1) safety in numbers and 2) I couldn’t imagine being out there for 5-6 hours with only myself to talk to. Scheduling conflicts made it challenging to meet up with friends for rides this year. Despite my concerns about safety, I hit the road solo for several 80-110+ mile rides. The difference it made was incredible. There’s something exhilarating about it being you, the road and your mind. You aren’t going to have anyone to talk to or push you on race day. It’s you vs you. Having that mental strength is going to be key to maintaining focus throughout the most challenging parts of the ride.

Your bike doesn’t fit you.

Having the latest and greatest super bike is an advantage. But the “my bike isn’t as nice as theirs” excuse doesn’t work. It all comes down to the fit and the rider. If you’re going to invest in anything this year, my suggestion is a professional fit. The fitter should look at everything from the top of your head to the placement of the cleats. Although it can be a lengthy process, being able to ride comfortably in aerodynamic position that allows you get off the bike and run is invaluable.

You aren’t fueling properly.

I’m a broken record player when it comes to fueling in triathlon. It is the fourth sport. You can be the marathon world record holder but if you start with nothing in the tank, you’re not going anywhere. With hundreds of products available, fueling can be a daunting and overwhelming task. But the coaches at Next Level can help you determine the electrolytes, carbs and calories you should be consuming in order to maintain an energy level that sets you up for success. 

You aren’t taking advantage of “free” speed.

There’s a million bells and whistles when it comes to gear. But 4 stand out. An aero helmet can offer 3-8 watts. Aero wheels range from 18-20 watts. The right type of clothing that’s tight to the body has been proven to save 3-10 watts while a clean bike can save you 6-10. That means that you’re saving 30 watts at the minimum which can translate to significant speed increases.

These five things have helped to transform my cycling and continues to do the same for my athletes. But ultimately, you need to invest the time and energy into becoming a better cyclist. If you have questions or want to learn more about how Next Level Triathlon can help you become a faster rider contact us here.


-Coach Amanda

The Science Behind Fueling

The science behind fueling

Coach Amanda: 70.3 World Championship Qualifier

Infinit Becomes the Gamechanger

The Infinit Osmo-FitTM System is created around the principle of osmolality. Osmolality is the measure of density that is expressed in units known as osmoles or milliosmoles. Simply put, it refers to the combination our fueling plan the solution in your gut will be too dense to digest and you’ll feel like you just had Thanksgiving dinner. If you recall from my previous blog, my IMWI plan included a combination of five different products. The combination of stuff prevented me from taking in what I needed for the run.

Less is more: the optimal nutrition solution is the one that you can control the exact osmolality of what is in your gut. It’s virtually impossible when you’re trying to use a combination of several off-the-shelf products. Instead, Infinit’s patented system puts everything you need into one formula that you can’t mess up. After reading more about Infinit and their success with endurance athletes, I tried my hand with the Osmo-FitTM System. I answered a series of detailed questions, chose a flavor and had a formula within 10 minutes. The ideal range of osmolality is between 240-300 mosm/kg. Mine came in at 241. I felt fantastic on my first handful of rides using Infinit. But, when I ran my first brick off the bike, I noticed that I was still getting that bloating feeling. I hopped on the Infinit website and chatted with a representative. She adjusted the amount of protein in my formula from 3.7g to 1.8g. Coupled with a little more sodium this boosted my osmolality to 291.

Fast forward to IM Steelhead 70.3 in August 2016. Infinit was a gamechanger. For someone with a sensitive stomach, I always expected to have a little discomfort on the run. Nope, not with this custom formula. I felt great on the bike…and OFF the bike. The right type of training and fueling plan led to an excellent ride and I finally put together a solid run. It resulted in a qualification to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Fueling is the fourth sport of triathlon. Through experience, it’s clear that it makes or breaks your race. Based solely on my results, I’m a die-hard Infinit supporter and highly suggest checking it out if you haven’t already.


Key Takeaways

  1. Be scientific- don’t just guess what your hydration, calorie, carbohydrates and sodium needs are. Reach out to a coach, nutritionist or Infinit representative to help you calculate the exact numbers.
  2. Practice your fueling plan- Nothing new on race day. Try different formulas. Use them during different conditions and record how you felt.
  3. Less is more- Osmolality. The less stuff you have in your fueling plan the easier it is going to be on your gut and from a logistical standpoint.


Use the discount code “NextLevel2017” to get 15% of your Infinit orders.

The Big Picture

The Big Picture

The race schedule is set, the goals are laid out and now it’s time to really dig into training. Most athletes are hell bent on the big picture and expect to see results overnight. Sadly, that isn’t how this sport works. Take a step back to bring things into focus as you start to ramp up your training.

Start off moderate

Resist the urge to go 0-60 in 2.5 seconds. I’ve been guilty of this before. You’re so excited about your goals that you want to go all out every day. One of the reasons that periodization training works is because your body needs time to adapt to the stressors. Easy days easy, hard days hard.

Focus on strength and stability

As endurance athletes, we tend to avoid the weight room like it’s the plague. Reality check: if you want to be a better (and healthier) triathlete you’re going to need to put time into strength and stability. Most injuries are results of inefficiencies that could have been prevented with strength training and technique development.

Know your “why.”

When the alarm goes off at 5am and you’re trying to find excuses not to get into the pool, think about your “why.” What’s your ultimate goal? What’s at stake? How is this workout going to impact the big picture? Your “why” should be able to overcome anything.

The trick is to stay in the moment. If you’re continually building and progressing throughout the season, staying healthy and developing mental strength, the big picture will come together.

Coach Amanda

For more info about Coach Amanda and her coaching, check her out here!

Christmas 2016 Is Coming!

Training is heating up!


I have been having a hard time balancing my training stress at times, I need to be better with this. There are times when i am pushing very solid watts at low efforts then the next day i am shelled. The struggle! It does feel good to be back pushing hard.


My plan for this first block of training was to establish a good rhythm of training then come January 1st i would start my 2nd block of training with priority focus (in order) on 1) vo2 max 2) sweet spot capacity 3) Leg STRENGTH in 10 second and 1min efforts. 


The Plantar Fasciitis that i was dealing with into IMKY is back again but in my right foot. It isn’t nearly as bad but noticeable. I’ve gone to a PT here in Madison, Stacey Brickson at Crono Metro. She is a baddass cyclist and a fantastic PT. We noticed that my right hip majorly externally rotates which causes a bend in my waist when i run and my hips to shift when on the saddle. Both of this adds up if you see pictures of me run, my torso is off set of my body and all of my bike fits, the fitters have said i rotate right on the saddle which caused left hamstring pain/tightness. We are working on this.


Swimming is going very well. I have been putting down some of my best swims recently! Today at Gold’s Masters we did a final main set of 3x500. 1st was buoy, paddles 2nd was buoy, 3rd was free. All of them was 6:30-35! This was big as typically my freestyle compared to paddle work is SIGNIFICANTLY different, over 5 seconds per 100 slower. I was also doing some 200s last week and all were under 2:40 on a 3:10… an excellent set.


However, when I get video of my stroke, the work Grant and I have been talking about is improving but not there yet.


  1. Hand/Elbow position still isn't there
  2. Not getting much extension on my left side
  3. Need more acceleration from my core/hips




Do you want 12 months of FREE Coaching? Do you want a FREE Ironman Training Camp?

If you are someone who's always wanted a coach you want to act on this! Do you know someone who has always had potential but never the right direction?

If you're interested, send me an email to StevenBrandes at Gmail dot com and let me know your 2017 Race Schedule and Goals as well as why you're looking for a coach!

I will pick the winner on Friday December 30th!

Can't wait to hear from you!

Staying on Track!

Sticking with the plan has been going very well. Even with Thanksgiving and some holiday travel I’ve been able to stay on a good track of training.


Priority 1) really work on my weakness. After IMKY, i wrote down the things i felt i wasn't very good at. 


You often get two schools of thought. Focus on your strength or focus on your weakness. Where people go wrong with focusing on their weakness is that they let go of their strength. Finding your balance of keeping everything close is key. Then you have the people who focus on their strength by sometimes trying to fix their weakness… but they are doing too much of their strength to where they aren't getting an adaptation of the work they are doing to fix their weakness.


So what does my weakness work look like? 


Where we stand by Friday afternoon

Where we stand by Friday afternoon

In the swim, it has been my swim technique, but mainly it’s simply doing the work and yards consistently each week.


On the bike, I am taking a slightly different approach. I am continuing the work i did into IMKY that helped raise my FTP, obviously without the volume. This approach also compliments my physical weaknesses. 


On the run… Hill repeats and Tempo running… and drill work. 


In the Gym… 2 sessions a week of very hard lifting. This work will certainly help me get stronger overall. I am also adding in more athleticism work as well as plyometrics each week. Looking at where I've improved and where i haven’t, from swim/bike/run/strength i am looking to make improvements that will really translate to faster sprints-70.3s in 2017. I haven't improved my 5k speed in 10 years and that is something i’ll be looking to improve on this winter. BUT its not something im going to train specifically for, but its a huge focus.


It has been difficult to not be doing as much as i want in times past, but i am sticking on this track! The priority hasn't been improving FTP directly, its more everything around FTP right now.


Swim update… more progress! Ive uploaded two more videos from this past Wednesday and was delighted to find more improvement in what I've been looking to change. Getting a side video was very helpful! 


Wednesday I also had a consultation with a fellow triathlon coach to help analysis my swim stroke. I found this very helpful as i have my thoughts on what i am looking for, but to get a opinion from a very respectable coach who's never seen me swim was extremely valuable. I am excited to continue to work with him!


However, my running and cycling continues to improve and starting to feel very strong in these categories. Aerobic wise, my body feels like its back to where i can hold threshold watts without the extra effort. Running, just getting in 5-6 runs per week… nothing to crazy, just layering in the frequency i’m used to.


This weekend Madison Multisport practice starts which is very exciting! The team trains 4xs per week which helps with my personal training rhythm. Being able to train along side this group has been extremely helpful with making myself better. 

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Week 2, Swim Talk

3 master swim sessions this week of 3,500 yards is unheard of. For many of the sessions, once we've reach 1500 I have wanted to get out... when i've gotten to these moments i've either grabbed my fins or buoy to ensure my stroke has remained positive instead of resorting to bad habits. As the week continued, my endurance progressed as well. Outside of Master’s, I put in 2 other swims per week working on my technique. Technique doesn't mean all i do are drills. There certainly are some drills in my plan (300-500 of dedicated work) but the main set of "Technique Focus Days" are 15x100 Buoy, Paddles, Snorkel. 


I am a fan of using a snorkel in your recovery, technique focused days as it allows your to focus on your catch and watch what is going on. I am a dominate right side breather so being able to work on my left arm entry and catch is very valuable for me. Being able to direct water the way i need to... where my arms are placed... hand position at entry.... utilization of my hips... all of these things are a work in progress


These aspects of my stroke that i am very focused on. Making these changes have been very tough, but am already seeing changes. Last week Friday we were doing work and was able to do 100s on a 1:20 base, hitting 1:10-12 pace. Being able to swim on a 1:20 base for more than what i was doing would be a reach, but swimming that fast will be important. I think my best, most swimming was actually Elkhart Lake and Milkman 70.3... leading into those i was able to swim 15x100 on 1:25 with buoy paddles. I also swam 1:00 at IMKY... many people would be happy with that but going into KY, i did a 2100 yard test with buoy paddles and swam under 28;00.


When i look around at what other people are swimming, i am getting destroyed by 2-3 minutes in 70.3 and 5-8 minutes in Ironman. I still dont feel "strong" in open water. This may be due to not swimming enough and not swimming enough "meat and potato" main sets...or longer open water sets. Some of this is out of laziness... someone of the reason I miss Master swims at 5:45am is because i'm up late working. But most of the reason behind this motivation stems from personal improvement. With the knowledge of knowing i haven't really applied myself to swimming, yet still being able to swim 30:00 and 1 Hour in 70.3 and Ironman racing... I gain confidence that i can be much better.


As i’m making these changes, it’s important to keep the longer repeats slow and focused so i can hold my stroke and the only fast work i am doing are 25s and 50s with decent rest. Doing short repeats with short rest is a waste. Hold your stroke and take the rest away later. 


Outside of swim training, everything else is coming along nicely. Nothing crazy, just getting the frequency going to set up the work that will start in December.

Week 1, Fail

Week 1 “back” into organized training turned more into a mix of legitimate suffering, stupid testing, recreation jogging, and more mountain biking!


You can count it, 7 hours of training! 


On Tuesday, I went and road at Speed Cycling which is Madison’s biggest indoor cycling studio. I walked into find out that the workout was a 1 minute and 5 minute power test. Now, a sensible person would not do this test considering this was the first time on their competitive bike in 4 weeks. But i decided to suffer along… i failed, it hurt, but it was awesome. 


Tuesday bike file

Tuesday bike file

The results are something i figured were true, my leg strength is lacking. I’ve known this since i was in high school. I am taking the results with a grain of salt but am still considering what i rode power wise and what i know is already true. 


-My FTP when training well is about 4.3 w/kg. On the power profile chart (see Below) that would be put me at a “Very Good Cat 2”. 

-When i did the 1min test my w/kg was 5.6, i was listed in the “untrained” on the very bottom column… not good.

-When i did the 5min test, my w/kg was 4.5…which is only slightly above my FTP. During that time, the final minute of the test my PEAK 1min Heart Rate was 190!… That is a sign that my stroke volume is quite low, i’ve never seen my HR that high!


Now, with 4 weeks of consistent riding i am sure that would naturally raise… but raising this weakness is a goal for me this off season as it will improve my FTP naturally.


On Thursday morning i went back to Speed Cycling to get in another session which included some maximal sprint and tempo work… excellent!


However, after Thursday morning i didn’t do much. Some due to work, the other due to not scheduling my days right. I have to get back into waking up at 5am to start my work day. Swimming wise, i did get in a couple swims that were filled with aerobic swimming and technique work. I didn’t feel like i was ready to jump back into Masters without a week of getting my arms moving.


I did get some under water video swimming that showed a lot of flaws in my stroke. I have multiple videos throughout the season and they all the same issue in different spots. I am fortunate to have a VASA swim trainer that i’ll be using 3xs per week to work on it. 

Routines just don't happen, you have to create them. Otherwise you will be full of inconsistency and excuses.

2016 Recap

2016 has come and gone.


It’s the first season since 2012 that I've been happy with. 2013-2015 are years i would like to forget. 2015 ended well with a sub 9:40 at Ironman Arizona, but the remaining 2.5 years we’re crap. I don’t regret those years because as a coach, i really grew.


2016 was my first season of full training under me and it netted me many top 10 overall finishes and a 70.3 run PB. My bike watts still remained lower than targeted which is expected. However, going into IMKY i really raised my biking fitness to an all time best, getting my FTP above 300 watts and my weight below 155lbs. Unfortunately, i showed up with lacking miles needed to put out a complete Ironman. I rode a 20 minute PB on IMKY course, granted the weather was about 30 degrees cooler. I was very happy with that ride. I also swam 1:00 which i was also happy to see. When you finish the race with a 3:5X marathon, many bathroom breaks… you finish feeling embarrassed and deflated, but as you run through the numbers, it was CLOSE to my best Ironman to date. These are the races that fuel you and educate you on what you need to become better. This Summer has been a whirlwind... moving your life from IL to Madison, running camps/clinics, traveling to races, GETTING MARRIED! Woot Woot!, Buying a home, getting a dog... SO WHAT if you crash and burn at an Ironman :)

Ironman KY Powerfile

Ironman KY Powerfile


As you can see above. the final 30-40 minutes i came tumbling down like a bag of bricks :)

2017 will not have an Ironman in it. It will be filled with local sprint and olympics and 2 70.3 (Madison and Door County). If the opportunity presents itself to do IMWI, i’ll do it… but that depends on life.




After IMKY, i took the longest break, 2 weeks OFF and 1 week of active riding. 3 weeks of no running seemed like a life time but i felt it was needed. Cindi and I went to Atlanta for the USAT Art and Science conference then vacationed in Brevard/Asheville for a week. We camped at two different sites, had minimal cell reception, rode mountain bikes in some amazing areas (DuPont, Pisgah, and Bent Creek) and went on some great hikes. 


It was the 1st time i’ve takes a complete week off of work (almost, was still checking TrainingPeaks everyday for an hour)


The 2017 season begins today, November 1.


I have my list of things i will be working on for a better 2017 season. Different forms of swim training. Some the same of and more, some new. Different running sessions, some old, but more new and alot of! and Cycling training will be entirely different.

But mainly it evolves around: 

Swim more, bike more, run more …. and some other things added in.

Oh yea, and i'll be doing the Kortie, which is 29k of skiing... I have dreams of doing the full Birkie, but i'll stick with the Kortie for now! http://www.birkie.com/

Also looking at doing USAT Winter Nationals which is a Run, Fat Bike, Ski!

Till the next one, 


Ironman Nutrition and Personal Bests


Michael, you made some changes in your approach to nutrition. Please share.

Starting last October, I changed my diet in hopes of becoming more metabolically efficient, meaning that I wanted to be better at utilizing fat for energy when swimming, biking, and running. The main change was to drastically reduce grains and refined carbs, like pasta, sugar, etc in my diet. I was still eating carbs but they were mostly from nuts, various beans and vegetables. And finally, I always tried to combine carbs with a protein and fat in about 1:1 carb to protein ratio. The main goal was to avoid food that would cause spikes in my blood glucose levels which would in turn cause an insulin spike.


I also eliminated all carbs while I was training during the winter. This was manageable because my training load was pretty low last fall. A typical weekend session would be a 2-4 hour bike ride with nothing but water. The intensity was low and only once or twice did I feel like I was on the verge of bonking. 


What influenced you to make these changes?


I didn't feel like I was performing in races like I should. I was making gains on the bike in FTP and you had me putting in a lot of really good quality work, but when it came to race day I was not performing. The bike power wasn't the main problem either, it was the run which is normally my strength. The first year we worked together 2013 I just chalked it up to the fact that I was getting much faster on the bike and putting down splits in races that I hadn't even been close to in the past. And I just figured that it would take me a while to adjust and get my run back. I did IM Louisville that summer and after a very good swim and good first 70 or 80 miles on the bike, I found myself almost soft pedaling the last part of the race and then of course walking most of the marathon. It was disappointing but I was determined to come back the next year and be much better.


Well, 2014 didn't go much better and in fact, was probably worse. Again, I made really good progress on the bike and we had my running (after being injured on and off for a couple of years) at a very high level. In March I ran a 1:21 half marathon -  a 3 min PR.  However, that summer I did a couple of half ironmans and neither went well. While my swim was generally good and bike was ok, my runs were a real struggle and 20 mins slower than they should have been.


The final straw was IM Chattanooga in September. Again, after a strong swim and ok bike, I was reduced to walking after only a few miles of the marathon. I don't know exactly how I did it but I managed to run a slower marathon in Chattanooga than I did the previous year in Louisville. This was absolutely a low point for me. I remember when you called to talk about the race and you tried to point out some positives and I stopped you cold as I was having none of it. To me there was nothing good  positive about an ironman that ends in a 5 hour marathon. Not only was I very disappointed but I was embarrassed.


It was at this point that I decided I had to change something. I wasn't quite sure what I needed to do but I knew I somehow had to address the energy issues I was having in races. I think my first inclination was to try a ton of long slow very aerobic exercise in the off season. Then I don't remember how exactly how I happened upon it, but somewhere in my research I came across metabolic efficiency and the idea that one could use fat to a much higher degree for energy even at higher intensities with the right training. And the key seemed to lie in diet changes much more so than actual training. So I decided to give it a try.


What type of changes did you see and feel with these nutrition changes?


One of the first things I did, even before changing my diet, was to a baseline metabolic efficiency (ME) test. I found a place in louisville that offered the testing and followed the protocol of Bob Seebohar. He has written several books on ME and how train your body to burn fat for energy during exercise. I did the test on a bike. The test consists of riding at progressively higher power levels while taking readings from respiration gases. The ratio of the gases determines how much energy is coming from carbs and how much is coming from fat. As I expected, the test showed that I was very good at burning carbs for energy. Even at very low intensities like 75 and 100 watts, close to 50% of my energy was coming from carbs. At 200 watts, which is my target IM watts, I was burning 800 calories an hour and 73% of those calories were coming from carbs. At 220 watts I was at 80% carbs. 


It's no wonder that I was continually running out of fuel in races and if I look back closely at my training log, I was in training as well. I've never been one to be able to stomach 300-400 calories an hour when biking and if I tried to get those calories from gels and drinks, I just ended up with what I felt like was a locked gut. But even if I was able to digest 300-400 cal/hr on the bike, I was still going to end up empty at the end of IM bike and certainly with not much left in the tank for a marathon. 


I followed the diet all fall and winter and well into the spring  of this year. I was continuing to do my long rides with no calories or very few calories and was feeling fine. I know we had some trouble jump starting the higher intensity bike workouts but if I remember correctly, they started to come around in February or March. 


I went back for a retest in May and the shift was incredible. At low intensities (about 100 watts) I was getting almost 95% of my energy from fat. At 200 watts, I was still getting 70% of my energy from fat! At 235 watts I hit what they call my cross over point, which is the point where you getting about 50% from fat and carbs. 


Another added benefit to the diet was that I got really lean over the winter without even trying. I normally stay around 157 +/- 2 lbs, but with this diet and with no real effort at all, I was 3-5 lbs lighter all winter. Just in general I felt much better too.


You recently made a bike switch, do you feel like that made a difference? What did you switch from/to?


Yes! I've been riding a Trek Equinox TTX 9.5 since 2009 so it was time for an upgrade. I got a Felt IA2 this summer literally just in time for Muncie 70.3. I picked it up on my way to the race and the race was my 3rd ride on the bike. And yes, it definitely made a difference and I love the bike! I had the bike set up very close to where I had my Trek which I would say was a pretty conservative position. I was comfortable on it and decided not to change anything this summer even though I felt like I could much lower in the front. The electronic shifting is especially nice (and much safer) on the horns when climbing. The shorter crank arms are a nice change as well. 



Take us through your swim? You have been making some big swim gains in practice but they didn’t translate in years past. It was good to see the swim time!


Yeah, my swim times in the pool have been improving for the last 8 years, but until last year I saw only very minor improvements in my races. So it was nice to see the swim time and even more so my AG placing. The times can vary so much from course to course and the current plays a big role in Louisville, so the best indication for me is how I do in my AG. Up until last year, I was usually top 20-30% in the big competitive races, but the changes we made last year helped me get to the top 10%. The first change you had me make last year was to increase my stroke rate. You saw from videos I sent that I was around 60 spm which for a real swimmer might be ok, but for me in open water all I was doing was slowing down between strokes. I started swimming with the metronome and eventually got very comfortable doing my faster sets in the 72-78 spm range. That change got me to the top 8% in Racine last year. The next big step came in May this year at our training camp in Brevard where you pointed out that I was still crossing over, a problem I thought I had corrected. Once I corrected that my stroke become much more efficient and I even dropped my fast swimming rate to 72 spm. We had another session in Louisville this summer where you pointed out a few more things as well. Having a coach on deck was certainly invaluable.


I felt like the race itself went ok, nothing special though. I was pretty anxious the two hours prior to starting but relaxed quickly once in the water. The first 3rd of the race before the turnaround was pretty crowded and I had trouble getting around some people. Once I made the turn I just focused on keeping my stroke rate at 72 and sighting as well as I could. I wasn't expecting to see 62 mins when I finished. I didn't know at the time but I was 25th out of the water in my AG and more importantly, of the 7 guys that finished ahead of me in my AG, the fastest was only ~4 mins faster. It's nice to know that I can now put myself in a very good position with my swim.



How about the bike. Take us through your plan. How you established this plan (nutrition and pacing)


The bike was great. By far the best IM bike I've had and I felt it went exactly as I had planned. The nutrition part was pretty simple. I had been fueling with UCAN all summer and was having pretty good luck with taking in about 100 up to 200 cal/hr max so I just planned for that. I had a few cookies with me as I found they calmed my stomach during training. And on 3 or 4 occasions, I took several sips of gatorade through the aid stations. I estimate that I had about 600-700 calories on the bike. As far as pacing, I felt like I could average 200 watts based on my workouts and long rides. Without a doubt the experiment with glycogen super compensation you had me do 4 weeks out had me feeling very confident in my ability to do that. That's when I did a 130 miles on the bike with an average of 207 watts (215 NP) for 4700 KJ of work followed by a 9 mile run at a sub 7 pace. I took in a total of 950 calories on the bike and run including breakfast. The next day I did 80 mins of continuous tempo at 241 watts. I knew at that point I was ready to race and I was going in very confident. 


I really enjoyed the bike part of the race. I was got caught up a bit the first 20-30 miles as the course was very crowded and I could see groups forming. I reminded myself that I wasn't going to qualify for Kona by riding too hard the first half of the bike and soft pedaling the 2nd half so I settled into my own pace trying to keep my watts around 200 and trying to stay as aero as possible. At about 80 miles I made the left turn to come back into town and I put the hammer down and my legs responded. I think I averaged 220 or so watts the next 20 miles and then maintained a very strong pace into town on the flat section. I passed several people in the last 20 miles that were paying the price for riding too hard in the beginning. I got to T2 feeling really good. 


Finally the run. The run is always tough. What was your mental process for the run? 


Very tough. I ran the first half pretty consistently at 7:30-7:45 pace but I started to really feel the fatigue when I started that 2nd lap. I was able to maintain close to that pace for the next 6 miles but it was a real struggle and I was falling apart. Mentally, I just wanted to separate myself from the pain I was feeling and just look for the next aid station where I could walk a few steps. I got down on myself a couple of times when I knew I was starting to fall apart, but pulled it together and just looked for the next station. The last 6 miles really hurt and made me realize how big a role strength plays in IM marathons. I could feel everything in my hips and core start to go. I'm glad we did the strength work we did, otherwise I might have been in real trouble.


The last 3 miles I actually started to feel just a bit better or I was just able to push though the pain better. I had lost track of my overall time at that point and was only focused on finishing. I was able to run the last mile at sub 8 pace and really enjoyed the final two blocks. I've never been so happy to finish a race!


When you walk away from a great performance, what are some things you want to work on for next year?


I just want to build on what we started this summer. We did a lot of experimenting with nutrition and training this year. I will probably work with a nutritionist for my ME. I gained some weight once I stared added carbs back into my diet in the lead up to IM and for sure that wasn't ideal. At the time I was making huge gains in fitness and didn't want to risk messing things up by adding the stress of trying to lose weight. I think it's time to get some expert advice on how to fuel in an efficient way to support the training load and not gain weight. Training wise, we took a conservative approach to increasing threshold on the bike. We focused on consistency and strength and making sure I didn't go over the edge like I did the two previous summers. Since I have the nutrition down better, I'm in a better position to start working on threshold again. I love running so being able to put in 20-35 miles a week all year has been great. I know I can improve more on the run with more miles and consistency, but I think that most of the improvement for me is more a function of bike fitness and dialing in my nutrition. So if I can just stay uninjured and run consistently, I'll be happy and hopefully fast.



What are your goals for 2016? 


I've signed up for IM Louisville again and qualifying for Kona will be the number one goal. I missed the Kona spot by 6 mins and a few seconds this year with a race I felt reflected my fitness and capability. Not perfect by any means, but finally I was able to put together the bike run I felt I should be able to do and as an added bonus my swim was great. I don't feel haunted by the 6 mins. I did what I could on that day and walked away very pleased, but I want the spot for Kona.


I will race two or three 70.3s with at least one late in the season with the goal of qualifying for worlds in 2017. And since I'm running again, I want to get a Boston qualifier for 2017 and maybe even an auto entry time for the NYC marathon.

Endurance Athletes and Strength Training

Below is a good read on what endurance athletes need to be looking at when talking strength training. HOWEVER, this type of lifting is hard and has a technical component that MOST have never learned. But when you add this to your training, you will go faster. Coaching elite athletes everyday, I incorporate speed and power work weekly. It's a must to improve. We don't stop in season, we keep it as I view it as fundamental .

a good coach knows how to teach athletes how to use what was learned and applied in the strength exercise in how to use that in running. I have seen direct connections from the strength in the weight room to distance running... But you need a good coach to know how to teach it and transfer it to running. 

its a process but again it isn't a process. If you wait to progress it, the understanding is lost. You progress it together, you don't develop a hanger, progress them tomorrow. Transfer and load.


"A fun and loose environment, but we do work very hard"

Below is a video and article on Joel Filliols group, focus is on Richard Murray. As a coach of the best junior squad in the nation, creating a DTE is like a chess match. Every athlete has their own strength and contributions. Some vocal, some not. As a coach, knowing how to move these pieces at the right time is important, yet very challenging.


Athlete Longevity

I posted a similar post on the junior team that i coach's wall and wanted to share. a short but great article.

This topic is something i am passionate about. Its the most important, not talked about "injury" in sport. You have to enjoy what you're doing. I love what i do and am grateful i work with young athletes and adult athletes. This is something i see and want to promote. At the end of the day, world class athlete to beginner...if you want to do well, you have to love what you do. It has to be enjoyable. You have to be able to work EXTEMELY hard while loving every second of your workout. Hope you enjoy.

When i read this article, i think of athlete longevity in a sport. Hasay has been in the spotlight for years. She has been in the publics eye since she was young. We have seen her succeed and also fail. and fail more times than shes succeeded. This reaks havoc on an athletes confidence. The other athlete she talks about, is gone.

Breaking 10min in the 2 mile for a high school female is legit, so both are equally as talented. What separates the longevity of a legit athlete? Their mindset. Their ability to roll through months and years of NOT improving but still believing. Months of injuries but still believing. Being good once is easy, but being good, not so good, ok, average, hurt, great again, hurt over an entire season and still fighting takes courage. Athletes who burn out, don't adapt to these qualities. BUT you can adapt to these qualities. You don't need to be a type a athlete to be great, its typically the Type As that see success early, but crash. It's the type bs that can relax and see long term while wanting to kick ass everyday.

Patiently Aggressive is what i call them. The quite ones.

Competing at a high level in any sport is very hard, its not easy. like the old saying, "if it were hard, everyone would be doing it" but it rings true. If you can't handle set backs, if you can't understand them and work through them. you will never be successful. sport or life. learn to be consistent.

Take a triathlon for example. Short term consistency. If you have a bad swim, if your bike power isnt happening, if you don't feel good right away in the run... what is your first reaction? what will you do? quit? relax?

In the Clermont Pro this past week, the men's winner came from the 2nd pack, not the first group. He had to have doubts if he would win, he may have been content with 3rd. He probably didn't even know he would win until the final 3 minutes of the race! That is experience shown in an athlete. to stay poised in a high pressured situation, not quit, and stay focus on what he needs to do. to have the best effort possible... and he won. Sport is crazy

"I’m excited not by the time itself necessarily, but the reminder that if I continue to stick with something, an impossible goal really can eventually become an accomplished dream."