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[Coach AJ] Good evening. Any questions right away?[chirunner134] I heard that learning to swim up stream and down steam is important in a river swim. Is there a good way to learn this skill other than being in a river?
[Coach AJ] I would suggest drafting in the pool. That would be the closest approximation I can think of.
[rstocks3] Form is extremely important in swimming upstream.
[Coach AJ] Yes, when you have any extra resistance in swimming your hydrodynamics become crucial.
[chirunner134] Would a speedsuit be important to use if it's not wetsuit legal?
[Coach AJ] I have used the BlueSeventy suit, and yes, it does make a difference. There is a bit of buoyancy and it is extremely slippery as well. It's like aerodynamics on a bike. You may have an aero bike, but it's the rider that creates the most drag. The speedsuit will NOT make up for poor form![chirunner134] I working a lot on form in case IMKY is not wetsuit legal but I want to make sure I can get through the swim. I am not about speed as about getting through it.[Coach AJ] I did IM KY last year w/ the BlueSeventy. Efficiency in the water is the key. You want to get out feeling ready to tackle the day, not completely spent. The current at IM KY was so bad they changed the swim course. We had the current with us for about 90% of the swim. Put it this way, I set an IM PR w/o a wetsuit!
[1st Timer in NY] AJ I'll be doing my first HIM in July with Bob and Rick...and they will be done hours before me...is there anything different someone way BOP should look out for that maybe a FOPer doesn't? I was thinking of that since my Felt only has room for 1 bottle.
[Coach AJ] 1st timer, what you need to consider is more your pacing and nutrition. Being out there longer means your nutritional needs will be very different from others. Also, if you go out too hard you will pay a bigger price along the course, so build into each discipline. Practice your nutrition plan multiple times in training.
[1st Timer in NY] Hydration will be approx 10 miles apart on bike...do people actually stop to fill their bottles...? I wouldn't think Id be losing that much time and would benefit by being topped off.[Coach AJ] Usually not, but it' not against any rules. I would be very careful though as there will be many riders going by with their heads down in full race mode.
[chirunner134] Is it common for BOP'ers to get off the bike a couple of times during an IM or do they tend to ride all 112 miles straight through?[Coach AJ] I think a BOPer can benefit from getting off the bike. Mostly so that you bear your weight along the ride. This way when you get off the bike your legs haven't just spun for 6 hours or so. It seems to help getting started and being steady on the run.
[rkreuser] But there are ways of getting variety on the bike, too, without getting off, no?[Coach AJ] You can stand, put your hands on the bull horns or ride no handed (not recommended!). Standing helps to stretch out the back a bit and use different muscles. You can also mix the cadence up a bit, but I would be cautious about long periods of low cadence (under 80).
[chirunner134] Is it a bad idea to do an oly the week before an IM if you take the oly at a casual pace?[Coach AJ] I would say you could as long as it was truly easy. You must use good recovery techniques afterwords as well. Think about what your priority is and make the decision accordingly. How much travel is involved? Travel takes it out of you more than you think.[rkreuser] So, AJ, do you think there's any merit of moving forward and back on the saddle (steep to slack) to use different muscles?[Coach AJ] Absolutely! I move around the saddle to use more quad or glute/hamstring. Standing up is good to. I've never worried about breaking equipment. Just make sure your bolts are tight and you are fine.
[lbrookiemd] Coach AJ, do you have any suggestions for getting ready for an open water swim? I am doing my first 1/2IM at the end of June?
[Coach AJ] Brook, the best thing for open water swim (OWS) is the real deal. If you can't find open water, see if you can take out some lane lines at the pool and swim w/ a group in a pack. You can also close your eyes for a few strokes and see if you swim straight. Pick something on the wall out of the water to work on sighting.
[chirunner134] OWS swim races help a lot too. Practice the swim distances without having to bike or run.
[lbrookiemd] I will try the closed eye thing. Tried an open water swim in the gulf last week while on vacation and I swear I was getting stung by something. My swim in June is on a river. It's just not warm here yet.
[rkreuser] Hey, one other quickie, brookie. Make sure you do a warmup before your swim. Lots of folks freak or get distracted by colder temperatures.
[Coach AJ] Brook, being comfortable in OWS is a matter of practice and time. Like most things, the more you do it, the more comfortable you become.
[Coach AJ] I always scout the race course as much as possible. Whether it's online or driving the course itself. Know where you can stand, where you want to push, where you can back off and get in more nutriton. If I haven't raced the course before I have someone drive it while I takes note from the passenger seat. Then I can refer to them later when I make my race day plan. The great thing about looped courses is that there is less to remember. You can also pace a bit better I think since you should be more familiar with each part of the course. Strategy counts for a lot, and the more info you have, the better you can strategize.
[chirunner134] For a 6-7 hour bike finisher would you still suggest using the tri bike over a road bike for an IM?[Coach AJ] Chi, it depends on the course. Something flat, like IM FL, you will pay a bit more of a penalty for. That said, comfort counts for a lot over 6 to 7 hours. If in your training you get off the tri bike feeling not so great, you may be better off with the road bike. It's an individual decision.
[chirunner134] Well mine is for IMKY.[Coach AJ] Chi, IM KY is rolling and I don't think you'd pay a big price aerodynamically. Again, if the tri bike just isn't working, consider a high quality fit session, or go to the road bike.[1st Timer in NY] AJ are you a believer in Ricci's 8/2 z1 run/walk plan? My run sucks and I'm looking for anyway to improve[Coach AJ] 1st timer, yes, I agree w/ Mike. During the walk break your HR comes down and you get a mental break. When you combine the walking with getting in nutrition, that is a double benefit. You can digest calories better at a lower HR, so walking aid stations is great. The mental and metabolic advantage can't be overlooked. Some world class marathoners train w/ walk breaks (granted, they don't walk when they race!).
[jdwright56] AJ - I spent most of the winter running on a treadmill. Before October, I hadn't run more than 25 yards in 4 years (kidney disease with lots of atrophy). I have found that running on the treadmill, I was "cheating" and just lifting my leg and letting the treadmill run. Now that I am outside, it is clear that I need to develop more running leg strength. Is running the only way to do this?[Coach AJ] Running is the BEST way to develop run strength, but not the only. A weight routine, nothing fancy, can help as well. It's the frequency of your runs that counts, not really the duration. If you can run more days per week, even if it's less mileage per run, you will get stronger. When you feel ready to push, add in hills. Hill work will really up your strength in a hurry. Always keep your form together!
[1st Timer in NY] I know other coaches recommend swimming everyday for 30 days to get faster...would the same go for running?
[Coach AJ] 1st timer, yes, the same principle applies. With running it's a bit more about muscular strength as you are bearing your weight. In both instances you need to be careful not to overdo it and incur an injury.
[Out4atime] Any suggestions on what I should be thinking about to avoid heal striking? I'm working on trying to land more mid foot.[Coach AJ] Think about putting your foot down as far back behind you, and as quickly as you can. You want your foot to land under you, not in front of you. When your foot is under you, you HAVE to land mid foot. I think about putting my foot down next to my other foot that's still on the ground.
[Invigilator] When people are talking about open water, are conditions the issue? The only water around me that does not have nasty undertow action is about as rough as a pool. In that case are there benefits beyond being able to go further without turning?
[Coach AJ] Invigilator, yes, you can practice sighting, swimming straight, swimming with a large group, deep water starts and being used to the wetsuit. Plus, long swims w/ no breaks is great race day prep. You use up more calories than you think in the swim. You can become more efficient metabolically if you practice long uninterrupted swims. I swim OWS as much as I can. My favorite workout is an OWS then getting on the bike right away. The swim/bike brick is highly underutilized in my opinion. OWS is the hardest element to practice in my opinion. So few athletes have a venue for OWS where they can practice year round. You just have to do the best you can!
[chirunner134] Do you always use the wetsuit for an OWS?
[Coach AJ] Chi, I ALWAYS use a full sleeve wetsuit when allowed. There is no doubt that a full sleeve wetsuit will make you faster on race day.
[chirunner134] I mean in practice though.[Coach AJ] I use my wetsuit in practice as well. It's the only way to get used to the different body position. Plus, it keeps me warm when the water's a bit too cold to swim w/o it.[Invigilator] I am still just getting started (in general and this season). How important is it to work with a heart rate monitor at the beginning?[Coach AJ] Invigilator, I think the best part of HR monitors is that it will tell you when you are going TOO hard. Too many athletes go too hard on easy days and not hard enough on hard days. Use your HRM to ensure that you are hitting each workout in the zone you want to train. Don't just go out and try to go as hard as you can. Easy days are just as important, if not more, than the hard days.[rkreuser] AJ, do you use your HRM to race?
[Coach AJ] Yes and no. I have it on and I occasionally glance at it, but race day is race day. Remember, I am going as hard as I can w/ the goal of a podium. If your goal is to finish strong, or if you don't have much experience at the longer races, I would stick in zone 2 for most of the day for an IM. That is the zone where you can still digest calories fairly well, the key to a good IM. Numbers can be valuable, or detrimental. In training I want to make sure I am where I want to be on that day. On race day, I don't care about tomorrow!
[Coach AJ] Alright, thanks for all the good questions. Keep training strong and be safe out there. Train hard, train smart!
USAT Level 1 Coach
"My coaching philosophy can be summed up in two words: listening and balance. By combining these two elements I feel I can help each athlete achieve their full potential."