Master Ironman 70.3 training with pro triathlete Cody Beals | EP#11
Actionable Ironman 70.3 training and racing tips for age-groupers from pro triathlete Cody Beals.
In this Episode you'll learn about:
- How to self-coach effectively.
- How to train for 70.3 (half-distance triathlon) races specifically.
- What age-groupers can learn from pro triathletes' training.
- The indoor trainer workout that reduced Cody to a puddle of quivering protoplasm.
- Cody's take on benchmark workouts and formal tests.
Introduction to Cody Beals
- Based in Ontario, Canada.
- Studied Physics and then worked as a consultant in environmental science.
- Turned pro in 2014.
- Just recently finished 2nd in Ironman 70.3 in Campeche, Mexico (March 2017).
Early start in endurance racing
- Parents were cross-country skiers and Cody was pulled along in a toboggan.
- Started cross country running in high school.
What did you do in that workout where you said that you were reduced to a quivering puddle of protoplasm?
- The workout was a little over two hours in length.
- It had a little over half an hour of warm-up, including some 10-second sprints.
- The main set was
- 3 x ( 3 minutes @ VO2max power (380-400 watts), 3 minutes @ tempo effort (300-310 watts), 3 minutes easy)
- 4 x ( 2 minutes @ VO2max power (390-410 watts), 4 minutes @ tempo effort (300-310 watts), 2 minutes easy)
- 5 x ( 1 minutes @ max effort (400+ watts), 5 minutes @ tempo effort (300-310 watts), 1 minutes easy)
- This simulates a worst-case scenario for a very dynamic 70.3 race, were the biking is nowhere near steady. Almost more like a draft-legal ITU race than a non-draft 70.3.
- Normalized power for the entire workout is well over 300 watts.
You are self-coached but still use the mentoring of a coach, how does that work out?
- Self-coaching does not strictly apply to me. I write my own training and plan my own race schedule drawing upon a decade of experience.
- I also consult a lot of people. First and foremost Tillbury-Davis, a British coach currently based in Texas.
- Self-coaching does not necessarily mean you have to be a lone wolf. Even though I am self-coached now, I still draw on the experiences of a lot of people like David, a sports doctor I work with, and a business advisor that I have.
- The biggest challenge of self-coaching is that it is really hard to maintain an objective perspective.
- The key thing is to institute reality checks like benchmark workouts or having a trusted adviser oversee your training, in my case it is David.
What is the most challenging part of taking the reins yourself of your training?
- The planning is a challenge as well but the main challenge would be maintaining an objective perspective.
- You would have to cultivate a dual personality because when you are writing your training, you put on your coaching hat where you are cool, clinical, calculating and rational.
- When you switch gears and put on your athlete hat, you just execute and focus on the moment.
How do you structure your training for a 70.3?
- Ideally, it would 8 to 10 weeks of balanced training overall. About 3 to 5 weeks of that would be high volume approach and a couple of short punchy efforts like 10 to 20 second hill sprints for running, or really high speed work on the treadmill like under 3 minutes per kilometer. On the bike, 10 to 15 second sprints.
- In the next block, it would be 3 weeks of somewhat lower volume but more VO2-type intervals in the 1 to 2 minute range.
- Don’t focus on the same level of intensity for swim, bike and run simultaneously.
- After those blocks, a further 1 to 2 weeks of more race-specific prep.
- These are for races at the start of the season. Mid-season races for me are different because I already have a high level of fitness. 5 weeks is my magic number for between two races in mid-season. It gives me 1 week to recover, 3 weeks to really train hard, and 1 week to taper.
How do you use data in training?
- There are examples of where I use data very intensely, and in other areas I don’t use data at all. In the swim, I'm always using the pace block. Same as on the bike, I always look at my power meter every minute of my workout.
- On the run, pace (or speed on the treadmill) has been very important for me previously. The exception would be this year where the bulk of my mileage is made up of easy kilometres where I no longer micro-manage my pace to say running in the 3:50 to 4:05 per kilometre range, which is not really easy. I now spend a lot of time running 4:30 to 4:40 per kilometer or even 5 minutes pace on recovery days. I run at whatever pace I feel like and how my body feels like on that day.
- An example of where I don’t use data is monitoring stress. I used to look a bit at TSS or other comparable stress scores. I don’t think there is a really good comprehensive metric that measures training stress because each of them has their flaws.
- It comes down to knowing my body and asking a couple of fundamental questions like: Am I accomplishing my training as I originally planned it or am I changing things around because I am tired which is a red flag for me? Am I feeling good physically and psychologically? How is my attitude? How is my sleep and how are my muscles feeling?
- I ask myself those questions on a daily basis and I find that I get a clearer picture of how things are progressing rather than poring over a TSS or something like that.
- David is also on my case to tell me when I'm doing something wrong.
- I have looked into using heart rate variability which I think is a pretty interesting metric. The problem for me is that I don’t think it is something I could do on a daily basis because there is not a good Android app that does not need peripherals like a heart rate monitor and I just can’t imagine strapping a heart rate monitor every morning and it becomes less useful if you don’t have it on a daily basis.
- I have also stopped weighing myself. I used to weigh myself daily to monitor changes in weight and hydration state stuff but it is just too tempting to either consciously or subconsciously start to manipulate weight and body composition.
- For racing, I just use power on the bike and let the race dictate the demand rather than look at the numbers
Do you do any retrospective analysis of your blocks?
- Yes, I log everything meticulously in Training Peaks and David and I look over those numbers, but I don’t spend a lot of time doing that.
- I have gone back to more fundamentals like monitoring my body.
- I find it more productive rather than poring over metrics.
Do you have any key workouts or key performance indicators that you do on a regular basis to check where you are at?
- I used to do a formal 20 minute FTP-testing on the bike but I have stopped doing it actually. In the pool there are some regular tests that I do but I am not super keen on benchmarking. I find it to be quite stressful. I race up to 10 long-course races in a year and I tend to shy away from race type situations in training.
Do you feel like you can still tune in to where right, fitness wise, just based on workouts that are not necessarily benchmark workouts?
- Absolutely, I don’t need to go to a hundred percent failure which is emotionally shattering.
- If I do a swim set like a classic 20 by 100 m at 95 % effort, I can get a pretty good sense of where I am at.
What aspects of pro triathletes training can age-groupers learn from which they are not necessarily doing the right way in general?
- I would say taking recovery as seriously as they do workouts. A lot of age-groupers are fantastic about smashing workouts but not so great at respecting bedtime or taking a nap or having good nutrition during the day.
- Everyone can practice better recovery.
- Train with a purpose, know why you are doing everything.
- Be disciplined and stick to your plan.
Rapid fire segment
- What is your favorite book, blog or resource related to triathlon? The Slowtwitch forums (Cody's "first triathlon coach") and the fiction book "The rider" by Tim Krabbé
- What is your favorite piece of gear or equipment? I love my Ventum One and trying out the Skechers Go Run.
- What personal habit has helped you achieve success? Napping.
- What is your favorite race? Niagara Falls Barrelman.
- What do you wish you had known or wish you had done differently at some earlier point in your triathlon career? The ability to keep things in perspective.