Podcast, Training

Coach Frank Jakobsen | EP#373

 January 16, 2023

By  Bernardo Gonçalves


Frank Jakobsen - That Triathlon Show

Coach Frank Jakobsen returns to That Triathlon Show to discuss a number of topics pertinent to the start of the year.

In this episode you'll learn about:

  • Season analysis: how to do it and use the information gained going forward
  • Periodisation strategies
  • Training camps: benefits, considerations, and mistakes to avoid
  • The Ironman World Championships in Kona and Nice: implications for athletes

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Season Analysis

04:50 -

  • Unfortunately, it's much more complicated than a lot of people make it into.
  • Evaluating a season and then planning a season is a little more complicated.  
  • Let's say when we look at the season as we advance, we would also analyse backward. 
  • Putting a goal as a professional age group is about trying to target races that fit your strength. (avoid races that expose your weaknesses)
  •  So a bad swimmer would never send to Australia as an age group. 
  • The best swimmers in Australia are excellent swimmers. 
  • Pros are a little more forgiving. They can race a 70.3 as a B race going into the A race and see if I get a good result or use it even as training.  
  • Planning the season for an age group is more difficult because you have fewer shots to get your race right.

Planning the season for a top-age grouper

08:32 - 

  •  Try to make the plan in time. 
  • One aspect to look into is the number of slots for Kona. 
  • There were 200 slots on Ironman Nice.
  • So if you are a good climber and good descender on a bike and want to qualify and you're pretty solid in your age group, I think Nice is a good shot for it. 
  • On that side, you should check if you're a good athlete in your age group. You want to pick your race right. 
  • In general, we sign up and then hit the target. 
  • Past COVID, all the parents are telling me that the kids are picking up more sicknesses now. 
  • It's also challenging with work and holidays and training and like that.
  • When we have that done, we'll look back again and evaluate what went well, if things went according to plan, if we peaked at this race, and if tests and results were consistent. 
  • If we peaked, we would look at what we did do in the even six months before that peak,
  • Those six months are rarely consistent. 
  • When I see injury and sickness over the six months leading into a peak race, even nine months for some, then it's a factor to count.  
  • So when we look back and see how the training and peaking went, the most significant thing we look at is when you were sick and injured and if that has a significant effect on the training.  
  • Then we look at what we changed.
  • When we have analysed the season backwards, we look again.
  • What do we want to repeat and avoid repeating? And what do we want to add or test new?

Training analysis

14:29 -

  • Everything is changing, and your cells are never the same. 
  • So you must do more than just the same and get the same result. 
  • The best way would be first to define what we are measuring.
  • On the professional level, we consistently measure heart rate. 
  • How do we measure things? 
  • Heart rate has to be calibrated. It's the heart rate on your watch is not necessarily precise enough. 
  •  Speed on the run with the GPS again, make sure that it's functional, and some they're using Stryd where look at efficiency. 
  • So on the bike, we use power and ensure it's calibrated. 
  • To ensure calibration, we look for a procedure to ensure power meters read accurately on a climb. 
  • One out of three power meters is slightly off compared to the other two. 
  • We measure sleep with the Oura ring. 
  • In some periods, we measure the nutrition using manual registration and my wife will look it through and analyse the eating habits.
  • We also use SuperSapiens together with training to evaluate the intake of energy. 
  • We sometimes test with lactate.
  • We test in the lab, but we are not so interested in V02 max, but in the metabolic profile (At Ironman pace, how much of your energy is coming from fat and how much is coming from sugar and how much are you burning in total)
  • We control the temperature in the room, and we usually get it done on a treadmill considering factors like efficiency and speed calibration. 
  • Some are good to run on the treadmill, but others are awful. 
  • Some athletes can produce better power on the same bike same position but can produce better power output and more consistent output and are now more efficient when they are biking outside, and that has to be taken into account.
  • When you read numbers, have some space for all these variables.
  • For most people, it is weird to breathe into a mask, and the brain will react to that.
  • We use the testing and field testing on the bike on some climbs.
  • When my athletes come here, we do lactate tests at different paces, building many markers and numbers to create a baseline.
  • When you're using heart rate as one of your guidelines and markers, many factors affect it. (sleep, fatigue, temperature, humidity and blood markers - how much plasma expansion has happened during the training)
  • Your blood consists of 50 % plasma, 40-45 % red blood cells and some white blood cells. The plasma part is an expandable liquid, and as you train, it expands in size, and that's why your heart stroke volume goes up and your resting heart rate goes down. When you have a low pulse when you're training, it's either a sign of mild overtraining or you're very fit. 
  • Your mental state will influence your heart rate.
  • All these things play in, so you must understand yourself very well.
  • We use speed to measure our progress, and the appearance of carbon shoes impacted that measurement.
  • How do you compensate for the terrain and shoes when you get the training stress score from your run? The difference 
  • For some people, it is 15 sec./km, and the number comes from a set threshold inside the system. 
  • It makes a difference if you're running with regular or carbon shoes. The numbers are different.
  • When we did a test, we marked in there if it was carbon shoes.
  • All these things play a role when you're looking over the last 12 months and checking how you progressed in training.
  • If life is regular, we can evaluate the training. 
  • The last component is the nutrition (quality and the timing of the nutrition). In January, a lot of people in the northern hemisphere if they go out and ride for 3-4 hours. The thing is, they don't drink because it's cold.
  • They drink one small bottle, and liquid transfers from the muscle cells into the general system because there is insufficient hydration, and the muscles get very stiff. 

Does Frank change parameters based on the type of session and equipment used?

30:12 -

  • We don't because the power is the power, so as long as they use the same power meter. 
  • On the swim, we keep an eye on that. 
  • If a good swimmer with good efficiency swims at a hard pace, it's not so complicated. We can get a threshold pace and get a training stress score.
  • On the treadmill, we don't compensate for the treadmill.
  • My point on this training stress score is I see people so focused on that number. However, it would help if you did not do that.
  • You want to have a good time training and see progress as planned.
  • Tracking your sleep and, sometimes, adapting to it is a much more significant number for me than training stress score.
  • If we both ignore it, we're good. If that is not the case, there's a disconnect in what's going on in the regular training.
  • It is it's just a mathematical calculation.

Tracking parameters

34:02 -

  • We do weekly evaluations, and if something is wrong, we react accordingly.
  • For some of the pros, I have a sports performance data company helping. 
  • If you think, as an age group, that you can measure and analyse all those things that I went over, you might be deluding yourself.
  • I have data scientists running these numbers in and then coming out with overall conclusions. 
  • For example, if a person is over a specific number for three days, you got to pull back.
  • It needs a lot of data, and then it has to be run through by some people who can compound it to something understandable, and you cannot do that in your head.
  • My advice to single athletes is to find some things that interest them but put less emphasis on one number.
  • There will always be another number, so use your feeling and have 2-3 things that you check with your feeling (sleep quality, heart rate in the morning, power progression)
  • For example, at specific periods, we should not see development.
  • You will have some days where you're not so well.
  • The best example is swimming. It's always 25-50m.
  • People are expecting to swim at the exact times or better.
  • I understand why it is like that because we want to improve.
  • However, have a system to measure your improvement and test sporadically. 
  • The last point is about weight.
  • Being a little bit fat would help most people on the swim. 
  • However, that is different on the run and bike.
  • So we want to be slim, and some people focus too much, and they start having problems.
  • How do we measure weight? 
  • We want to measure it because we do not want to change it too fast.
  • We do it three times a week at the same time in the morning.
  • If you measure yourself three days in a row and you're 70kg, 72kg and 72kg 
  • If you measure once, it's not reliable enough. 
  • We don't measure more because when you go on the scale daily, you start to be obsessed with it. That's the start of getting obsessed with your weight.
  • These things are simple rules.
  • When people travel and come home to their scale in their own home, they should give some days to train and then go on the scale. 
  • For instance, we put blood numbers into a file and keep track of them. 
  • However, we don't let one number become the overall fascinating number.

Using workouts to measure progression

43:53 -

  • Instead of measuring all the time, have a plan. Understand the race courses and understand the athlete's profile
  • When you are talking about well I racing Nice (e.g.), we have to train specifically the person for that race, 
  • When you can choose your races, understand your strength and weaknesses, and pair them up with your races

Making sense of the acquired data

45:57 -

  • If you are doing specific marker test sets, you want to understand what you did three months up to this test.
  • People tend to vary their training response to volume and intensity.
  • If you apply a training method to ten athletes, some will respond well, and others won't.
  • You must analyse the person and pick what you need to do now. 
  • If you want to evaluate what is good for you, you need to find the best strategy.
  • Pros are training 35 hours in a mix of 80% low intensity and 20% hard. 
  • Age groupers might only have 12 hours, and the training intensity will vary.
  • For example, Ryan is 31 and lives in Newfoundland, Rock Island, on the East Coast, with brutal weather terrible. Ryan wanted to go and missed it by 42 seconds in one race and 20 seconds in the other, and then finally, I missed it at 1min40s last time.
  • He was ex ice hockey player who almost made it to NHL. he was muscular, trimmed, and loved sport.
  • He could swim a sub one hour 12-15 km of swimming per week. 
  •  He was strong because he had been doing weights all his youth and life and ice hockey sprinting on skates. 
  • His 5 and 10 km were terrific.
  • His 10 km power and 20 minutes test on the bike was fantastic.
  • His threshold was high if you took a 20-minute FTP test and calculated data. However, the guy is a powerhouse, but he's not an endurance athlete.
  • I put him into training slowly because he wanted to go to Kona.
  • He went straight to Kona, and two years later, he won. 
  • He went back to 70.3, and he won 70.3 in Calgary. 
  • This is when you profile the athlete, and he understands when you tell him to do some boring training. He was missing all the low aerobic zone. You had a complete athlete when you put that under his muscular power and his profile.

Race selection with professional athletes

53:06 -

  • It's a mix of financial goals (some athletes in this sport are unfortunately on break even or even less, and we need to have a positive balance with plus travel costs and prize money - target races that fit the profile)
  • World-class athletes want to race the best races and athletes (championship and PTO races with prize money that are substantially higher than Ironman) 
  • The impact next year is going to be high in the pro ranks. 
  • Then it is again the periodisation compared to the race goals. 
  • You add altitude training which is a process of at least three weeks.
  • You can supplement for the next six months with ten days or two weeks if you have done a big altitude block.
  • Some professional athletes do a traditional periodisation (base, build, race, recover)
  • Some athletes can train at high intensity all year and do well with that. Even those who do the traditional periodisation with a long base should still have every ten days a high intensity (VO2 max training). 

Misalignment between races and athlete goals

56:24 -

  • Some athletes are just bulletproof, and they race themselves fit
  • Bradley Wiggins was the first to break the traditional way of thinking because he had a swim coach advising him.
  • The swim coach said he would lose fitness when he would go and do the spring classics.
  • The races are not challenging. You're sitting for four hours protected, and then the last hour is hard. Unless the groups break in the wind, you're sitting at 150 to 250 watts. So they would go down to Tenerife and give him three weeks there.
  • they saw the overall load and training stimulus was much higher by training three hours and living at altitude than going to Belgium and up in the classics in different hotels for three weeks and racing once a week 
  • he would do it to prepare for the Tour. 
  • On a professional level, you have to understand the athlete.
  • We see some people racing a lot in one year, and then the year after, it just falls apart because they start to struggle.
  • They start to think that training is not progressing, and before they know it, they're in the hole.
  • We usually see it in Kona.
  • Somebody like Patrick Lange did Israel slow, and two months later, he ran at 2h30.
  • Everybody was talking about 2h35 being the new thing, but I worked with Craig over a decade ago.
  •  Craig was particular.
  • He had won, and then they introduced the rule when he was World Champion that state even if you have won, you still have to do one Ironman.
  •  Today people are racing like 5-6 Ironmans with better recovery protocols but still, the way Craig trained for an Ironman and raced the Ironman.
  • We also have to be careful to judge the pros when they're racing an Ironman, and they can go 95 or 90% but still go fast.
  • Swimming and biking are fine.
  • There is an argument to say athletes race too much if they do not perform in the most important event because they do not come to big races to fail.

Training camps

1:02:12 -

  • We have run Mallorca our camps for over ten years.
  • For some people, it's a motivation factor to get the training done because they will train with their friends at a training camp, and they need to be fit to a certain level when they arrive there.
  • We used to tell athletes to be amateurs but train like a pro.
  • People train to the maximum volume, and we try to keep the intensity away.
  • We work from five zones and usually say zones 1-3 all week. We even avoid doing thresholds because the recovery time is so long. 
  • At the weekend after the camp, if you've done it right, then you'll feel stronger.

Periodisation for an age grouper

1:05:17 -

  • As an age grouper, your time has to fit in with many things.
  • I see better results for age groupers training where they look into training.
  • Age groupers might not want to do four hours on the trainer, so they can adapt training to get the most out of it.
  • If your training kills your motivation, it means training shouldn't look like an age grouper. 
  • As a professional, there are some things you need to go through to make a living.
  • As an age grouper, if you start training at certain times of the year that you don't like, why would you do that? 

Training camp common mistakes

1:07:20 -

  • Arrive at the camp rested. 
  • If you're training for many hours and losing weight, it means you're eating too little, and your body will break down.
  • Training camps are not a place to lose weight.
  • Don't bring new equipment because if you get a rotation in your Achilles or a sitting wound on your bike, you will suffer on the training camp.
  • People now start to have their race nutrition dialled.
  • However, some will need more because they need to know how much they spend.
  • If you ask about nutrition on a training day, they might only take 20-25%.
  • I watched Qatar final with great pleasure, but if we pay attention to some things, we see the game shift physically. 
  • In the half-time between first between the typical game and the extra time, if you look at players, they're just drinking water.
  • In sports on the highest level, there's so much still to be done in many places because players should have had sodium and sugar and gels 
  • after the regular game before going into extra time.
  • I would have reached the muscle cells during that play, and they would have been able to run faster.

Thoughts on the separated Ironman Championships

1:13:58 -

  • I don't spend a lot of time having a critical opinion about many of the points I hear out there. 
  • There are five interest groups.
  • First, Ironman work every day to do well, but they also have a business to run. 
  • I can't criticise Ironman because they don't do it to harm people.
  • Then, we have professional athletes, age group athletes, sponsors, and the race venue places.
  • So there are a lot of opinions depending on the group.
  • I respect all these opinions. At least, it shows show interest and engagement in the sport. 
  • People should stop wasting time discussing this. 
  • Embrace it and see the possibilities. 
  •  I love Kona, but I hated the price level there
  • if you don't like it, you don't have to race Ironmans. 
  • I see different athletes have chances to express themselves because the same race course will play some.
  • Jesper Svenson is so dedicated, but he will never be 60 kilos. He can race very well in Kona, but will he race Nice? 
  • On the other hand, athletes like Patrick Lange or Cameron Wurf should be optimistic about this. In age groupers, lighter athletes with strong running splits will have a huge advantage in racing in Nice. 
  • Moreover, it's nice for Europeans to be able not to travel so far.
  • When there is an early climb, drafting becomes less critical.
  • I was hoping we would have Ironman races with no qualification for Kona with no drafting rules.
  • There are four or five races with a problem with big groups.
  • Those races are for those who want to go and just race an Ironman and don't care about the time.
  • You could quickly get 10 Ironman races like that. 
  • You could have championship races like Frankfurt. 
  • My take on it was to have fewer slots.

Preparation for Nice

1:21:37 -

  • Your weight and your equipment's weight will greatly affect the bike. 
  • So you would want to try to hit that balance point of being a healthy and strong athlete. 
  • You want to carry as little weight as possible concerning your equipment because it might be five extra kilos. 
  • If you want to be competitive, I will look at the ability to go at a high intensity and recover from that.
  • In Kona, you can be at 80% of your threshold steady.
  • In Nice, you have to be capable of going hard (90% of the threshold on the climb and still recovering. 
  •  It's in September, but it can be warm. 
  • We use this core sensor to measure your body temperature core and you climb and see the power where body temperature starts to accumulate heat too much. 
  • You can go to the threshold without accumulating heat or have to go threshold for five minutes and have a cooling strategy to not overheat on the bike.

Rapid-fire questions

1:24:12 -

What is your favourite place to train? 

Mallorca and the northern part. It has no high mountains so you can train in the spring, and it's not too cold.

What bucket list race or event would you want to do? 

It's wherever my athletes achieve their personal best. I don't have a specific place.

If you could acquire an expert level in any skill in the world in an instant, what would that be? 

To sing.


Bernardo Gonçalves

Bernardo is a Portuguese elite cyclist and co-founder of SpeedEdge Performance, a company focused on optimising cycling and triathlon performance. He writes the shownotes for That Triathlon Show, and also produces social media content for each new episode.

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