Podcast, Training

Frederic Funk | EP#380

 March 6, 2023

By  Bernardo Gonçalves

LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HERE:

Frederic Funk - That Triathlon Show

Fredric Funk is a pro triathlete from Germany with six IM70.3/Challenge Family titles to his name, currently ranked 9th in the world the PTO rankings, and with a strong 5th place at the IM70.3 World Championships in 2022. In this interview we discuss his training in great detail, with lots of numbers and specifics shared.

In this episode you'll learn about:

  • Frederic's transparency with his training and data
  • His goals and race calendar for 2023
  • Winter lab testing
  • Breakdown of Frederic's latest training week, and insights into how he approaches swim, bike and run training
  • Equipment and aerodynamics
  • Training camps, altitude, and heat preparation
  • Numbers and data (VO2max, bike race power, swim and run speed in time trials/races, carbohydrate intake etc.)

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Shownotes

Frederic's background

04:02 -

  • I am a German pro triathlete, currently focusing on the middle-distance triathlon. 
  • I've been doing the sport for some time.  
  • I've been a professional since 2018 but was born into the sport, as my parents have done it for over 30 years.  
  • I did my first triathlon when I was five years old. 
  • I was 5th at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship last year. 

Goals and race calendar for 2023

05:16 -

  • I will still focus on the middle distance, and the new PTO Tour series will be a big focus.
  • I also aim for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship.
  • I still need to complete a race calendar.
  • I will do a few more races built around that to build up or check the shape.  

Why does Frederic share his data?

06:32 -

  • It's my claim to fame.
  • Many people are following me mainly because they can see what one of the best triathletes in the middle distance is doing in training and what they must do to be as good as I am. 
  • I started primarily for myself (logging the training)
  • Obviously, in the beginning, I only had a few followers.  
  • I started it back in 2014. (junior back then)
  • It is interesting when other pro triathletes publish their training and data. And it is what connected me to them more, and I got to sympathise with my idols and those pro athletes who were more transparent and published the training.
  • I always had this mission that once I would be that good, I would want the people to connect with me via the training I publish.
  • Strava is another primary social media platform where I can engage with my followers. 
  • Publishing your training is an excellent way to engage with the fans and community.  
  •  They could copy it and do the same training I am doing daily.
  • It's essential as a professional athlete to take the followers along and not do the sport only for yourself. 
  • As a professional triathlete, you don't have a benefit for the people out there other than inspiring and motivating them.
  • When people see you train so much, they will also be motivated to go out for a jog.  
  • On the other hand, it's good to be transparent and have no secrets.
  • People are always scared to share the training because they don't want other pro athletes to see what they're doing.
  • You can't copy the training because training is so highly individual. 
  • When someone copies each session's training, there will be a completely different output. 
  • So there's nothing wrong or dangerous with publishing a training.

Reasons for people not wanting to share data

11:21 -

  • Pro athletes do it because they think they have an excellent program and don't want to share the secrets.
  • They might have something special that they're doing, which helps them to be that good, and they don't want anyone to see it, which I respect.
  • I don't want to push anyone to publish their training because everyone has their opinion.
  • One main reason is the self-confidence of the pro athletes.
  • Many pros are not confident because it pressures them to perform in the race. For example, when they have a great training block, they have 
  • this pressure is because everyone saw it, and they have this pressure to perform in the race.
  • Some athletes might not deal with that well.
  • The less you put on social media, the fewer people can talk about you.
  • When you're not performing and don't publish your training, everyone will say he didn't have his best day.
  • You can only have this bonus when you're performing: "he performed, so he must have been training well and can't have so much negative publicity when you're not publishing your training.
  • However, I don't care what people think.
  • When I publish all my training, people could talk about it (I had an excellent six-week training block) 
  • If I don't perform well, I have to think about what I did wrong; it doesn't matter if people see it.

Frederic's lab testing results

15:30 -

  • First, we have done this test since 2019 twice per year (once in the winter after about two months of winter training and once in the Summer in the middle of the racing season).
  • I have done this specific test 7-8 times.
  •  When I get the results, I immediately know how I am, compared to previous years.
  • It starts with a 15s max test to get the Vlamax. 
  • Afterwards, you sit on a chair and take your lactate every minute.
  • Then, we continue with a run test (4x4-5min ramp test) until LT2.
  • It would be best if the last 5-min are over your LT2.
  • After that, you get a VO2 max ramp on the run.
  • Increasing the speed or the gradient every few seconds until you can't do it anymore.
  • Then you got the VO2 max ramp on the bike. 
  • With those four tests, you get all the data you need.
  • All four tests are not long 
  • Only the last two steps are hard; we can do it in 2-3h.
  • You can have a break in the middle.
  • For example, after the 15s bike sprint test, you don't need so much rest.
  • It's still like solid training, and we try to taper for it at least the day before and the day after for recovery.

The numbers of Frederic

19:49 -

  • On the run, they count the threshold with four mmol, which I find too high.
  • In training, I measured lactate, and we treated lower than that, and there I had a 3min09s/km.
  • On the bike, they use INSCYD to get your threshold, which was for me at 394W. 
  • I cannot hold that for a long time on the TT bike, but I did the test on a stationary trainer.
  • I could do it for an hour on a climb.
  • If it's flat, it is too much.
  • My coaches are careful when we type in TrainingPeaks the thresholds.
  • The threshold is 385, so we always take a little back to ensure I don't overdo it in the sessions.

Evaluating weaknesses and improvement areas

22:18 -

  • My weakness is VLamax.
  • My VO2max is okay but lower than the Norwegians.
  • My body reacts well to VO2max training.
  • I do a few weeks of only VO2max and low-intensity aerobic training, and it increases my VO2max a bit.
  • On the other hand, I always have to be careful not to go too hard in a VO2 max training session, so my VLAmax is not increasing that much because it should be as low as possible for that long racing.
  • Two weeks ago, my VO2max was as good as ever, but my VLamax did not improve since the last time I did the test.
  • Therefore, we know what to work on before we start racing.
  • On the bike, my VLamax was 0.5 (a bit high)). For example, pro cyclists usually have 0.2 or even lower, and my VO2max in absolute terms was 6200 mL/min.
  • I'm pretty heavy in the winter, so it came out at 80 mL/min.kg.
  • By losing weight for the season, the relative VO2max will increase there.
  • It was good because we only did a few VO2max sessions before the test. Therefore, we were surprised about that high value.
  • I'm also happy with it because I'm not a big fan of VO2max training.
  • I prefer the long tempo sessions or threshold sessions.
  • Therefore, with these results, I'm looking forward to a nice block of LT1 and LT2 training.

How Frederic trains

Swimming

25:41 -

  • I'm coaching myself more or less. Dan writes down the distance and the intensity I should do for each day of the week, but I'm always writing the plans myself.
  • I have done this for two years and have found out what works for me and what doesn't.
  • I need to swim a lot of freestyle.
  • For example, swimming many drills or medley doesn't help me get fitter or faster in the water.
  • Easy sessions like 4x1k easy freestyle help me much, providing me strength.
  • Concerning intervals, I am always going pretty well with many threshold sessions with short rest and longer intervals.
  • If I have 3km at the threshold (15x200m with 10-15s rest), it also helps me when I put on paddles for the last five to get more strength at the end of the set.
  • For swimming, the simpler, the better. I get more economical in swimming, my technique gets better for the open water, and I can get out of the water in the race, and I won't be on my limit.
  • In the race, I always try to swim conservatively and not as fast as possible because if you swim 20s faster, it will cost you a lot of energy, but you only gain 20s.
  • Therefore, I try to save energy there and with the same energy which 
  • I could use for gaining 20s, I can do the bike split 1-2min faster.

Types of workouts that Frederic does

28:59 -

  • It always depends on the block and if it matches the bike and runs what we do in that block.
  • I swim harder when we do a lot of VO2 max on the bike and run.
  • But if I do VO2 max swim sessions, I only go up to 100m and mostly do 50s.
  • I want to avoid being in the red zone too much; otherwise, my technique worsens.
  • In the race, it's not about swimming fast, but more economical.
  • You need fast swimming only for the start to get a good position.
  • I still perform several sprints after a long, easy endurance swim to wake up the body.
  • I have to limit myself not doing more than 100m
  • For example, a VO2 max session would be 2x(10x100m) best average.
  • In a typical training week, it's about five swims per week, and the volume is between 20-25 km.

Cycling training

31:36 -

  • Dan is also coaching a WT team, so I trust in him.
  • My bike split is my strength, so I somehow keep getting better.
  • Under Dan, in the winter, we focus on VO2max, but I have to be careful not to overdo the VO2max and not get too anaerobic.
  • As we get to the season, we do some low-cadence threshold work, longer LT 1 sessions and race pace.
  • Volume is about 400km or 12-15h per week.
  • In the winter, I train on my road bike and only switch to my TT bike at the end of March.
  • I do recovery rides either on my gravel bike or my road bike.

Specifications of each harder workout

33:59 -

  • My VO2max preference session would be the more extended intervals (4x5min best average)
  • With Dan, we rarely do that. We do 30-30s or 40-20s.
  • We usually have between 45min and 1h15 at the threshold per session.
  • We do intensive bike sessions twice weekly in a typical training week.
  • It's usually 4x15 min or 5x10min with a low cadence.
  • Sometimes you also mix it up, especially in the race season. I have a standard session of 45min at race pace and then 2x10min low cadence at the threshold. (faster than race pace)
  •  It helps me also to do that indoors in the TT position because it's pretty logistically to do it in the TT position.
  • If I'm pushing like 370-380W and I have to go with a cadence of 50 to 55 rpm, it's not easy to find a place where you can do that because, in the flat, you would need high gears.
  • On the trainer, you can maintain a consistent pace and cadence, which helps me a lot to get used to the aero position.
  • The race-specific workout would be 3x20min at race pace or a little faster. My race pace is 340W, so we might do the session at 350-360W 3x20min is one hour, and it's easier than two hours in the race spent at 300-340W.
  • We don't spend more than 1h15 at the race pace.
  • It's always important to fuel the sessions well with the nutrition I also take in the race. 

Run training

38:14 -

  • In the winter, we focus on a VO2max.
  • We do it with hill sessions (30s to 1min with many reps).
  • As we get closer to race season, we also do longer hill reps which are one of my favourite sessions (e.g. 5-8min uphill under threshold)
  • In the race-specific part, we do the classic sessions (e.g. 1-3km reps)
  • When we do 1km reps, we often do a block of three reps (one below race pace, one at race pace and one at threshold)
  • We recover in a VO2max session on the hills when jogging back, usually a minute. 
  • For the longer intervals, when you do it on a treadmill, you can do a short recovery of two minutes or less.
  • When you do it outside, it's easier if you have a long hill.
  • For the 1km reps, it's a 60-90s running recovery unless I'm checking my lactate, but we always try to keep running during the whole session.

Running volume

40:42 -

  • Running volume is the lowest of all compared to other pros.
  • On the running, I ran 60 to 70km per week.
  • We want to stay consistent, and we want to avoid getting injured.
  • We are trying to be careful and build it up slowly.
  • On the other hand, my body reacts well to high volume, so I want to keep that as a "joker" for later in my career when nothing else works anymore.
  • Running is my weakness, and I have much potential, but we focus on building a long-term career.
  • If I ramp up the volume now on the run, we don't know if it would be good in five years.
  • We try to get the most out of it with not so much volume.

A typical training week for Frederic

43:01 -

  • Monday is always a recovery day. I only swim. (5 000m of easy swimming with long endurance)
  • On Tuesday, the first session was a swim which was a VOmax session.
  • The main set was 10x50m at 55s exits
  •  It was 35m VO2max and 15m easy.
  • Then it was 8x50m at VO2max(50s exit)
  • The last set was 6x100m with 75m at VO2ma and 25 min easy at 1min30s exits. 
  • After, I had a bike session of 2h37 in the mountains of Mallorca.
  • It was with a 3x20min at LT1 (336, 349,350 W) on the road bike and uphill. I measured lactate at 1.4 mmol after the first one and 1.6 mmol after the last one.
  • After that bike session, I had a quick run off the bike, which was a 5km 20min run faster aerobic pace. 
  • We tried to run more off the bikes because we realised my running problem was always the first 10km after the bike split.
  • On Wednesday, I started with a morning run with 4x2000m at LT1 on trails. I did it basically to feel the pace. (about 3min40s/km with 400m of easy jog)
  • I didn't measure lactate.
  • Then we had an easy aerobic swim of 5000m and a 2h30 easy mountain ride.
  • On Thursday, we had a long aerobic day. We started with a 1h 14km easy run and then a 5h20 easy ride.
  • Friday was rest day again with 4500m of easy swim and a 33min run with 10x100m strides, in the end, to get ready for the next day.
  • On Saturday, I started with a harder run where I felt good.
  • The mindset was 10x1min30s above the threshold, and a 3min in-between was at 3min45s/km pace. 
  • Then I had a cool-down spin on the bike of 1h30 easy and finished with a 4500m easy swim in the evening. 
  • On Sunday, I did a 45min and 10km morning run and a 5km tempo swim where the mindset was 5x200m at tempo and sweet spot. (2min45s exit)
  • We swam short course meters there. When I'm in Germany, I usually swim long course meters, so it was nice to swim faster.
  • Then I did a 2x50m at VO2max at 50s exit and 300m easy with pool buoy. I did this twice.
  • I finished with uh with easy 3x300m
  • After, we had a three hours bike session in the afternoon with 4x12min at the threshold and low cadence (45-55rpm).
  • Then I had a short transition run of 15min and 3.7km.
  • I'm not particularly eager to go too easy on the bike.
  • I also don't want every ride to be a recovery ride, so I like to push up the hills, but it shouldn't get hard.
  • My average power is around 210 and 220W (240-250 NP)

Aerodynamics

53:03 -

  • The first time I sat on a TT bike, I put down all the spaces out in the front and put the saddle over the cranks.
  • I could keep it for 90km and never had a problem because I'm flexible in my hip flexors and back.
  • I have found a good position, primarily by myself.
  • I have some Strava segments where I ride out and back and then check the speed-to-power ratio.
  • I also go to the wind tunnel or the track with my sponsors to check the material.
  • My CdA is one of the better ones in the pro field when I see my power against other pros who publish their power.
  • I thought the lower, the faster you are.
  • When I took more spaces under the aero bars, my CdA improved, and I rode even more comfortably.
  • The hole between your arms and head gets smaller, your back is straight, and the air flows better around your body.
  • In the beginning, it was surprising to me.

Racing Equipment

57:30 -

  • I have sponsors.
  • I go with sponsors only when I'm happy with the products.
  • I use carbon shoes on the run.
  • My wetsuit is from HUUB, and I am happy with it. It's flexible, and it suits me well.
  • The Castelli tri suit is also fast and also comfortable.

Training Camps

58:24 -

  • In the recent training camp, it was 2.5 weeks, but I was already there for three weeks before the start of the camp.
  • As a triathlete, finding a perfect training place is difficult because you need a swimming pool, good cycling loops and trails, a track or pleasant running routes.
  • Mallorca is nice in the winter months until April.
  • In the Summer month, it is probably too hot and too crowded.
  • In the winter month, it's a cycling paradise where you have beautiful roads through the mountains.
  • There's no traffic, and the people living there are friendly to cyclists.
  • Many pro cyclists also train.
  • I stayed in Palma Nova, west of Palma de Mallorca, with a 25-meter indoor swimming pool.
  • It was 20ºC and sunny in December, so I could ride short sleeves on the bike.
  • In January, it was already worse, with one rainy week.
  • In the winter months, you can be a bit unlucky with the weather.
  • For Europeans, the best location is probably the Canary Islands.
  • On the Sunday of recording, Frederic was leaving for five weeks for a training camp in Girona.
  • You have the 50-meter pool and excellent running trails, and you can go for a four-hour ride without seeing a single car.
  • You also have many good cafés 
  • I always enjoy my time there.

Altitude camps

1:03:02 -

  • We started it two years ago and tried to do it twice yearly for 3-4 weeks.
  • Before the first race, we go to Sierra Nevada.
  • You might have to do a lot of indoor sessions, but you also have a 50-meter pool at 2,400 meters of altitude.
  • In the Summer, we go lower. (around 2000m)
  • Last year, before the 70.3 World, I was in Utah at about 2,100 meters of altitude.
  •  I enjoy attitude training because you have to go more manageable, so the training feels easier.
  •  But after some time, when you come down for me, the first days are not as good, but after one week, I get a benefit from it that goes on for about 3-4 weeks.
  • The first time I went to attitude was a three-week camp in the Sierra Nevada.
  • We had no idea how it would benefit me or how we should do it.
  • We took some risks and tried out a few things. We took one race right after attitude, and it didn't work out well for me.
  • I need 1-2 races to get into racing, so we don't know if it was the attitude.
  • 3-4 weeks after attitude, I felt I was fit with good results.
  • Last year, we tried to go down three weeks before the championship in San Marine.
  • After one week of coming down from attitude, I had an Olympic distance in Germany, and on that day, I was benefiting from the attitude.
  • I won the race easily.
  • Training data looked promising one week after coming down from altitude, so this was when I started getting this boost from the attitude.
  • We aimed for the same 70.3 World Championship.
  • However, I didn't have this altitude boost we hoped for, and we analysed why I didn't have it there and why I had it at the beginning of the year in the Sierra Nevada.
  •  We discovered that the Sierra Nevada is always the end of the winter block, so I always have a solid base when I'm going up there.
  • After this attitude block, I'm ready to hit the races.
  • When I was going up to Park City, I had an extensive racing block before that, so I didn't have this aerobic base which means the attitude was hitting a little harder on me.
  • I would have needed a longer time to adjust and get this boost.
  • After the 70.3 Worlds, I had an off-season, and when I started training again, I felt starting training never felt so easy.
  • The problem was that there was no race, so we must be careful when doing.
  • I would love to try again to do a race right after attitude and see how that works again.
  • We took blood volume and haemoglobin but couldn't find anything to measure the altitude.

Control the intensity and the stress during an altitude training camp

1:11:33 -

  • The most important factor is always feeling.
  • At attitude, your feeling can be different to the numbers. For example, I can't use my feeling on the run because it feels easy but can already be above the threshold.
  • I measure the lactate and use my heart rate to compare those numbers and u
  • Altitude is where we use lactate the most, so I bought myself a lactate meter.
  • At sea level, I could pace all my sessions with feeling, and I could tell you pretty spot on if that's the threshold or not.

Heat Training

1:13:07 -

  • The only heat race I did was the PTO US Open in Dallas last year, but we didn't do a specific heat preparation for it.
  • I was doing three to four sessions per week, trying to adapt to the heat and going to the sauna after sessions.
  • We weren't getting into it that much.
  • We never had a heat race with high humidity (only the European heat but I'm not preparing for it other than doing my sessions during midday.
  • Of course, you must go a little slower, check lactate and heart rate, and drink a lot.
  • The PTO race in Singapore is one week before the 70.3 World Championship. So, if we focus on the 70.3 Worlds, we wouldn't do it (it might be tough with two different time zones and a big trip, and also, the heat race would take a lot from you)
  • We might skip the Asian Open this year. 

General Questions

1:16:42 -

Total training hours in 2022

I had 992 hours of training: 240h30 in the water, 491h13 on a bike, and 223h54 on the run.

Best VO2 max ever measured 

81 mL/min-kg 

Best 400-meter swim time 

Last year, my best 400-meter on long course meters was in a lactate step test, with 4min32s. I did a 900-meter short course time trial which was 9min01s

Best 70.3 bike power 

In 2021, I had um 340 watts average on a hilly course with 360W NP.

Best standalone running performance

I did a 5k time trial in 2020 which was 14min47s and 10k slightly above 31min. For the 3000 meters, I have 8min36s one year where I did a few track races 

Typical carbohydrate intake in g/h

I average 120/130 g/h, but I take most of that on the bike (150 g/h) and then on the run a little less (120 to 130 g/h). Typical sleep duration per day, including both nighttime sleep and naps. I am wearing the Oura ring to track my sleep, but I always aim for eight hours of sleep time The average over the last months was 7h30.

What was your first-ever triathlon?

It was a junior Challenge in Roth. I was five years old but was sure I just like 50 meters swimming. I couldn't do any freestyle, so I went breaststroke. My parents could help me with the transition, so they helped me put on a shirt and my helmet helped me get onto my bike. My age group didn't exist yet, so I was starting against 7-8 years old, but I got 3rd in my division.

Three pieces of advice on how to improve their triathlon performance

1:23:02 -

  • Eat enough because many amateurs try to eat as healthy as possible but 
  • they forget about eating enough calories.
  • It matters what you eat also, but the first thing is to get the calories you burn on that day; otherwise, you recover poorly, injured or sick.
  • The second piece of advice is to prioritise sleep and recovery. Amateur athletes work full-time. I have an enormous respect when they get up in the early morning to do a training session and then go to an eight hours work day and do another training session in the evening.
  • However, you have barely any recovery time, so it's often better to do one session per day and use the other free time for recovery.
  • The most important advice is to have fun because success and performance come when you are having fun.

Rapid fire questions

1:25:09 -

What's your favourite book or resource related to endurance sports?

It's the internet. When I read books, it is not about endurance sports.

What's an important habit you have benefited from athletically, professionally or personally?

It's the overall structure I have in my day.

Who's somebody that you look up to that has inspired you?

The first ones are my parents because they taught me to love the sport and this lifestyle while having fun.
The other can be my um fiance finishing her first long-distance last year.

LINKS AND RESOURCES:


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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