Advanced triathletes, Podcast, Technology, Training

How to use data to get faster with Jim Vance | EP#7

 March 25, 2017

By  Mikael Eriksson

How to use data to get faster with Jim Vance | EP#7

Learn how to use data in your triathlon training to make it more effective with elite coach and author Jim Vance. And importantly, learn how not to use data.

In this Episode you'll learn about:

  • The benefits of data in triathlon training and racing.
  • Jim's take on data-driven training vs old-school style training.
  • What kind of data triathlete's should track depending on their goals.
  • Insights into the training of pro triathlete Ben Kanoute.
  • How to use Training Stress Score and Chronic Training Load to optimize your training, periodization, and racing.
  • How to use data for race-specific training.
  • The current status and future of running power meters.


Previous podcast episodes review

00:50 -

Introducing Jim Vance​

01:46 -

What are the benefits of data driven triathlon training?​

03:00 -

Triathlon 2.0: Data-Driven Performance Training by Jim Vance

  • It is a record of the truth of what is happening in your training​, and helps you adjust your training accordingly if needed.
  • Data helps you to be objective about your training.
  • It helps you to gain confidence and a sense of fulfillment when you can objectively confirm that you are improving.

Is a data driven training also applicable to beginner triathletes? Will they improve faster if they use it?

04:50 -​

  • Yes, beginners can benefit from data driven training. It isn't only for elite triathletes.
  • Data is not confined to using a power meter, there are other data points that you can use like timing yourself on a run.
  • Taking some form of data and objective measurement is the key​.

What is the difference between old school training versus data driven training?

06:35 -​

  • There is no magic formula for training, but some coaches may make believe that there is. 
  • There is no accountability on the coach if there is no data to support the athlete’s training other than performance on race day.
  • The coach can just say that you did poorly on a race rather than show the data and analyse where you could have improved.
  • With data, you can look at the training and show that you did or did not train properly.

What are important data points should you look at in swimming, biking and running?

07:39 -​

  • ​The data that is critical to you is all based on your specific goals. It's a very different thing if you just want to finish the race or you want to win it.
  • Everything is goal-oriented. You need to find out what your goal is and what metrics will help you achieve that goal.
  • For an Ironman athlete, maximum 3-hour power on the bike might be a key metric, whereas for an Olympic distance athlete that's not really relevant, and threshold power is a better data point to measure.
  • Your athletic background also plays a big part in what data you want to measure and what your test sets will look like.

What kind of data will you look at for Ben Kanute compared to an age grouper who wants to break 2:30 for the Olympic distance?

09:37 -​

  • It is course dependent for an age grouper and we should also know what their background is - whether they are a swimmer, cyclist or runner​.
  • Ben Kanute was a swimmer and we are working a lot on his footwork and have him do a mile on the track because it correlates to him running a fast 5k.
  • He also does FTP tests and some other tests that USA Triathlon wants us to do so they can monitor and compare with other athletes.

How often do you do those tests with Ben and how often would you recommend a regular age grouper do those tests?

10:47 -

  • We do different tests every 3 to 4 weeks​.
  • How often you test is relative to your periodization timeline, though.

What is the Performance Management Chart and how do you use it?

12:12 -

  • It is basically a long term, 3,000 meter view where you can see training as a whole, how it develops and break it into phases​.
  • You can highlight certain metrics like chronic training load (CTL).
  • Training is about performance and the Performance Management Chart helps you keep on top of it.
Data driven triathlon training
  • Chronic Training Load (CTL) is a measure of how high training stress (Training Stress Score, or TSS) you can hold over a long period of time. As such, it's a good measure of fitness, although it's possible to reach a very high CTL by doing too much training and overtrain yourself.
  • In Triathlon 2.0 Jim outlines good ranges of CTL depending on an athlete's goal event and performance goals.
  • The PMC also measures short term training stress - Acute Training Load or fatigue.

Taking Ironman as an example, what would a mid-packer have as a goal range compared to somebody who is trying to qualify for Kona?

14:36 -

  • The type of training required is different because it is age, gender and goal based​.
  • It also depends on the individual athlete whether you are a swimmer, cyclist or runner.

Does the Performance Management Chart really have no relevance on swimming as compared to running and biking?

16:46 -​

  • The PMC is not necessarily very accurate for swim training. There are so many variables that we can't account for in swim training (different pools, number of people in the pool, etc.) where we generally just use pace as our output metric, compared to power or heart rate for cycling and running.

How to use data to actually plan your race performance

18:06 -​

  • With the PMC, you can define your taper down to a single number​!
  • Take that template and define it by TSS per day for your workout and replicate it per day

More about Triathlon 2.0

20:33 -​

  • The book has been exceptionally well-received. It has gotten 19 five-star ratings. It is being translated into Chinese and Spanish, and it will probably be translated into German soon.
  • It took me 4 years to write this book because I wanted to give guidance in terms of specific metrics and numbers in this book.
  • As the sport changes, these numbers will not always apply, but the process I introduced in the book will give you the tools you need to nail down your training.

How close are we with running power meters in terms of getting to be able to use them effectively and really benefit from them?

23:50 -

Running with Power by Jim Vance

  • We are very close, it really depends on how successful you are in recording data for yourself and looking at it.
  • Power meters for running is not like cycling, it is more about speed per watt, basically how fast you are going for the watts you are producing.
  • In running, there are different types of power like vertical, lateral and horizontal. How efficiently you run depends on how those power components are distributed.
  • Power meters in running also help define intensity (like for cycling).
  • In an article I wrote on Training Peaks, we took Matt Russell, who was 11th in Kona and 2nd in Cozumel, and studied his power file. He wore a Stryd unit, and he ran between 300 – 320 watts in both races. Now we know what a good Ironman marathon power target for him is, regardless of pace.

Rapidfire segment

30:27 -​

  • What is your favorite book, blog or resource related to triathlon: Triathlon Science, Triathlon 2.0 and Running with Power
  • What is your favorite gear or piece of equipment: Power meters
  • What personal habit has helped you achieve success: Just try to be consistent with what you do
  • What is the hardest workout you have done in the last 6 months or so: Crossfit workouts
  • What do you wish you had known or had done differently: I wish I had adopted technology earlier.

Find out more about Jim

36:41 -​

Main takeaways

37:44 -​

  • Confidence at the start of the race determines your success
  • Now might be the time to get a running power meter to get a head start
  • Coaches should use data in triathlon training so you have a real record of your performance​

Listener question

39:04 -

How do you stay motivated?

  • Ask yourself why you started doing triathlon
  • Have a specific goal

How to prevent injury?

How to improve my running?

  • Check out this article with some tips on running form and technique
  • Do run-walks. Don't feel that you have to run continuously all the time.
  • Run shorter distances but more days in a week​.

How to balance your training and work?

  • Train in the morning so it doesn’t get skipped​.

How to get back to riding with clipless pedals after getting put off from an accident?

  • Get somebody who can teach you the proper basics in a safe environment.
  • Do it sooner rather than later, it probably won't get any better by waiting.

What kind of club should I join?

  • Find a club that fits your training and that you enjoy.
  • Make sure you get to do training that is geared for you​, and don't injure yourself doing a generic program and workouts.


If you enjoy the show, please help me out by subscribing, rating and reviewing.​

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Mikael Eriksson

I am a full-time triathlon coach, founder of Scientific Triathlon, and host of the top-rated podcast That Triathlon Show. I am from Finland but live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Please contact me if you have feedback on the podcast or want to make suggestions for improvement or send in a question for a Q&A episode.

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