Land of Confusion

There are good parts and bad parts to being involved in triathlon. The one good part is that everyone is so nice and willing to help. The bad part is that everyone is so nice and willing to help.
Allow me to explain …
Most triathlete’s, at least after they have their first season under their belt, have a pretty good idea about what works for them training wise. If they don’t know what works, the definitely know what doesn’t work. And the thing is, no one is wrong. They are trying to help. Not one of them is giving you advice to make you fail.
I saw that recently when Jenny got her new bike. It came with race wheels attached. The shop that we bought it from said she should keep them on and not go to a training wheel set. Our coach agreed with the shop. Then one of her co-workers said she needed to get a training set and save the race wheels for race day, and that was seconded by another team member. So what do you do. When she asked me, I said keep the racing wheels on. Two reasons for my conclusion. It’s not that I don’t trust the view of the other two racers, I actually have a lot of respect for them both, but I come from a football background, and it was pounded in my head that you play like you practice, so my thinking is if you use it race day, train with it so you are used to it. 
So got me thinking about all the disciplines and the advice we have been getting for each. 
Swimming

I raced my whole first season with a race snorkel, because I have breathing issues. This season, because I was tired of lugging the thing around and also because I was tried of being stared at, I decided to do everything I could to break free of the snorkel. It was an adventure. From day 1 it was a struggle, but little by little I was getting used to it. I was trying to breathe from one side every third stroke. When that didn’t work I started breathing to both sides. That was better. Then I found that if I breathe every stroke I was able to maintain heart rate. Bingo. 
But then people started telling me that breathing every stroke was slowing me down, and it’s probably true, so I went back to breathing to each side, and going to an every stroke when I tired and needed more air. Seems to work, and I have raced this season, so far, with little incident.
So I am watching the olympic trials last night and noticed that the men were breathing every stroke.
What?
I KNOW I am no olympian, but if it slows you down, would they do it that way? I also noticed that their strokes were stronger on one side than the other. When they pulled their right arm up, it was a short stroke, then a longer, harder stroke with the left. I do that too, naturally. So I am doing this right?
Biking

Spin … Spin … Spin … Keep your legs moving ALL THE TIME.
The mantra is drummed into you from training day 1.
This was much easier on the road bike. You could find a comfort gear to go to to spin easy and give the legs a rest, but in the tri bike there is NO easy gear. This is one of the big differences I have seen between the two. I can be going 18 mph, gear down two spots, and still be going 18 mph. Odd. Very nice for overall speed, but sucks if you’re trying to rest the legs that are burning like Satan’s horns.
So I have found myself doing the unthinkable. Coasting. And you know what? My overall speed has not gone down one bit, and in fact has increased. So if I can pound the pedals for 1 minutes and coast 15 seconds, then pound again, then coast, etc. and maintain a speed of 20 mph, that works right?
Running
A lot of triathletes come from the running background, so you have most of them able to run in the 8:00-9:00 range.
I cannot.
I struggled hard with this when I started because I felt I should be able to also, so I’d run run run as far and fast as I could, then eventually would have to stop and walk, exhausted. After being unable to walk after my first Half Marathon, and reading a lot I decided to try the Galloway method of run/walking. The basis is that you can maintain a good run pace overall and still incorporate walking, as long as you do it from the very start of the race even when your legs are fresk. So to maintain a 12:30 pace (my goal at the time) I should walk 1:00, then run 1:00. This worked perfectly, and I started feeling better after runs, both long and short. I have gotten better also, increasing the run portion and decreasing the walk, but I know if I am having an off day I can adjust it, as long as I maintain it through the race.
Combined Issue

The last issue covers all three areas and is something I argue with teammates all the time about. Basically, do you have to do the full race distance in order to prepare for a race. Is it required?
I come from the stance that it is not required. Before Ironman Florida I had never biked more than 42 miles, and handled the 56 very well. Before the Half Marathon’s I had never run 13 miles (longest was 11) but, after the first one, have done all the others with no issue.
As I said earlier, my background was in football. The most you EVER had to run in a game was 100 yards, so most drills, training, etc. was built around speed and agility, not endurance. Even when running Track and Field I ran sprints (100m, 200m, and Relay), so I think my body is built for that innately.
I was reading two articles last night. One was in LAVA magazine about how you train to go long by first learning how to go short and fast. Totally agree. Even in the pool. Jennifer and I butt heads about this. She is built for endurance. She can get in a pool and swim for hours straight, but she was complaining that her speed was getting no better. I told her because you have to do drills, sprints, use paddles, etc. She fought me on this. Didn’t agree. Until KC had us start doing it this time while training for Augusta. Now she is starting to get it. There was an article about this also in Triathlete magazine, basically starting that instead of doing one 500m split, do 5 100m sprints. I do that all the time. And my swim has improved.
In Runners World this month it has a marathon training plan. in their 12 week schedule, how many run of 26 miles would you guess are included?
Anyone?
Anyone?
Zero. Not one. The longest are a couple of 20 miles runs. So the saying goes “your wall will be the distance of your longest training run”. Really? Then explain this program. they are training you to hit a wall at mile 20?
I don’t think so.
So here’s my conclusion. Do what works for you. Listen to the advice, especially from those you trust and those that KNOW you and issues you have, then make the call on your own. I know my limitations. I know that I cannot run two days in a row. My knees cannot handle it. So I tell my coaches and they work around that issue. When I swim I break it into chunks. Yes I will on occasion do a nice long set of 1600 to 2000 meters, but more often than not I will break it into 400m splits. It works for me.
And … I am COASTING … 
Fire away!

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