Monday, November 25, 2013

Tri-Coach: Should you do group rides? By: Tony Zamora

As admin for this blog, one of things i have enjoyed is being able to ask tri coaches questions I personally have and then share the answers with you.  Group rides have never been a priority to me and I have been thinking if I am going to consider a full next year, i need to start considering them... so, i asked a local coach if this is something I should consider.  The short answer is: YES but you can read Tony Zamora's full article below!

Should you do group rides? 
By: Tony Zamora (USA Triathlon & USA Cycling Certified Coach)

I get asked this question at least a few times a week.
There’s typicaly 2 ways this question is asked.
1) Should I add group rides into my weekly training?  This question typically comes from triathletes.
2) I ride all the time with the group, but never get any stronger?  This is typically asked by club riders or cycling racers.

So whats the right answer?
I always recommend people should include group rides in their schedule, but should always focus on the long term.  It really all depends on what the athletes’ goal are, and that will ultimately determine how many times you should include group rides and how to ride with those groups.
I personally try to include group rides at least once a week, and usually because of the nature of group rides which I’ll get into in a bit, I usually do them when I have no planned structure for my workout of that day.
Here are 2 workouts that I did in September, both rides lasting about 2:30 hours.  At first glance the rides appear to be similar, but it’s the makeup of the rides that changes.   The rides were on different routes, but I wanted to compare recent rides so the comparison would take into account my fitness level at the time.

Solo Ride Group Ride
Time 2:34:00 2:30:00
Distance 42.6 44.8
Avg. Speed 16.5 17.9
Avg. Power 158 160
Normalized Power 179 204
Peak Power 699 755
Peak 10 Seconds 468 544
Peak 60 Seconds 302 387

Time spent not-pedaling 19 min 29 min

Solo Ride <click to open in TrainingPeaks viewer
Group Ride <click to open in TrainingPeaks viewer

If you click on the link to take you to the TrainingPeaks viewer it gives you a lot more info then Strava, and the ability to highlight certain sections and analyze them.  One of the reasons I enjoy using Trainingpeaks so much with my athletes!

Now looking at the above table, you can see both rides are pretty similar as far as time, distance, and even average power.  Now where you can tell things change a bit, is looking at normalize power (how smooth was the ride), and then looking at the power breakdown at different time intervals.  I kept it short here, just looking at peak power and peak power for 10 & 60 seconds.

You can see that those efforts change quite a bit when riding solo versus riding with a group.  Group rides tend to be sporadic, and predictable at the same time.  That’s the reason why I’ll usually go riding with the group when I have no plans of doing any structured workout.  It’s too hard to do any structure with the group, unless everyone in the group is aware and willing to do the same structured workout.  The last thing you want to be is try and be the “hero” of the group and “be that guy”.

So to answer the question if you should ride with a group.  YES, you should.  I think it’s great to build camaraderie, get to talk to other riders about training, racing, life, etc. And its especially useful to ride with other riders that are stronger then you to challenge you!

I would strongly recommend that you don’t make every ride a group ride, and that you maybe only do 1 or 2 group rides a week.  If you look at the last line in the above table, I spent almost 30 minutes, of a 2.5 hour ride NOT-PEDALING!  It’s one of the interesting things of riding in a group and drafting, you get to not have to do a lot of work.

If you goal is to get stronger, whether you are a cyclist or triathlete, you need to be comfortable pushing yourself and not getting the advantage of drafting, and you need to be able to structure your rides where you can get in some quality training (re: structured workouts & intervals) without having the group there.  This is especially important for triathletes since you aren’t allowed to draft during races!

So go out, find a group or two that challenges you, and enjoy riding with them.  You’ll get to practice riding close to other riders, which will help if you plan on any cycling races.  It will also push you at times, but will let you sit in and recovery while drafting if needed.  But plan on most of your rides to be solo miles, unless you find a group that will all be willing to do the same interval sessions.

Read Tony's full bio HERE.  He also humored me with some interview questions:

Tony1. Tell us a little about yourself and what got you into coaching,
I've been coaching for about 6 years now. I started doing triathlons as a teenager, and really enjoyed getting others into the sport. I knew that this is what I wanted to do so got my coaching license and continue to help people out. Whether it's their first race or experienced athletes looking to improve, I just really enjoy being in their corner!

2. You hold a training camp for your athletes once a year.. what kind of experiences do people have that attend camps that can't be replicated. 
The feedback we get from people who attend the camp, is "focused and fun training". It gives the athlete the opportunity to focus on their training, while having fun. There's a strong sense of camaraderie of being able to train with other athletes during the day, talk race stories and discuss with the coach.

3. When/what is your next race?
My racing season is done for this year, and my first big race of the year is always the Sea Otter Classic cycling races out in California. This then kick starts the training camp out in California!

4. Must have triathlon piece of gear?
Tough question. Having the basics of course is first; workout cloths, bike, helmet and running shoes are a must. After that, a must have piece of equipment is a training log! Everyone thinks about the technology makes you better, but it comes down to the consistency and accountability in training.

To learn more about Tony and TZ Coaching

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tri-Friend: Mike Hebert - Chicagoland, IL

Mike has been a friend of mine for a few years long before ListofTriathlonBlogs was formed.  He helped me lauch ListofTriathlonBlogs twitter and facebook and we have raced a few events together which has been fun. (him finishing long before me btw).  Anyways, after 8 months of the site going I finally asked him for an interview.. mostly b/c he just started blogging when we launched and I wanted him to have more than a few posts when I interviewed him (keeping it real :)  So, without further adieu, Mike's interview.   

1. Tell us a little about yourself in a few sentences
Well, I'm a Staff Sergeant in the Army. I've spent 3 years in Anchorage, AK jumping from planes with one tour to Afghanistan in 2009 and I'm coming up on 3 years in Chicagoland, so it's about time for me to move on to the next adventure. I'm married to my best friend, Marnie and we have a wonderful 10 month old little girl, Genevieve. I started racing in 2011 and would eventually like to get placed with the Army Triathlon team and to be an age group contender at 70.3 and 140.6 distances.

2. What was your A-Race this year and how did it go?
Kinda funny. I went into 2013 with the goal of a sub-5 hour 70.3 at Michigan Titanium. I'd been riding my bike a lot more and had been running more regularly so I could start into a training plan. The Army told me that I was going to be at a 7-week training in Fort Sill, OK during the summer, so all of my heavy training was basically stopped. I did get out and do some bike racing, a sprint tri and a 5k while I was there, but nothing near what I wanted for the 70.3. All in all I was happy with how I did on the swim and bike, especially considering that I didn't swim but a handful of times in 2013. The run I blew up on. Plain and simply blew up. So, I turned the run into a social event and got to know some of the other runners. That's kind of what I do when I race, I'm a pretty social guy.
3. What is your biggest challenge about being an active duty soldier and balancing triathlon.. any hidden perks?
I'm kind of in a different situation right now, being a recruiter. I typically have more control over my workout schedule since I'm not with a regular Army unit. Where I find difficulties are the last minute "hey you..." things that come up. They typically are bringing an applicant somewhere at 6am or needing to do a uniralysis for our company. Right now for the most part the biggest balance is family and training. Having a 10-month old who can vary her wake-up time from 630 to 800 is the biggest thing. I like to let my wife sleep in, so when she wakes up at 630 it makes it difficult to get out for a morning session, but my wife has been pretty gracious to let me go for 1-2 hours in the evening with my coach, Jason Restuccia, at the YMCA.
As for perks, the Army places a huge value on Soldiers who perform well physically. It's nice to be ackowledged by my leadership and peers after doing well on a PT test, some units will give more leeway to Soldiers who are training for and performing at different levels, so I may be able to get a day or two a week at a regular unit to go for a long run or a long ride instead of what everyone else is doing.

4. For some of us that are newbies to the trainer, what training methods do you use indoors and why?
The winter is some of the best time to get hard intervals done and to increase your cycling (And running!) performance. There are a few different options depending on your budget abilities. Hands-down, the best way to train indoors is in conjunction with TrainerRoad( and The Sufferfest( TrainerRoad is software that takes the power curve of your trainer (fluid trainer i.e. CycleOps Jetfluid Pro, etc) and reads your speed using a Garmin speed/cadence sensor, then it translates that speed matched with the power curve and some crazy math that I don't understand and gives you a virtual power output. You can also work with a powermeter, but those are a lot pricier. TrainerRoad will have you do a threshold test and then you can choose one of their free training plans and work through it. I also use The Sufferfest when I truly want to get my butt kicked. Using their motto "I will beat my ass today to kick yours tomorrow" they truly beat you. The intervals are incredible and you'll get a great workout. You can use The Sufferfest with or without TrainerRoad, but when used with it can bring your targeted training to a whole new level. The equipment does cost a bit, TrainerRoad is on either a monthly ($10/mo) or yearly ($99/year), a trainer can cost you anywhere from $100 to $500+ and the Sufferfest videos are generally $12.99 each, but you can get deals if you purchase all of them together. I was able to get my equipment before my daughter came, so that was nice.

5. You are moving to california soon, for what? how will this change your endurance sports routine?
I am! I was able to transfer my job in the army from Field Artillery to Military Intelligence, and with that I need to learn Arabic. I'll be there for about a 1.5 years learning 8 hours a day, a total of about 5 years of college in all. I'll be focusing on qualifying for the 2015 and 2016 Boston Marathons while I'm attending the school. Focusing on one sport will make the stress of learning the whole new language and having a 1 year old a whole less stressful. I also find that I am a lot more clear headed after a hard run, so I think it'll help me learning as well.
From Mike: I would just like to thank ChiTriBloggers for the opportunity. I'd also like to thank my family and friends for supporting me and EnduroPacks for helping me to reach new levels in my performance without all the fatigue.  
Follow Mike at