A Perspective on Our Training

As we start the beginning of March I thought it would be a good time to chat about our purpose of the workouts at this time of year. We are in a phase I like to call “General Preparation.” You may have heard this phase called “Base” or “Aerobic Endurance.” In a periodization model, we are working from a perspective of general fitness towards specific fitness for our particular race. If that race is an Olympic distance race the training is a bit different compared to an athlete training for an Ironman. At this time of year, we are working on building all types of fitness from low aerobic fitness or zone 1-2 to high end fitness commonly referred to as zone 5. As we work at this time of year we have an eye on what the first races of the year are for each athlete as well as the races through the year that are the “A” races.

On Saturday April 16 we will host a Pool-Open Water Swim Event at the Cape Elizabeth High School Pool. For the two weeks prior to the event we switch our focus to incorporate an introduction to open water skills such as swimming in a group, contact among swimmers, sighting and drafting as well as many others. This open water skill phase will go for the next two to four weeks depending on how the athletes progress and pick up the various skills.

Following this open water skill phase we will start to work in the “Specific Preparation” phase. In this phase we look towards specific races such as the Sebago Lake Triathlon, Peaks to Portland Open Water swim, the Casco Bay Otillo and others throughout the year. In the pool, open water, bike and run we will start to make every workout focused on making every athlete ready for their competition. The goal of this phase is to get the athlete ready for that Sprint, Olympic, half-Ironman or Ironman distance triathlon. This phase will last through the summer to one of the pinnacles of our sport-Ironman Hawaii World Championships in Kona. I look forward to seeing everyone through the year!

Copyright © 2016 Todd Larlee

Sarah Piampiano: A Mainah on the Rise

One of the great success stories in triathlon in 2015 has been the comeback of Sarah Piampiano. I met Sarah at a training camp in Santa Monica at Tower 26 in 2011. Sarah is also a fellow Mainah. The first memory I have of meeting Sarah is rubbing elbows with her in the pool doing some fast 25s with no lane lines. I tried to push Sarah into the swimmer next to her and she didn’t give an inch! It was a foretelling of things to come for her in her triathlon career.

Towards the end of 2014 Sarah was racing in Ironman Texas when on the run she felt severe pain in her leg. She limped her way to the finish line. It turns out that Sarah had a stress fracture of her femoral neck. In layman’s terms she had a break in the neck of the ball and socket joint of her leg bone into her pelvis. She could not weight bear for an extended time for a good part of 2014, endured physical therapy and then started training again. All with the knowledge that racing again at her previous level may not be possible. Her training had a very slow progression to ensure that the injury did not come back.

Sarah’s next goal was to qualify for Kona. She achieved this goal but did it mcuh later in the season. She arrived in Kona with a new plan with her coach Matt Dixon. The plan was to back off from her speedy bike pace in the last 40km to save her legs for the run. Turned out to be the right plan. Sarah had the second fastest run of the day in Kona of 3:06:33(Fastest run was 3:06:25!). She was picking off people left and right in the last 10 miles of the race. At the finish line she was 7th at the World Championships. She took some time off and then resumed training for Ironman Western Australia. She turned in another great race and grabbed her first Ironman victory. Her story of perseverance, trusting the process and going for it on the big stage is one for everyone to remember and learn from to apply to their own athletic journey!

Happy Holidays to everyone! Here is to a 2016 filled with chasing your dreams!

Here is a link to a Portland Press Herald article on Sarah: http://www.pressherald.com/2015/12/27/cumberland-native-dumps-smoking-drinking-to-become-pro-triathlete/

Copyright © 2016 Todd Larlee

2015 Sebago Lake Challenge Observations

Today I attended the Sebago Lake Challenge for the first time. I believe this is the fifth year the race has been held. Here are my observations from the race. First, I think there a lot of mistakes made by the high school age swimmers. The reason I say that is they are the fastest swimmers out there. Secondly, I am going to focus in on a couple of key mistakes made by ALL types of swimmers at the event. I will end with a key point of all athletic competition.

First, the biggest mistake I saw this morning (and I saw it at the YMCA Peaks to Portland race too) was that there a lot of “pool swimmers” trying to use pool strategies in the open water. That ain’t gonna cut it. Pool swimming is a pretty static environment. Everyone dives off the same blocks. Everyone swims the same distances and the same course. Everyone turns at the same place in virtually the same way. Everyone knows exactly where the other competitors are swimming. So let’s break that down a bit.

Second, the single most important thing that the swimmers I saw today can do to improve is to sight with increasing frequency and skill. A very small minority of swimmers were sighting and sighting correctly. Why swim 2.8k if you can swim 2.5k? And sighting also includes knowing where your other competitors are in relation to where you are. Athletic awareness. You must be looking to your left, right, in front, in back of you at all times. Looking underwater. Is someone making a move at the front? Is someone making a move on my side? Is someone closer to me? Farther? All of things then get processed in the athletic brain to drive the process of the swimmer’s outcome. As stated above in my first point, the course can be highly variable depending on where you want to go or where you want to take your competitors.

Third, consider “dolphining”. At the beginning and the end of the race, I saw many swimmers not taking advantage of the shallow water to move themselves faster through the race. I saw several people get passed in the last 20 yards of the race due to a competitor realizing they could run through the shallow water faster than the other swimmer could swim. This is a skill that should be practiced at the beginning of the open water season in order to take maximum advantage of the conditions.

Fourth, I’d like to end with an athletic trait that I saw in four or five competitors today, both young and old. Some finished in the top three, some in the middle of the pack. That trait is the competitor. No matter the place of the swimmer compared to others, there were a handful of people out there that started the race as hard as they could and finished as hard as they could. Most people didn’t. Kudos to those competitors out there.