You don’t understand! Why did you feel so tired at the end of your IM bike ride? Why did your legs feel so shelled early on in the run? You did pleny of long, hilly 112 mile rides on courses that were much tougher than your IM ride and you felt great afterward! What was missing in your training? It might have been.. the Focus Factor!
I remember when I first started training for triathlon– I lived in Berkeley, where there more or less zero flat roads for cycling. So my training consisted of riding hard up hills and recovering on long luxurious downhills. The only flattish roads around were punctuated by traffic lights and stop signs. When I finally started racing it was a shock! I had to get in the aerobars and crank it nonstop, with no stoplights and no long downhills for recovery! My training was on-off-on-off, while racing on most courses is pretty much all “on,” except for some short downhills. I realized my training was missing the Focus Factor — the ability to crank it out nonstop with as few breaks as possible.
Am I saying that EVERY workout needs to be highly focused? No, although I tend to work out that way as a default. And if you are short on time, then focused workouts are the only way that you can come close to achieving your long course potential. (Stay tuned for a post on Kona level training on 10 hours per week). But, every athlete needs to do plenty of focused, steady riding in order to be IM ready. Focused workouts are particularly valuable in the specific preparation period, where you are determining your limits for racing.
How do you increase your focus factor?
1. Ride Indoors. Indoors you can get into the aerobars and just, for example, crank away at 70% of FTP. 1 hour of this is a solid maintenance workout, 2 hours is a very solid aerobic session, do it for 4 hours without fading or feeling lots of fatigue or having your heart rate go up more than 5-8 beats and you know for sure that you have a Porsche of an aerobic engine. I have a reasonably flat outdoor course where I can go nonstop without red lights and it still doesn’t come close to the focused workout I get riding indoors.
2. Choose a good course. Find a course where you can maintain your steady wattage for as long as possible. Bad: stop signs, red lights, long downhills. Good: gradual uphills followed by short steep downhills. Find a favorite route of local roadies and ride it backwards.
3. Pretend you are on a fixie. When you hit a downhill, keep pedaling. Sit up so the wind hits your chest. Feather your brakes. Keep your effort as high as possible as you are descending, within the bounds of safety. Super tight jeans optional.
4. Ride Alone. Many group rides are off-on-off-on as riders regroup and chat.
5. Limit your stops. Carry more bottles on your bike so you don’t need to stop as often to refill. Make you restroom breaks as short as possible.
Up your Focus Factor to race to your potential!