Saturday, May 30, 2015

Effective Strategies to Beat Summer Heat

The summer heat plays a critical role in the training and preparation for an athlete. The summer heat causes an increase in heart rate, decrease in power, and increase in effort per pace. I don't want to spend a lot of time on what the heat does to impair our performances, but rather how we can be best prepared in hot conditions. Being dehydrated and not acclimated can ruin your performance.  The summer heat can make you feel as if your riding into a hair dryer, running in a sauna, or swimming in a hot tub. The triathlon races can go on for several hours into the hottest part of the day. Some running and cycling races start when the sun is just warming up and last well into the afternoon. 

To have your best summer races follow these tips:

Fluid Intake

The most basic way to beat the heat is with regular fluid intake on a daily basis. This helps preserve blood volume and prevents your heart rate from rising as much in the heat. As the temperature rises, your heart rate increases dramatically. Heart rate increases more in the heat because it's moving blood to cool the skin.  This makes it rather critical to stay on top of your hydration. (1)  From a performance perspective, it's important that athletes intake about 17 oz of cold liquid 1-2 hours before a race and then continue to consume a 4-8% carbohydrate solution drink during training and racing at regular intervals. I recommend sipping in 10-15 minute increments. For races that last longer than an hour, athletes may need to consume anywhere from 20-40 oz per hour of an electrolyte drink to maintain performance and reduce heat impairment. (2)  It's best to make daily hydration a habit. Allowing yourself to be dehydrated even just one day can you set you back all week.

Sweat Test

This basic field test can be performed on a hard training day and will help you dial in your fluid intake. This test should be done individually for the swim, bike, and run.  Simply weigh yourself before and after you have trained. It's advisable to do this every season change throughout the year. The end number will help determine how many ounces of fluid per hour to consume for individual needs. (3)

The math equation is:   (pre-training weight) - (post training weight) x 16 = weight change in ounces

(weight change in ounces + fluid consumed during training) = sweat loss in ounces

(sweat loss in oz) x ( hours trained) = sweat rate oz/hour

Importance of Salt

Salt gets a bad rap for increasing blood pressure, but it's extremely critical for the athlete as it helps regulate the bodies' fluid levels. Each athlete secretes a different amount of salt. One person may lose salt rapidly at around 1300mg in a 5K run while another person may lose less than 200mg.  A simple salty snack post-run can help re-hydrate. (7)   During long course racing, such as a marathon (4+ hours), ultra run, or long-course triathlon, athletes will need to start taking in salt in the middle of competition. Some athletes may need a high-concentration of sports drink and gels but others may get by on a few salt pills. Salt tablets, tend to work best by taking 2 per hour. Taking more can result in nausea. (8)  It's best to practice with a variety of different products while training at race intensity efforts to discover what works best for you.

One of the many the brands for salt tablets. 

Ice Vest

I learned this little trick from Canadian Pro-triathlete Brent Poulsen a few years ago. On the morning of your hot weather race, you can wear an ice vest to lower your core and skin temperature. Through research you'll discover there is actually a strong debate if this is even worthwhile to try.  One study out of the Journal of Strength & Conditioning (March 2014, Volume 28, Issue 3) noted there was no benefit in core temperature but lowered skin temperature. It even said this can be dangerous,  because it makes you will perceive to be cooler than you think you which could result in a high and dangerous core temperature. (4)

On the other hand, in another study from 2004,  American and Australian marathoners were provided each a cooling vest to lower body temperature. The vest appeared to keep core temperature down and improved performance in these marathoners. Some marathoners wore the ice vest for 10 minutes and removed it 1 minute before the start. This study concluded that the marathoners wearing the ice vest before the marathon kept their core temperature lower for longer than those who did not. (5)

Training to Adapt

The most effective way to train for hot weather racing is by training in it! That's nothing new, but what about the regular guys who only have availability to train in the morning or evening? A study by physiology students at the University of Oregon determined the athletes that are heat acclimated can perform anywhere from 4-8% better than those who are not. For those who hold day jobs and have families, training in the heat may not be an option. These athletes will need to adjust their A/C accommodations for training indoors or wear  multiple layers of clothing. Be sure to adjust the thermostat or add layers gradually each week. (6)

Dallas, Texas triathlete, Tommy Johnson simulating Hawaii conditions indoors by setting thermostat on 80 and a fan to create a light breeze. 

Ice, Cold Water, & Sponges

It's definitely a good idea to use what is available on the course. For example, before running hot weather races I would dump some very cold water on my head just before the start. Be sure to take small sips of water and dump as much cold water on your head throughout the race as possible. Slow down through the aid stations on the bike enough to grab some additional water to cool your skin temperature down. During the run, if available, stuff the ice and sponges down your shirt, pants, and under your visor. Doing this will help keep your core temperature lower.

World renown triathlete Macca shown here dumping ice water with a sponge tucked in his jersey.

Coaching Availability

In addition to reading articles and tips, there is an irreplaceable benefit to having a great Coach to help you progress. Having someone knowledgeable to work with you on race day strategies and help you individualize a plan for success goes beyond the benefit of simply reading.  I have limited availability open for coaching passionate athletes who want to get the most return for their investment of time. I'm currently coaching a great group of athletes with different goals (Ex. Finishing first 70.3 or Ironman, Boston qualify, Podium finish) from East Texas, Dallas, Arkansas to Maryland. If you are interested in details, have questions, or to schedule an interview please email me at 










Monday, May 25, 2015

Challenge Knoxville

The road trip to Challenge Knoxville was great one and a long one. I left Thursday afternoon after a short work day at Cobb Cycling and a massage with Amanda Kitchings in Tyler. I was feeling fresh and ready to go. I was also super hydrated too, which meant a rest stop every hour sometimes less than that. The drive took longer than I thought with all of my rest stops. The first night I stayed with Cobb Mobb teammate Les Carr in Meridian, MS.  I had a great 10 hours of sleep because I forgot to turn my alarm on.  We headed out for a humid 20 minute loosen'r upp'r run and a big breakfast at the Waffle House before I left for Knoxville. 

On the way to Knoxville it was the same situation. I was hydrated and making lots of pit stops every hour. We had a nice Cobb Mobb Dinner at Cafe 4 that I barely made it in time for. We have a fun and exciting group from Cobb Mobb East side in Tennessee and Marianna Clement made it in from Dallas. 


I stayed with the Deane's from Cobb Mobb. Jimmy and Sharon that is. They have their on little bike shop down in the basement. There is never such a thing as too many bikes. This doesn't include 4 of their main bikes with all Cobb saddles on them. 

Saturday morning I slept in and did a spin and short run. We then headed over the expo and did a short swim. Thanks to Clay Emge for letting me borrow his old wetsuit. It gave me more flexibility in the shoulders than my old blueseventy suit, but unfortunately is DNA need not rub off on me. 

Sunday it was on. I chatted with my Sports Psychologist, Craig Williard on the drive to Knoxville and it was about keeping Forward Focus throughout the race and not getting distracted by others. I made sure to  note that and I also put Evan in writing our baby to be born in July to hopefully gather some of that "Old Man Daddy strength". 

The Cobb Mobb Cheer squad was on in Knoxville. 

I got off too a good start on my swim and thought I was swimming my best ever. No problems sighting and got some good drafts on some faster people. I still only swam 34 minutes but a few other  guys reported slow swims. It had started raining while we were in the water. I knew this was going to make for an interesting bike. The bike course was no joke! It was hilly and technical going down hills with sharp curves and turns something we do not get a lot of in East Texas. I was hoping the mountain bike skills that I had developed would help but the roads were just too slick for me to be fancy.  I had a bit of trouble getting into a rhythm and finding my legs. We were usually either going up or down and riding on this course in the rain made things sketchy. There were a lot of people crashing out and I saw one guy face down in the ditch. Not wanting be one of them I rode relatively conservatively and even then I almost went down on a right hand turn going over a bridge. At mile 42, I heard the awful noise "sphhhh" of my rear tire going flat.  Dang it! I "ripped" the tire off and  put my spare on.  When I turned the C02 cartridge it leaked from the valve stem. I shot from the hip for good measure with my other cartridge and did the same thing. I guess I have a long 14 mile walk I told myself. I started walking and the next aid station was right up the corner so I was able to get a sag back. 

When we finally made it back to transition I turned in my timing chip but preceded to get in a run anyways.  My first two miles were great, but then I hit the great wall. I guess waiting so long to get a ride back and not finishing some of gels on the bike did me in. I scarfed down a lot of the food at the first aid station and that felt much better and that carried me to the half way point just under 6:30 pace. Coming back was awful, the struggle was real! I kept going and I had been pausing my watch and not walking my rest  breaks so I actually ran all of it, just with stops. 

The drive back was the real success of this race and trip. I'm saving the vacation days that I can and use those after Evan is born. I drove all the way back after the race  from Knoxville to Tyler, Tx and was awake for over 25 hours. My fueling strategy after 10pm consisted of 4 of the largest cups of coffee at the Loves service stations along the interstate. I made it in at 5:45am and was up at 8:30 am to be at the office ready to sell Cobb Cycling products. 

As it didn't go to plan I think we realized where we've been lacking and how to go forward with the limited time for now on the road to Kansas.Thanks to God for letting me have a fun race and experience in Tennessee.  Thanks to my beautiful & pregnant wife for all the support, my family, Cobb Mobb, Cobb Cycling,  Team Extremus, and Coach Jeremy! 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Top 10 Tips to Run Faster Off the Bike

The toughest part for many triathletes is the run off the bike. The temperature has often risen to nearly the hottest part of the day by the time many triathletes are off the bike and running. With my best 10 tips to help you run off the bike stronger and faster you'll find yourself on your way to a PR. 

Many runners often transfer to triathlon racing thinking they are going to do well on the run. However, a great runner can often be beaten by a not-so great runner when it comes to running off the bike. The great runner may lack the overall strength that an all around triathlete may have. 

I come from a running back ground before I started racing triathlons and I've had really good runs and extremely bad runs off the bike. I have learned the most from my mistakes than my successes. In doing so, I've come up with my best ten run tips to help you run faster off the bike.   

Coach William's 10 Best Tips for a Faster Run Off the Bike

1. Strength Train.  Through researching many articles there is advice on strength training to improve your run or bike. I couldn't find articles directly related to running off the bike. Regardless, these are interrelated and I put strength training at the top of the list for running well off the bike. This would include a variety of exercises with high endurance 20-25 reps to real heavy weight of 4-6 reps. The main thing strength training helps you is to stay strong and maintain good form into the late miles of the race after a tough a swim and bike. I know many triathletes only do strength training in the off season and back off when racing season comes around losing a ton of strength by seasons end. I prefer a more year-round program for most of my athletes.

2.  Quick Turnover. It's best to start the run in quick fast steps because of the oxygen rich blood that is in your cycling legs that create the heavy dead leg feeling you have coming off the bike. By focusing on a quick turnover in the early miles of the run it will help delay the fatigue in your legs. 

3. Pacing the bike. Many triathletes push the bike way too hard for a few reasons. They are all about the bike and get too excited and over push leading to a disastrous run or they are actually racing with surges and power spikes, which is another topic on it's own. Ideally, you want to keep your pace (watts) and effort even throughout the bike and limit any power spikes, especially if you looking to finish or PR.  Your cadence should be the same through the whole bike leg.  Athletes that are in race mode where there are power surges to drop their competitors are super fit and understand there are consequences and benefits to doing so.  A good coach can help you plan a successful race strategy for both the age grouper who needs to keep their efforts even or an elite who is racing to win. 

4. Build into the run. The most common mistake for triathletes is starting the run too fast. With cheering spectators hanging around the transition area it's easy to get wrapped up in the excitement. Blitzing those first few miles early on will have you walking much of the second half.  Stay in control of your emotions and build into the first few miles of the run. You will be able to keep running once the spectators are out of sight. Save the excitement for when you come through the finish line chute. You will have a better second half race by doing so. 

5. Form.  As the race goes on so does your form because of physical and mental fatigue. You can follow my best run form tips from, "How to PR by Run Technique" here.   In addition to form technique, see number 1. Strength training will strengthen you to hold better form for longer. 

6. Short Cranks.  This is often a hot topic of debate.  The benefits of short cranks for running well off the bike is that it can increase  your cadence on the bike about 5%. This is to closely match your run cadence by making it feel easier to start running off the bike.  Short cranks open up the hip angle more allowing you to feel fresher coming off the bike compared to standard (172mm) cranks. Short cranks are usually anywhere from 145-165 mm.  You should talk to your local and experienced bike fitter that you trust to figure out what size cranks would be best for you.  If you switch to short cranks a new bike fit should be in order. 

7. Nutrition. It's extremely important for events that take you longer than 2 hours to have a solid nutrition strategy. Either over-fueling and under-fueling can lead to a less than par run, a trip to medical tent, or even worse, a DNF. Talk to your triathlon coach and/or nutritionist for a strategy that will set you up best for success.  

8. Frequency. This isn't for everyone, but it doesn't hurt to stay acquainted regularly brick training. There are several methods your coach can implement in your bike to run training, such as, easy short "transition" runs, "goal" pace or different heart rate efforts off the bike. Some triathletes will run up to 3-5 times a week off the bike. It just depends on each athlete. When you practice "brick-runs" in training, have your run shoes and nutrition ready to go.  Keep in mind there are no breaks in triathlon racing and you should practice how your race. The clock keeps going - so don't dilly dally in training. Keep your cell phone out of sight in the back of your jersey pocket. I know it seems everyone is taking a "selfie" or a picture of their gear every time they ride a bike. You do not need to.   If you must take a selfie or a picture of your gear wait until you finish the run. Transition times are essential and you should practice how you race.    

9. Bike Focus.  You won't find too much of this tip on the triathlon internet.  If your are a great stand-alone runner but struggle to your capabilities to run off the bike then a bike focus could be what you need.  For a strong runner who struggles to run off the bike it maybe because they over-biked or lack necessary bike strength. A month or two of a bike focus in the off-season can really help you have a better run off the bike.  

10. Stay positive.  In triathlon training and racing there will sure be some dark moments when you think you can't go on anymore. Running off the bike for any distance is physically and mentally tough!  Right as the time starts to get rough you need start adding mental tricks. It's good idea to have some positive self-talk but something you can actively focus on will help you in a race as well. Some good mental tricks to battle your brain fighting against you is to start counting your strides, breaths, or telephone poles - Instead of thinking how far you need to run, breaking it up segments by phone poles, mailboxes, or trees will make running more doable and you'll probably come out faster because of it. 

In addition to knowing about these tips there ton of benefits to having a great Coach to help you progress, like knowing when you need hold back and when to let it rip. I have limited availability open for new passionate athletes from beginners to elites. There is no goal too small or too big. I'm currently coaching a group of athletes with different goals (Ex. Finishing first 70.3 or Ironman, Boston qualify, Podium finish).  If you are interested in details or have questions, please email me to schedule an interview at

Friday, May 8, 2015

Tri Tyler

Calley and I left the week before to Fort Walden Beach, Florida, just a week before the Tri Tyler triathlon.

While we were enjoying our vacation we found out the first day we were there our house was actually struck by lightening. It cracked through the brick in our attic, roof damage, knocked out the a/c, and caused a gas leak among a few other things.

We left these views and a lot of seafood a few days earlier than what we had planned on.

We assessed our damage and  got rested from the travel. I went back to work early and started a  3 - day training block ending with the Tri Tyler olympic. There was Fast Friday, Super Saturday, and Suffer Sunday. My legs were jacked by Sunday. I actually slept in compression tights Saturday as I was more sore than what I was expecting to be.

We had great weather Sunday morning. I was about to prepare for my swim warmup and as I was about to put my wetsuit on I spotted a huge rip in the knee. Suprisingly, I was freaking out. My boy, Mark Saroni on the Cobb Mobb team had an extra swim skin he let me use.

It was a fast start in the swim and there was only a small handful of us. I jumped on the feet of the faster swimmers to the first buoy, but couldn't hang on. I had a bit of trouble going out and sighting but coming back I was much faster. Regardless of not having a wetsuit, I still had one of my fastest swims in the last couple of years with or without a wetsuit. I imagined I could probably have been a couple of minutes faster with a wetsuit but came out in 25:42, and about 2 minutes faster on the way back in.

The bike was curvy and I had a big deficit to over-come. There was a second left turn in the course where you take two lefts very close together, well, I missed the second left. I had my head buried down and almost ran over the volunteer as I went passed the turn and started fish tailing trying to slow down as my rear tire skid. On the second loop I knew I was on my way to catching Tim and had caught him by the end of the bike. I ended up with the fastest bike split for the olympic in 23.4 the results said.

After catching Tim on the bike, I thought if I could just have a decent run I could probably catch Clint for the overall.

That's not what happened. Tim and I started the run together. My goals were just to hold 5:45s starting out. Tim was right next to me the first mile. We did hit the first mile in 5:45 but not long after the fatigue in my legs caught up to me and I couldn't respond. I managed to finish 2nd overall because Clint went off course and had he to run part of another loop. I did find a little bit of spring back in my legs the last mile as I was trying to hold off Clint from coming back.  It's always great to race with the Wooley G guys from Longview.

Thanks again to God for another good race and getting me through the run. To my Beautiful Pregant Wife and Family! The Cobb Mobb Team, Extremus, and Coach J. Thanks to Steve Farris and all the Volunteers who put on a fantastic event in the Tyler community.