Part 3 - Building an Athlete - Will the real key data points, please stand up (thanks for that line Eminem)Read Now
In the last 2 blogs we covered everything you need to know to get you to this point. Now, how to present that to an athlete that isn’t necessarily pleased with their build or race execution. Utilizing the data points that I mentioned in the last post, I will shape it for you in the terms that are easy to understand that we see in the data.
Pretending that the course and conditions are equal (we know they are not but bare with me here) here is what we see:
For IMWI this athlete rode a 5:39 bike on 215w NP. For their previous Ironman, 2018 IMTX, they rode a 4:58 on 196w NP. The one before that, 2017 IMChoo, they rode a 5:33 on 196 NP.
Now basic math tells me more is more. In this case more doesn’t equal faster because of varying conditions and terrain but it shows me that the athlete had more bike fitness than we assumed going into IMWI (goal race power was actually 185-195 NP due to the fact of the big question mark from the training build, issues along the way and the data from 2 key, back to back centuries) We knew we were being a little cautious on the bike but Paul blew that number away with his monster 215 NP for IMWI. Lesson #1 learned for me the coach.
Now onto the more fun/sexy aerobic decoupling (Pw:Hr). To me this is a true metric of progress for a long course athlete. Let’s look at the numbers first:
Pw:Hr data - (from athlete’s device)
2017 IMChoo - 10.45%
2018 IMTX - 9.94%
2019 IMWI - 7.86%
WHOA...hold the phone. You are telling me that this athlete rode more NP than ever before and had an all time low aerobic decoupling?
Yes. That is what I am seeing and saying. How does that happen? Well that is where I am current standing and trying to discover. Obviously there are things that can impact this that are outside of our control. Heat/humidity (I know these were different), 1-2 years more of aerobic development through training, athlete nutritional execution (can partially file this with the heat/humidity topic) and potentially something I still have not learned.
Either way, the final breakdown is while the athlete did not go “faster” on the day, he performed the best he ever has and his body responded better than ever before.
There’s a lot to read here but I hope it helps you to take a step back and re-evaluate the way you judge your performances
Far too often athletes get caught staring at data points that will just leave them down a slippery slope. While at times the data points they like to reference or have a little bit of understanding of can't help them and are of value but often times they can lead you down the wrong path. all of this is said with bated breath because it is definitely a double-edged sword when it comes to data and which parts matter when.
I am going to present to you a very simple way that I look at an athlete's progress based on where he is an athlete and data points that to me, are black and white that are a good example of fitness and/or gains.
For this particular example I used to data points to compare races over time. I utilized normalized power and aerobic decoupling during the race.
In the three races that I sampled, two of them where what most would consider hilly and one of them was what most would consider flat. Ironman Chattanooga features more longer sustain climbs with a little bit of rollers, Ironman Wisconsin has some sustained climbs but is more rollers and Ironman Texas has a few small inclines but is majority flat.
Course Difficulty Rating -
2017 IMChoo -
Swim - River
Bike - 1.5
Run - 3.1
2018 IMTX -
Swim - Lake
Bike - 1.2
Run - 0.4
2019 IMWI -
Swim - Lake
Bike - 2.2
Run - 1.6
Total Bike Elevation (as recorded on his Garmin) -
2017 IMChoo - 4,808 ft gain
2018 IMTX - 1,224
2019 IMWI - 4,120
Bike Split Times - (from athlete’s device)
2017 IMChoo - 5:38 (115 miles)
2018 IMTX - 4:58 (110 miles)
2019 IMWI - 5:39 (112 miles)
The common recurring theme with most athletes is they will look at their bike split time and immediately judge their overall performance for that portion of the race. Often times, they struggle to be able to make fair comparisons of course difficulty, weather conditions (wind, water temps, humidity, air temp) and immediately assume slower is just in fact that, slower.
In all actuality slower is slower, until it is not. Confused yet?
What if an athlete was more aerobically efficient but slower finish time? What if an athlete rode an all time NP PR for a race of that distance and was slower? Are they then still slower? It all depends on your definition of growth and/or success.
Aerobic fitness can be seen in a few different ways but for this race I chose the aerobic decoupling (or Pw:Hr)
(you can learn more about that here: https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/how-to-use-aerobic-decoupling/)
Aerobic decoupling will give you a great snapshot of the athlete’s aerobic fitness as it pertains to long course racing. 0% being even and a delta of 10% or more as a flag of overexertion or lack of aerobic fitness (this can also be indicative of dehydration/nutritional issues, impending sickness and a few other factors)
The other data point I am using for this is Normalized Power (NP). NP is defined as Essentially, normalized power, is a weighted average of the pedaling you have done during a particular ride. This metric gives extra emphasis to high-output efforts and accounts for surges or spikes in power. In other words, a great metric to see the true work being done.
In the next blog post I will show you what I discovered and why it matters more than a finishing time.
The proof is in the pudding...or so the saying goes. I like proof and I like pudding this seems like it would be a good start to a little real talk conversation.
Plain and simple I absolutely love what I do as a coach. What are the biggest struggles that I have is when an athlete does not see what I see is a coach. In my growth as a coach I have learned new ways to use the analytics to help paint the picture for an athlete. Any good politician can spin anything to make it look one way or another. Data is not much different. However there are some points of data that are straight black and white and cannot be spun. I try to seek those out when I'm presenting an athlete with results or progress or regression.
As a coach I have to hold myself accountable for an athlete's progress and also hold the athlete accountable for equal progress. Undoubtedly, there have been times that I have made a mistake and I always try to correct that mistake, admit it and learn from it.Equally, there are times that athletes make mistakes and we work on those and move forward. But that's not what this blog post is about. This blog post is showing you the proof that I have found in the pudding.
How do you address an athlete who is clearly making progress but doesn't see it. That is one of the great mysteries and struggles of coaching but it is one of the things that we should strive for, as coaches, to help unlock the athletes mind.
I present to you, exhibit A, Paul Miller.
Paul Miller is an 8x IM finisher with aspirations of a legacy spot to Kona and, one day, seeing 10:30 on the race clock. In the past 2 years he has had an all time PR and multiple finishes under 12 hours so the progress is definitely there.
In his last build up to Ironman Wisconsin, he admitted that he didn't have a great build because of a couple of very strange issues that we had to take a little bit of time off for, which is very uncommon for him. Leading into the race there was frustration in his perceived Fitness level and part of that is because of a shaky build and perhaps his overall goal setting and appreciation of the variation of course difficulties.
In an attempt to try to settle everything out and figure out just what was going on in if this athlete actually progressing, I just decided to pull a few bike numbers from Ironman Chattanooga in 2017, Ironman Texas in 2018 and his most recent race at Ironman Wisconsin in 2019.
In Part two of this blog series I will lay out which data points I targeted and why. In Part 3, I present the data findings from this athletes performances and what we can learn from them.
Mind Right Endurance coaches are here to address the many question, issues and topics that endurance athletes encounter all the time! Check them out and share them with your friends!