Category: Running

The Science Behind Usain Bolt and his 100m World Records

20130731-205618.jpgScientists say they can explain what makes Usain Bolt so fast.

“They say their model explains the power and energy he had to expend to overcome drag caused by air resistance, made stronger by his frame of 6ft 5in.

Writing in the European Journal of Physics, the team hope to discover what makes extraordinary athletes so fast.”

It would be really interesting to see models of top athletes in other sports. No doubt there would be a lot of learning for us all to enjoy and benefit from.

There should rightly be a lot of skepticism however given recent and not-so-recent drug testresults.

One thing I do not like about the article is the following section where the scientist talks about “improving” with a faster tail wind (all else being equal). Of course, he might run faster as a result but he is most certainly not improving as an athlete.

“Bolt’s Berlin record was won with a tail wind of only 0.9m per second, which didn’t give him “the advantage of helpful wind assistance”, he added.

“You’re allowed to have a wind no greater than 2m per second to count for record purposes, so without becoming any faster he has huge scope to improve,” Prof Barrow told BBC News.”

Secret of Bolt’s speed unveiled20130731-205759.jpg

Conquer the New York City Triathlon – New and updated for 2013!

The Aquaphor New York City Triathlon is a fun event, with tons of people flying in to tackle a great race and enjoy a weekend in the Big Apple. With a run through Manhattan and Central Park, it is rightly a popular race, but it is also a difficult course.

I have raced the NYC Triathlon a few times, and coach Team in Training and Tri Latino teams for this race, practicing the route regularly throughout the year. Here are my top tips to help deal with some of the tougher elements of the course. Give them a read and profit from some insider knowledge!

Tips for the Aquaphor New York City Triathlon

Let me know if you have your own tips to add, or any specific questions.

Read the athlete guidecourse description, etc. on the official New York City Triathlon website well in advance! Do it before you do anything else. If you have supporters coming, the Spectator Guide is full of useful info too – make them read that rather than asking YOU stupid questions and distracting you from vital race day prep!

Mandatory race briefings: These are a compulsory element and there for your benefit and safety. Try and attend on Friday (12-7pm) before the hordes descend on the hotel over the weekend. It’ll be a much easier task and you can enjoy the expo. Show up on time to your briefing – they don’t admit latecomers and you don’t want to be hanging around aimlessly. There’s a city to explore and much pre-race relaxing to be done.

Racking your bike: You have to leave your bike in transition on Saturday afternoon (~2-9pm). Cover your bike with plastic bags in case of rain, and deflate your tires a little bit to avoid them going POP! in the sun. I’ve jumped at many an exploding tire in the background while setting up!

You don’t want to turn up to your bike on Sunday morning only to find you have to fix a flat! Bring a pump to re-inflate them on Sunday morning. Even if you don’t need it, you will make a lot of BFF’s if you have a pump to share!

There is plenty of security there, but don’t leave your other gear there, just the bike. You don’t want it getting moved, scattered, misplaced, rained on, etc. overnight. Bring it with you on Sunday morning.

Pay attention to the new security measures. Official clear plastic bags only, no Camelbaks (UPDATE: apparently they are now allowed again – but pay attention to announcements for any changes), etc. Read up and come prepared. Adjust your training this week accordingly.

Bring a torch and headlamp for pre-race set-up. It will be dark at 5am and while there is lighting, you will be glad of it when you are poking around in your bag looking for your lucky teddy bear.

Walking to the swim start: You walk from ~72nd St transition area to the swim start at ~99th St. That’s 27 blocks or over a mile. Leave enough time to set up transition, walk up, collect your chip, drop off some belongings, etc. Wear some comfortable shoes that you don’t mind forgetting about. Bring a mag (to read, not for your gun. No guns allowed in transition), do your stretching, visualize your race, relax on the grass. Bring some snacks, gels and a water bottle as you will be there a while. Talk to your teammates.

From kelseytraining.com (now defunct)

Relax! Don’t stress about the swim. The water is (officially/technically) clean. Read up on the swim start procedures. Watch the waves ahead of you to get an idea of how it works.

In the water you might bump into some flotsam but ignore it. It ain’t a 3-eyed critter, just some driftwood. Carry on.

NYC Triathlon swim start tips

Let the current do the work. Take advantage of the fastest, easiest swim you’ll do in a triathlon. When you jump in (don’t dive!), the current will whisk you down river. Don’t stress, it is benign and trying to help! Get on your belly and start stroking. Be glad of the current. If you don’t like the idea of jumping in with 30 other athletes, let them jump first, wait a second or two (but not too long) and then go for it, start your race!

Swim to the outside, away from the wall where the current is strongest and let it carry you home. Near the wall is where the water will be choppiest, and the current the weakest.

You don’t need to do a lot of sighting in the swim as you will have the wall to your left which will take you down to swim finish in a straight line. There are also signs marking the route at 500m, 1000m, etc. Now is the time to practice breathing to your left in order to track your progress and ensure you are swimming parallel to shore, and in a straight line.

At the swim finish let the lifeguards pull you up. Swim right into the dock and take your time standing up. The floor is muddy (and gross) and you don’t want to get dizzy as you stand up.

Grab a quick shower on the way to transition to clear the Hudson muck, and then make your way casually to transition. It’s another 5-7 blocks back to your transition area. Read the course guide, to prep for the route in and out of transitions.

Transition: There are two different transition areas (red & yellow) and specific routes in and out for bike and run. Basically, run in and out of one entrance/exit and bike in and out of the other entrance.

Bike start: After cruising out of T1 (watch out for wayward, dizzy swimmers running to T1) you hit “Hot Corner” which is a sharp, 90 degree turn into a steep uphill. Thus, make sure you rack your bike in the easiest gear so you can get up that hill. There are crowds right on that corner for the bike start and swim finish, so make sure you don’t fall over in front of them!

via CNN

Hydrate! It will be hot out there.

Bike course: The course is crowded, particularly on the bike, with scant regard for drafting rules, and a lot of dangerous riding. This is partly due to newbies but also to aggressive, overly competitive athletes. Be alert, call your passes, check before you pull out to pass, ride defensively. It might cost you a couple of minutes but you’ll minimize the risk of crashing out.

There are rolling hills on the course. Take note, often in the city, hills are underestimated.

At the end of the bike course you ride past transition down to 59th st before looping back to 72nd St and into transition for T2. Read the course map so you aren’t surprised by this. It is utterly demoralizing when you are looking forward to getting your butt off the bike, only to have to cycle an extra 20 blocks!

On the way back in for T2, remember what goes up, must come down! Ride slowly down that steep hill into transition. Some of the volunteers may be overzealous New Yorkers and will not be shy in stopping you and “helping” you off your bike.

The run is fantastic! The crowds along 72nd St are so supportive, loud and motivating. However, first you have to tackle a short, steep hill out of T2 onto the roads. Manage that part, especially given your legs will be jelly after the bike. Once you reach the crowds and the adrenaline starts pumping, don’t go crazy. Enjoy their cheering, but manage your pace. 72nd Street is uphill and over half a mile long. You don’t want to cramp up as soon as you get into the park!

Take advantage of the aid stations for water and nutrition, as NYC can be hot and humid in the summer, even at 8am or 9am.

There are some nice, rolling hills in Central Park to keep you on your toes. They gradually get tougher until you are at the northern-most part of the course near Harlem (video of Harlem Hill, opposite direction). After the downhill Harlem Hill section as you turn south, there is one last tough hill to conquer before the gradients ease off.

Once you conquer those hills and start heading south on the east side of the park it is relatively flat before you hit downhill Cat Hill and arrive at 72nd St where the crowds will again welcome you!

Just when you expect to turn left for the finish line, you will have to turn right and run around a little-who-put-that-there-and-why-the-heck-do-I-have-to-run-around-it fountain before looping back for the finish line. Read the course map and there’ll be no surprises on race day!

Look out for cheer sections like Team in Training and Tri Latino‘s support crews. Feed off their energy. They are cheering YOU on as well.

Once you have finished kicking ass, the finish area is crowded with friends, relatives, toursits and well-wishers. Grab your recovery nutrition and go find your supporters. It is best to make a plan in advance otherwise finding each other will be tough.

Good luck and have fun. Remember: Strong like bull.

Then hit the city to celebrate.

31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence: #23 Don’t Break the Bank!

“31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence” is a series of tips you can apply in your daily triathlon training in order to kick your performance to the next level without any inordinate expense in time or money.

What tips would you add to the list?

Today’s tip is #23: Don’t Break the Bank!

Pile of cash - triathlon equipment does not have to be expensive

Triathlon can be a very expensive sport. The average competitor at a race seems to be a well-off, upwardly mobile CEO that – judging by their equipment – is fantastically rich!

I sometimes feel inadequate just showing up to a race with my standard bike, cheap technical t-shirt and old gear, while surrounded by literally thousands of dollars of triathlon equipment!

But hey, this sport is about racing your competitors and pushing yourself to achieve your goals.

So, I say forget the fancy equipment, purchase what you can afford. It doesn’t have to be top-end or expensive:

  • Buy a second-hand bike, or last season’s model (the same thing only cheaper)
  • In fact, purchase all your equipment at the end of the season when it is on sale
  • Do you need a fancy tri bike? Would a road bike suffice, or a hybrid that you can use for commuting as well?
  • Invest time in maintaining your equipment to avoid damaging and having to replace it – clean your bike after riding it, oil it, wash your swimsuit out, pack away your wetsuit carefully
  • Ask yourself do you need all the expensive add-ons (carbon seat post, tri bars, aero helmet)
  • Non-brand t-shirts for working out in
  • Shop for workout gear in discounts stores like TJ Maxx
  • Rather spending a fortune on cancer-inducing sports drinks try cheaper alternatives such as bananas, tap water
  • Make your own energy bars rather than buying branded ones (which are not necessarily better)
  • Fueling yourself for all this training can be expensive – make a packed lunch using leftovers
  • Often employers will offer discounts for gym memberships
  • Spend $25 on a foam roller and save a fortune on sports massages
  • Chlorine eats away at swim suits – instead of pricey, longer tri shorts, try longer-lasting models such as Speedo Endurance. My pair of “togs” have literally lasted me 5+ years!
  • Bike/tri shorts are great for comfort but do you need a tri top? Why not a normal (technical) t-shirt or tank top?
  • Many people purchase sport-specific sunglasses but you can get away with your everyday pair at no cost in your race time

Obviously there are a TON of variables in triathlon and many more ways to save money as you participate. Decide what you want to spend your money on, but do not feel pressured to purchase the latest, fanciest, most expensive kit.

With that said, there are a few pieces you should invest in wisely, and where cheapest is NOT best:

  1. A bike that fits well and is safe to ride
  2. Safety equipment such as bike helmet, bike lights, reflective gear for running at night
  3. Wetsuit that fits (sleeveless can be cheaper than full-body so weigh up their relative merits)
  4. Comfortable shoes (these do not have to be expensive, just make sure they fit well)

We do this for enjoyment, don’t let money worries get in the way of that. And remember, it’s about you pushing yourself, not high tech equipment carrying you to glory.

What money saving tips do you have? What pieces of equipment do you spend more money on?

“31 Easy Tips” thus far:

#1: Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
#2: Write Down Your Goals (Now!)
#3: Ask an Expert
#4: Start Stretching
#5: Track your progress towards your Goals
#6: Take a Cold Shower
#7: Incorporate Drills into your Workouts
#8: Superfoods for Superperformance
#9: Get Some Rest
#10: Cross train
#11: Reward Yourself
#12: Don’t Breathe in the Pool
#13: Take a Bath
#14: Do Squat!
#15: Get Yourself a Mentor
#16: Do Yoga
#17: Be on Time
#18:  Leave Your Bucket of Troubles at the Door
#19: Stay Healthy!
#20: Do LESS Freestyle
#21: Grind it Out on the Foam Roller
#22: Engage Your Core

31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence: #22 Engage Your Core

We are now over two thirds of the way through the “31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence” series. Have you started implementing some of the tips? If so, I hope it is helping. Implementing a couple of items (again, don’t try to do too much) will improve your triathlon performance in a holistic manner without a huge investment in time or effort. Train smart.

Today’s tip is #22: Engage Your Core

Roman's Amazing Dad, age 77!

It is not just his abs working here! (ritavida’s flickr)

This isn’t about doing a few ab exercises after your workout. It means to really engage your core while training in order to drive your efforts.

The core is the group of muscles that control and support your spine and pelvis, i.e. the stomach, back, and hip muscles.

Arms and legs fatigue fast, so use your hips and abs and pecs – all massive muscles – to maximize the output from your efforts. Our focus is on maximizing the results of our efforts (i.e. efficiency), not just working hard and pushing ourselves.

Strengthen your core with plenty of sit-ups and core body exercises (planks, squats, push-ups, etc). Then engage your stronger, more powerful core when training and racing:

  • In the water:
    Use your torso to rotate your hips and drive your arm forwards. We can only get so much from our arms in the swim before they fatigue. Rotate to drive your hand to the front of the pull quicker, increase your distance per stroke and power through the pull. Rotating your hips also improves your streamlining in the water
  • On the bike:
    Engage your abs when cycling to ensure you are staying stable and getting max power from your glutes and quads. Don’t bounce around in the saddle, stay relaxed and power your legs. Ensure all your energy is focused in one direction: forwards
  • When running:
    Use your core to maintain good posture and keep your legs and arms pumping while maintaining balance. A strong core will also give you greater range of motion allowing you to reach and drive forward

A lot of people focus on particular muscles (“work those guns”) but it is <abs>olutely criminal to not leverage a huge source of power! Along with the technique benefits above, a stronger core will also help with injury prevention.

The list of “31 Easy Tips” series so far:

#1: Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
#2: Write Down Your Goals (Now!)
#3: Ask an Expert
#4: Start Stretching
#5: Track your progress towards your Goals
#6: Take a Cold Shower
#7: Incorporate Drills into your Workouts
#8: Superfoods for Superperformance
#9: Get Some Rest
#10: Cross train
#11: Reward Yourself
#12: Don’t Breathe in the Pool
#13: Take a Bath
#14: Do Squat!
#15: Get Yourself a Mentor
#16: Do Yoga
#17: Be on Time
#18:  Leave Your Bucket of Troubles at the Door
#19: Stay Healthy!
#20: Do LESS Freestyle
#21: Grind it Out on the Foam Roller

31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence: #21 Grind it Out on the Foam Roller

How is the “31 Easy Tips…” series treating you? I hope it is helping. Implement one or two things from the list (don’t try to do too much) over the course of a few weeks and track your progress. These tips are elements of triathlon that you might not come to mind, but will contribute to improved performance without significant effort.

Today’s tip is #21: Grind it Out on the Foam Roller

Using a foam roller for triathlon recovery stretching fitness

In this case “it” refers to any knot in your muscles. If you have tight or achy muscles a foam roller will help. The nature of triathlon is that we perform the same movements over and over – be it on the bike or while running – and this leads to sore and tight muscles.

You can use it before or after a workout as a form of massage and to break down trigger points in your muscles.

When you start using one, it will likely hurt like hell, so vary the pressure and ease into it, and after a couple of weeks it will hurt less as your muscles loosen up.

There are many benefits to using a foam roller. One major one is injury prevention – I used to have ITB problems but once I started foam rolling I have experienced no issues.

It is the one piece of equipment I recommend before all others. OK, maybe except for a swim suit!

All it takes is 10 minutes a few times a week. Incorporate it into your stretching routine and/or do it in front of the TV. Spend $20-50 on a foam roller and you have access to unlimited free massages!

Previous tips in the 31 Easy Tips series include:

#1: Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
#2: Write Down Your Goals (Now!)
#3: Ask an Expert
#4: Start Stretching
#5: Track your progress towards your Goals
#6: Take a Cold Shower
#7: Incorporate Drills into your Workouts
#8: Superfoods for Superperformance
#9: Get Some Rest
#10: Cross train
#11: Reward Yourself
#12: Don’t Breathe in the Pool
#13: Take a Bath
#14: Do Squat!
#15: Get Yourself a Mentor
#16: Do Yoga
#17: Be on Time
#18:  Leave Your Bucket of Troubles at the Door
#19: Stay Healthy!
#20: Do LESS Freestyle

31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence: #16 Do Yoga

The “31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence” is a series of easy-to-implement tips that provide avenues to improve your performance.

Today’s tip is #16: Do Yoga. All you need is 60-90 minutes and head to the studio for a (hopefully) free intro class.

yoga for triathletes to help swimming, cycling, core strength and running

Try yoga. Or rather *do* yoga, remember, there is no try!

Yoga is great for many reasons:

  1. Flexibility
  2. Recovery
  3. Core strength
  4. Balance
  5. De-stressing

It involves 60-90 minutes of concentration and keeping your focus in the room on each pose. I can be very scatterbrained and the focus required at yoga helps me during a tough set or on race day.

Also, I tend to really have to negotiate with myself to stretch after practice. Attending yoga is like a freebie: get 1 hour+ of stretching, core and flexibility work disguised as a decent workout. If, like me, you struggle to do 10 minutes of stretching after a workout, then yoga could help kill the proverbial two birds!

Give yoga a shot, you’ve got nothing to lose…except your stress!

Previous tips in the 31 Easy Tips series include: 

#1: Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
#2: Write Down Your Goals (Now!)
#3: Ask an Expert
#4: Start Stretching
#5: Track your progress towards your Goals
#6: Take a Cold Shower
#7: Incorporate Drills into your Workouts
#8: Superfoods for Superperformance
#9: Get Some Rest
#10: Cross train
#11: Reward Yourself
#12: Don’t Breathe in the Pool
#13: Take a Bath
#14: Do Squat!
#15: Get Yourself a Mentor

31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence: #14 Do Squat!

The “31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence” is a series of easy-to-implement tips that provide avenues to improve your performance. Be it recovery, technique or trying something new in training, the tips are relatively straightforward and yield larger gains than simply doubling your efforts in practice.

Today’s tip is #14: Do Squat!

Not as in “do diddly squat“, but as in perform the “squat” exercise. Defined here, and widely considered to be one of the best exercises you can do.

Types and benefits of Squats for triathletes

The benefits of squats include:

  1. Increase functional strength
  2. Full body workout
  3. Improved running strength and increased watts on the bike
  4. Injury prevention
  5. and more

You don’t need a gym and a massive stack of weights, you can do various types of squats in your living room:

  1. Pistol squat
  2. Prisoner squat
  3. Jump squat
  4. Lunges
  5. etc, etc.

Do not injury yourself. That is an order!
Focus first and foremost on correct technique. Don’t try to out-squat all the heavies in the gym, and watch your knees. I repeat, do not give yourself bad knees.

If you are new to the exercise, ease into it, and be patient with results. Your legs will be tired at first but after a few of months of consistently performing squats you should notice the increased strength in your legs and core.

Previous tips in the 31 Easy Tips series include:

#1: Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
#2: Write Down Your Goals (Now!)
#3: Ask an Expert
#4: Start Stretching
#5: Track your progress towards your Goals
#6: Take a Cold Shower
#7: Incorporate Drills into your Workouts
#8: Superfoods for Superperformance
#9: Get Some Rest
#10: Cross train
#11: Reward Yourself
#12: Don’t Breathe in the Pool
#13: Take a Bath

31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence: #13 Take a Bath

The “31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence” is a series of easy-to-implement tips that provide avenues to improve your performance. Be it recovery, technique or trying something new in training, the tips are relatively straightforward and yield larger gains than simply doubling your efforts in practice.

Tip #12 is Take a Bath. All you need is a tub, some water and half an hour to reap the recovery benefits of bath time.

Benefits of bath time for recovery for athletes triathletes ironman

You can take a nice warm bath after working out or at the end of a long week. Or if you’re brave and/or feeling particularly sore, take an ice bath. Ease into that with cold showers perhaps.

Add bath salts for some benefits (maybe) or just make it a bubble bath for relaxation.

Benefits include mental relaxation, release muscle tension, sweat out toxins, de-stress, recovery post-exercise, switch off from your family the world briefly, etc, etc.

How to do it:

  1. Fill tub
  2. Get in
  3. Tune out.

Previous tips in the 31 Easy Tips series include:

#1: Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
#2: Write Down Your Goals (Now!)
#3: Ask an Expert
#4: Start Stretching
#5: Track your progress towards your Goals
#6: Take a Cold Shower
#7: Incorporate Drills into your Workouts
#8: Superfoods for Superperformance
#9: Get Some Rest
#10: Cross train
#11: Reward Yourself
#12: Don’t Breathe in the Pool

Run workout: Cross Fit inspired

With a hat tip to Cross Fit, today’s run workout consisted of: 6 mins moderate pace (w/10 push ups, squats, dips, lunges every 1 min) + 6 mins hard (6min mile pace) x3.

Then puke!

Who Would Want to be a Triathlon Coach?

Who would want to be a coach?

We endure long seasons of early mornings and late evening practices, have minimal social life and must humor grumpy athletes.

While they are racing, we get up with them at the crack of dawn and hang around for long days in the sun getting sun-burnt in order to support them. We suffer from stress making sure everything and everyone is ready, try to minimize nerves, hoping the athletes race well and achieve their goals.

It’s a tough life.

But I wouldn’t change it.

I just had a bunch of athletes from a couple of teams finish the New York City triathlon and their delight at competing and achieving their goals makes all the hard work worth it.

I love calming their nerves pre-race, reminding them of their hard work and progress over the season, and helping eliminate that self-doubt.

I love when they conquer their fears, go from not being able to swim to tackling a triathlon; when they feel so confident in their ability that they wave at you from the start line and then just jump in and go for it…while smiling!


I love seeing their determination as they speed by on the bike and push up long, hard hills at end of the run.

And most of all, I love their smiles and elation upon finishing the race.

I do it because they have a goal, they work hard to achieve it and through sheer determination they achieve it.

And I do it because I want to be a part of that journey.