Front of Pack to Back of Pack Comparison

Last week, I read a really fantastic blog post by former Team Rev3 member Heather Gannoe about an experience she had at a recent running race where she observed first-hand for the first time what a back-of-the-pack racer experiences.  It’s a real eye-opener post – and depicts an environment that a whole lot of us athletes never get to experience.  Heather’s post is a must-read.  Take a few moments to read the comments as well, as they are really remarkable.  You can find Heather’s post (HERE).

Reading Heather’s post reminded me of a blog I wrote a couple of years ago after racing Rev3’s South Carolina race.

I was coming off a really good performance (for me).  In fact, I earned a really significant personal best at the race – and felt really stoked about how I did at the race.  Honestly, I was no where near the pointy end of the race, but I wasn’t the last place finisher either.  Clearly, I was a back of the mid-pack runner.  I wanted to compare my race with that of the professionals who actually won the race that year.

The results blew me away (honestly, so did the pros)!  Ever wonder just how fast a professional triathlete is?  Click (HERE) for my article and a pretty snazzy (if I say so myself) graphical representation of just how slow I was …. er…. just how fast they were!



Just How Fast Are Pro Triathletes?

After having watched more hours of triathlon online this weekend than I care to admit, I was taken aback by just how wickedly fast professionals are.  It’s one thing to watch coverage of a race on TV or online and think, “Well, they look pretty fast.”  It’s even plausible to think that a given professional isn’t that fast at all when you are watching a race on TV.  It’s not that they aren’t fast.  You just don’t have anything to compare them to gain a true reflection of their speed.

The same concept holds true when you’re sitting in a jet airliner looking down at the ground.  It’s hard to tell that you’re moving hundreds of miles an hour because you don’t have context.

I marveled at the splits turned in by Pete Jacobs in Kona, Andrew Starykowicz and Nicole Kelleher at Rev3 South Carolina.  Jacobs ran a 2:48 marathon in Kona.  Starykowicz finished the Half Rev (70.3 miles) in 3:49:10. 

But just how fast are they?  Again, it’s tough to really get it without some context.

And so, I’ve decided to add a little context.  I pulled Starky’s and Kelleher’s splits and plotted them out against my splits from the 2011 version of Rev3 South Carolina. 

Let’s just assume for hypothetical reasons that my 2011 race and their 2012 races were all in one magical all-together race, and that we all started at the same exact second (that doesn’t happen as the pros typically go off in different waves from age groupers). 

As you’d suspect, I would be well behind these two pros from the get-go. By the time we’d start to pull our water-logged bodies out of the lake, I’d already be down 13 minutes to Nicole and 17 minutes to Andrew.  Because I have a pretty slow transition – when I finally mount my QR and clip in, Andrew would be motoring on 8.5 miles down the road.  Nicole would be about 5.5 miles ahead of me.  And what’s worse?  They would both be pulling away as if I were in reverse.  Andrew averaged 26.5 miles per hour over the course of the 56 mile bike.  AVERAGED!  That means there were times where he was going far faster than that to offset the instances where he was a little slower.  Meanwhile – my maximum speed was 44 mph – and my average was just under 18 mph.  Nicole’s bike average was no slouch, either, at just under 22 mph.

Of course, a highlight of my race would be that as I was out on my run, I’d get to see the eventual winners pass me on their way back to the finish.  Well….not exactly.

You see, Starykowicz was long finished before I even stopped pedaling my bike.  He finished his entire race 21 minutes before I got off the bike and a full two hours and forty-eight minutes before I finished my race.  In this hypothetical race, if he could have maintained his run pace, he could have run an extra full marathon and still beat me by more than 10 minutes.  Nicole could have done just about the same thing!

Now, truth be told – I would have crossed paths with Kelleher as she was headed back in.  I’d be just starting mile 3 of my run. 

I knew that professional triathletes operated at a much higher level than I do – I’m a slow 40-something guy who does triathlon as a hobby – but I never thought about it like I’ve laid it out here.  Sort of shocking…..but then again, perhaps not.  I do know one thing, though.  If I want to see the men’s leader heading back into the finish line, I’ve got to cycle a whole lot faster!

One Month In & Already Behind Schedule!

Well, here we are at the end of the first month of 2012.  The year is roughly 8% done.  1/12th over.  The clock is spinning, and of course there’s no stopping it.

And I’m officially behind where I wanted to be.

How sad is that?

Even though I’m not “really” training for much right now, I am supposed to be in the midst of a general “prep” phase that should last through February.  At the beginning of the year, I laid out my plans for the year (here) which include swimming a quarter million yards, running at least 750 miles, and biking at least 1600 miles.  Well, one month down, and I’m lagging against those goals.

So far, I have swum exactly 11,700 yards, cycled 16 miles, and ran exactly zero miles.  That translates to 56.16% of my swim target, 12% of my cycling target and a big goose-egg on the run.  Spectacular.

Why did I miss?  No excuses here – I just didn’t prioritize my training compared to other things.  I didn’t get my butt out of bed in the mornings to run or ride the bike trainer.  I let work get in the way (dang – who needs a job anyway?).  I spent time with my family.  Valid reasons for not training, for sure, but those things don’t do anything to help meet my training goals – or my weight, for that matter.

And so, I’ve recalibrated my targets for February as a result of my miss.  In order for me to hit those targets I laid out at the beginning of the year, I now have to up my swim yards for February (and forward) to 22,000 yards swimming, 144 miles on the bike and 68 miles running.  Those break down to roughly 5425 yards swimming, 36 miles on the bike and 17 miles running.  Extremely do-able.

Time to get busy!

By The Numbers – 2011 Version

‘Tis the season for year-end articles extolling the accomplishments of the athlete and writer, of sport, of records earned (or lost), and who died during the year that has passed.

TriMadness will now officially jump on the wagon and proffer up our own version of the year-end list.  Actually, we took this approach last year (here), and had lots of fun digging back for information, data, and nuggets of information then.  This year, the exercise was equally fun and challenging.

So here you go….2011, by the numbers:

  • 5 – Number of races I entered in 2011
  • 3 – Number of PR’s I earned this year
  • 57 – minutes I shaved off my half-iron race time at Rev3 Anderson in October
  • 10,700 – Unique hits on TriMadness this year
  • 1232 – Number of hits on my article called “A Dear John Letter to Ironman
  • 1076 – Hits on “Open Water Swim Fears
  • 626 – Hits on “Lightning Intervals
  • 10 – Installments of “Ten Questions With…” written this year
  • 1 – eBook published (you can download it here)
  • 39 – Outstanding teammates on Team Trakkers.  I had an amazing year on this team, and am very excited to be on Team Rev3 Tri for 2012!
  • 50 – Number of states where my readers come from (NY, FL, TX, CO, and GA lead the way)
  • 95 – Number of countries other than the USA where my readers are (Canada, the UK, Australia, Germany, and New Zealand are the top five)
  • 144 – Stories published this year on TriMadness
  • 325 – Twitter followers (follow me here)
  • 79, 834 – Yards swam in 2011 (a 40.5% increase over 2010)
  • 954 – Miles biked (36.6% increase from 2010)
  • 479 – Miles ran (a paltry 2% increase from 2010)
  • 6 – Product reviews written this year
  • Top 10 – TriMadness named as one of‘s Top 10 Endurance Blogs
  • 47 – as in MPH.  My top speed at Rev3 Anderson.  Followed closely by 44 MPH – my top speed at Rev3 Knoxville
  • 1 – “Pukie” award earned by TriMadness during 2011.  Find out why
  • 168.5 – Points scored by TriMadness on the “Triathlon Naughty or Nice Calculator“.  I was fairly nice in 2011, and was rewarded generously with new gear from TYR!

I hope you and yours have a very, very blessed and Happy New Year!  Thanks, as always, for reading.

Bring it on, 2012!

>TriMadness Coaching Survey – The Results

>A couple of weeks ago, I asked you to take a few moments to complete a survey about coaching. I mentioned that this was all part of the advance research I was doing for a series of posts I planned to write about triathletes and coaching.

Well, it’s time to finally share the results of the survey and to set the stage for the upcoming series. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been interacting with some of the best coaches in the country. Picking their brains. I’ve done tons of reading about the concept of using a coach, including pros & cons. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll begin posting my thoughts and observations.

But first, the survey.

The survey was relatively simple. Eleven simple questions. Less than 90 seconds to complete for most people. I ran the survey off of TriMadness for about a week, and LOTS of you clicked over and took it. So thanks!

Now, the results – but keep in mind that this is not a “scientific” study, and the statistical significance of the data collected here compared to the overall population of triathletes is probably fairly low (I didn’t calculate it).

The first question I asked was how many folks actually use a coach. I was a little surprised to find that roughly half of the survey responders don’t use a coach or consider themselves self-coached.


By digging a little deeper into the underlying data, it’s fairly interesting to see that a higher proportion of men chose not to use a coach (69.57% versus 30.43%), whereas women are not only more likely to use a coach in general (57.14% to 42.86%), they are also more likely to use a coach for specific events (85.71% versus 14.29%) or to help them improve specific aspects of their triathlon training (100% of folks who responded with this choice were women).  I’m sure that there are some gender-specific stereotypes that I could belabor here, but I’m just going to say that according to my data, it just appears that guys would rather come up with their own plans.
It’s also interesting to examine the triathlon experience of folks who completed the survey, and then those that use coaches versus those who don’t.  Clearly, the vast majority of folks who completed the survey fall into the 2-5 years of experience category.
Of those athletes that indicated that they use a coach “all the time”, the majority of athletes fell into the 2-5 year category (28.57%) and the 5-7 year category (35.71%).  The third most prolific group was the cohort in the “More than 10 years” category.  Conversely, the data for those indicating that they “never” used a coach was skewed towards the lower end of the spectrum, with 8.7% of the respondents having less than one year of experience, 34.78% having 1-2 years experience and 39.13% having 2-5 years of experience.
There are likely multiple factors that cause the comparitively high results on the low experience side of the curve – chief among them unfamiliarity with coaches and the cost component associated with hiring a coach.  Roughly 54% of the survey takers who never use a coach cited “Cost – too expensive” as their primary reason.  Secondary reasons for not using a coach:  20% indicated that they “prefer to make their own plans”, and 17% indicated that “prepared plans from media (web, magazines, etc) are good enough for me.”
Switching gears to those athletes that do use a coach…
I was curious as to how triathletes found their coach.  Not surprisingly, most athletes hook up with a coach due to a personal recommendation.  Curiously a fairly sizeable percentage of athletes found their coach online (through social media, a website, or directory) or chose their coach based on name-recognition.
Part of the coaching dynamic that seems to be fairly important is the frequency and modality used for communication between the athlete and coach.  Going into the survey, I would have guessed that most athletes communicated with their coach on a weekly basis – and this assumption held for the most part.  I was a little surprised to see that a fair number of athletes interact with their coaches on a daily basis:
Moreover, athletes are not bound to one particular communication tool when it comes to interacting with their coach.  As you might expect, phone and email are pretty common choices.  Social media is fairly common as well.  I received several comments from survey takers that the choice “all of the above” should have been included – as they communicate through phone, email, text, social media, fax, snail mail, smoke signals, signal flags and morse code.  OK, that my be a little stretch, but you get the idea.

Next, I was interested in learning where coaches live in relation to the athletes they coach.  Again, I suspected that the majority of coaches likely lived in the same or an adjacent town.  As you might expect, the data supported that idea.  What surprised me, however, was the relative proclivity of coaches that were considered “national”. 

And finally, I was interested to learn if there was a geographic component in the coaching dynamic – meaning are athletes in one area of the country more likely to use a coach than athletes in other parts of the country.  Curiously, there was not any apparent trend that I could find.  Roughly 26% of the survey respondents reside in what I would call the “Northeast”, whereas 24% reside in the “Midwest”, and 22% live in the “Southeast”.  In all fairness, though, the number of folks from the “West” or “Southwest” that completed the survey was relatively small.
So there you have it.  The results from the TriMadness coaching survey.  I hope you found this interesting; I sure did. 
Coming up beginning next week:  Part One of the Coach-Athlete Dynamic.