Simulated Coaching

With Michigan Titanium behind me, I’ve starting going over how I trained (or didn’t train) for the race.

After having completed Ironman Wisconsin the year before, my thought was that some missed runs, rides or swims will not make or break my chances of crossing the finish line. That mentality is what led to my demise at MiTi, so I began thinking about what EXACTLY was different.

Last season I worked with Coach Jen Harrison, who is a rockstar. Jen is a super experienced triathlete and very knowledgable coach. She was great at not only designing my training to help me meet my racing goals, but also at explaining why certain workouts were important. Jen coached me to 5 PR’s including the Chicago Marathon and two IM 70.3’s before preparing me for Ironman Wisconsin.

This season I made a change to an online training company called Optimized Training Labs (OTL).

OTL is a newer program that uses mathematical algorithms to design and build your workouts based on your upcoming races and the data from each workout. Think of it like “Moneyball”, based on your data, these algorithms adjust upcoming workouts.logo

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Sounds kind of cool right?

There was no single reason that I made a coaching switch. A lot of it was cost based. One-on-One coaching grants you a ton of access to your coach, lets you ask an unlimited amount of stupid questions, get great guidance from someone with great experience, but there is a premium to pay for that.

As someone who went from employed to unemployed, that was a cost I decided to cut.

Another reason I made a switch was because I wasn’t sure what my racing plans were going to be. I didn’t want to get into a coaching program only to call my coach and say “Nah, I’m not going to do that race anymore.”

I searched for a while to find a program that would work for me. I looked at Dave Scott training plans, Training Peaks and a variety of other pre-set plans. But my issue is I didn’t want a plan that was set in stone. What happens if I get injured? or my Schedule changes? Then I’m stuck with a plan that doesn’t work for me.

That what I liked about OTL, adjustments could be made. If you’re injured, sick or traveling you can mark missed workouts, set restrictions add or delete races and the algorithm would change upcoming workouts to help prepare you for your ultimate goal.

And it’s only $20/month. Who can argue that?

I didn’t see any reason I couldn’t be successful using this program.

Last season when I was working with Jen, I would often email and say things like “Hey Jen can I do two 70.3’s on consecutive weekends?” or “Jen I want to do a half marathon and marathon back to back!”

Jen would reply, say no and give me the reasons why.

So when I was building my schedule for this season and had a ton of races I wanted to do, but I didn’t really know what would be a good idea and what wouldn’t. So I winged it and picked races I thought would be safe.

Once I had a schedule lined up I felt… OK.

I’m pretty good at following directions. So when my workouts show up in my calendar, I usually have no problem doing them. But I can remember on several occasions getting emails from Jen asking me for my data so she can build my next series of workouts. Or even worse, emails asking why I missed workouts!

When you purchase a training plan or program like OTL there isn’t anyone looking out for you. One of the cool things that Optimized Training Labs does is require you to update your schedule every few weeks and that includes an option to re-test in each discipline to get more accurate data to gauge your improvement.

But If you don’t upload workout data regularly OTL has no way to tune the program for you, which just the same as using a pre-set program.

There is a great amount of self discipline needed to train for endurance sports and having a REAL PERSON as a coach is a perfect safety net for people like me who will tend to slack off every now and then and need the whip cracked!

Now I’m not knocking Optimized Training Labs by any means. I have had emailed them to ask questions about changing schedules, what to do about off season training, ect. They’ve alway emailed me back, usually the same day. They’re constantly making updates and adjustments to their system and asking what athletes are looking for.

One thing I’d like to see OTL add is the ability to train for any race. Currently you select a Triathlete program or Runner program… But what if you’re doing both? For example I just finished MiTi, an Iron Distance Triathlon but the next event on my schedule is the Chicago Marathon. I am able to select “Other” as an upcoming race category, but to be honest “Other” doesn’t sound like it’ll be a finely tuned program.

The only other issue I’ve had with OTL is that uploading data doesn’t seem very user friendly. Most of the time I’d manually import my data (which is an option) but that takes longer, and we’ve already established that I’m a slacker in that department.

Everyone trains and races differently, so I don’t think there is a “right way” to train. I think everyone has to do what works best for them.

Personally, I think I need to get my ass more disciplined and focused on what needs to be done to get the results I want.

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