Training for the Triple

Whether you’re doing one day of the Triple Bypass or going big for the Double Triple challenge, the key to having a successful ride is endurance, endurance, endurance! You’ll need the muscular endurance to grind up the long mountain passes and the aerobic endurance to power your legs at those lung-searing altitudes.

The first climb to Juniper Pass is a moderate 4% grade and you should be riding a Tempo to Sweet Spot effort here. The grade can make you want to ride harder, but remember, you have 2 more high altitude climbs to tackle! It’s important to hold a steady effort with a more aerobic cadence, as much as your gearing allows. This is not the place to treat the ride like a race, keep to your own steady pace!

The second climb, Idaho Springs to Loveland Pass, can be broken down into 3 steps: Idaho Springs to Georgetown, Georgetown to Bakerville, and Bakerville to the top of the pass. The first leg to Georgetown is really a false flat so join a group and work a draft! You can go fast and keep your cadence quick to save your leg muscles. From Georgetown, the climb kicks up to 3% and you’ll settle into your climbing Tempo again but keep your cadence up, things are going to get steeper! From Bakerville to the top of Loveland Pass, the average grade is over 5%. This is where you’ll be grinding your lowest gear and relying on your leg strength to power you to the top.

Catch a breather on the descent into Keystone and let your heart rate come down. The final climb up Vail Pass is slightly more than a false flat at about a 2% grade so if you’ve paced the other 2 passes well, you should be able to hold a steady low Tempo effort to the top!

That’s a lot of Tempo riding and even more altitude so it’s important to spend time training for both! Tempo and Sweet Spot rides during the week are key as well as long days in the saddle on the weekend. As July gets closer, the weekend rides are best done at altitude to help prepare your body for the challenge ahead. And Sunday Muscle Tension Intervals after long Saturday rides will get your system ready to endure the steeper grades on Loveland pass when you already have some fatigue built up on the ride.

High Altitude

Unless you live in Eagle or some other alpine hamlet, the watts you’re riding in training at home aren’t going to be the same watts you’ll ride in the Triple. As the elevation increases, your threshold effectively decreases. You can see how this well-trained athlete’s heart rate increased with the altitude on her way from Idaho Springs up to Loveland Pass even though her watts were holding steady. In a high altitude ride like the Triple, it’s much better to pace yourself by heart rate than watts.

If you want to read more about how altitude affects your racing, check out Coach Jake’s in-depth article here.

What Goes Up…

It’s important to be confident in your descending skills for this ride! Make sure your brakes are well tuned and learn to relax in your drop bars because that is where you are the most stable. Bend your elbows and relax your arms, those are your shock absorbers! Push your sternum to your stem to lower your center of gravity and center your weight between your wheels. For even more stability, clamp your bike’s top tube with your knees. And most importantly, breathe as you enjoy the fruits of your labor! The more relaxed you can be on the descents, the more energy you will save for the next climb!

Don’t Forget- Nutrition & Weather!

The Triple Bypass is a very long day in the saddle and at high altitude that can mean anything from early morning frost to warm summer temps to freezing rain. The long weekend rides at altitude are a great chance to test out your clothing so you know exactly how many layers you’ll need to bring to be ready for the unpredictable mountain weather.

Those rides are also a great time to get your nutrition dialed! If you aren’t used to eating & drinking on the bike, get in the habit by setting an alarm to go off every 20-30 minutes as a reminder on your long weekend rides. Even on event day, you don’t want to rely solely on the aid stations. Try to eat about 300 calories per hour and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! The higher altitudes will dry you out faster, even at cooler temps, so it’s important to get ahead of that. You really want to start a day or 2 before the ride so your system is topped up & ready to go! That goes for eating too!

That’s a lot to plan out which is why I’ve designed a training plan to guide you to success for only $49.  You get a free TrainingPeaks Premium account with a mobile app so you can see your data and always know what to do each and every day for six weeks leading into the Triple.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

Coach Nadia is a Colorado native and a Senior Coach at FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO.  She’s raced and ridden her bike all over the state and loves to “earn her turns” on long climbs and descents. You can buy FasCat’s six week interval Triple Bypass training plans designed by Nadia here.


Lake to Lake Triathlon Training

With a longer bike course that climbs up the beautiful foothills of Northern Colorado, the Lake to Lake Triathlon is not your typical olympic distance race. Over 1000 feet of elevation are gained & lost on this course and the climbs get up to an 8% grade. With long climbs like this, staying steady doesn’t always work if you want to avoid drafting penalties, and the steep sections mean you’ll be out of the aerobars.

Check out the hilly part of the course from Glade Road around Horsetooth to Shields, with power, cadence, heart rate, elevation and speed data:

While the heart rate was steady for this racer, the watts spike more, partly from the terrain and partly from passing other athletes on the climbs. What’s really telling is the cadence, which is steady for most of the climb until the steeper grades, like the highest point of the course, where it drops. With the fast descents on this course, having a low gear ratio just for those parts of the course could cost you speed over the rest of the ride. Instead, you’re going to want the muscular strength to tackle the steeps in a little bit larger gear so you can hit the high speeds on the back side! Greater leg strength is also beneficial for when you need to pass another rider on the climbs to avoid a drafting!

So how do you train for those extra bursts of power? With low cadence efforts mixed into your steady state aerobic intervals! That’s why I’ve included workouts Sweet Spot Smash intervals along with steady state Sweet Spot and Threshold efforts in this plan.

And if you aren’t able to pre-ride the course, I’d recommend you brush up on your cornering skills too as descending speeds can get really fast on this course and there’s always a turn or two that you’ll have to navigate! Make sure your brakes are working!

The good news is the swim is in a small lake which means flat water and the run course is also flat (and shaded!) so the training for those sports is more typical of other olympic events. But the run from the lake shore to the transition area is unusually long so there’s transition work to mimic it. This workout’s a great one to get your kids involved too! There’s also Brick Repeat workouts with varied bike and run efforts to ensure that your legs are ready to run after all that climbing on the bike. And if you can’t get much time in the open water before the race, there’s drills you can do in the pool to get you race ready. Just make sure you bring your dark goggles for the race since you’ll be squinting into the sunrise!

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

Nadia is a multisport coach at FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. Nadia and the FasCat Coaches have been designing training programs for coached athletes for 15 years and have introduced the very same training programs for only $54 in 2017. You can buy Coach Nadia’s six week interval Lake to Lake Triathlon training plans here.


Finding 20 minute power

Setting Up the Performance Manager Chart

The Performance Manager Chart (PMC) is the window to your overall fitness and race-readiness. Get it set up properly and it can be your most powerful training tool!  They say a picture is worth a thousand words and this couldn’t be truer to coaches and athletes. Maybe not 1,000 words, but how about 50 watts? Yes please.

In this training tip we’ll tell you how to set up your Performance Manager Chart in TrainingPeaks and then explain what the numbers mean.

3 Steps to Set Up You Performance Manger Chart in TrainingPeaks

From the default Calendar view in TrainingPeaks, click the Dashboard header to get to your Dashboard where you can add multiple charts to summarize your training.

Once in the Dashboard, go to the left sidebar to open the Charts Library. Scroll down to the Performance Manager Chart, then drag & drop it into your Dashboard and boom! Now you can see how your fitness has progressed over time!

Next, click the menu icon in the upper right corner of the PMC and you will get a menu for adjusting the parameters of your chart.

Selecting Constants (Parameters)

Fitness (CTL) is based on a rolling 42 day average that is supported in the sport science literature.  Keep yours at 42, we’ve never changed this.


Copyright 2017, FasCat Coaching

Nadia Sullivan is a Senior Coach at FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO.  To talk with Nadia or a FasCat Coach about setting your training zones please call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation. Additionally, check out any of FasCat’s Training Plans for only $49 that include field tests where you can set your training zones.


Finding 20 minute power

Setting Up Training Zones

Setting up training zones for heart rate and power in TrainingPeaks is easy to do with 20 minute Field Test data. Once the athlete has uploaded their file, we go into TrainingPeaks and find their 20 minute Normalized Power and Average Heart Rate.

In the opened ride file, we click on the Lightning Bolt in the right hand data bar to switch to Peak Power, then scroll down to Peak 20:00 min. That selects the 20min effort and we can see the Normalized Power and Average Heart Rate from the test.

By keeping the warm up, test effort, and cool down all in one file, we can see how the athlete did on the rest of the ride and if that may have affected their test. Plus we get a full Training Stress Score (TSS) for the day’s ride.

From Joe Rider’s 224 watt Normalized Power, we subtract 5%, and enter the 213 watts in our FasCat Zones Sheet to calculate hi training zones. We’ll also add in his average heart rate of 168bpm from the test.

To keep everything accurate, we then add those numbers to his Power and Heart Rate Zones in TrainingPeaks. In Joe Rider’s Account Settings, we input his calculated 213 watt FTP, choose “threshold power” for the auto calculation and use Andy Coggan’s zones from the drop-down menu.

Lastly, we add the all-important 83-97% of FTP Training Zone, Sweet Spot!

Now we can go into Joe Rider’s files and see how much time he’s spent at Sweet Spot or other zones in a group ride, race, or hill repeats!

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

Nadia Sullivan is a Senior Coach at FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO.  To talk with Nadia or a FasCat Coach about setting your training zones please call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation. Additionally, check out any of FasCat’s Training Plans for only $49 that include field tests where you can set your training zones.


Open Water Pool Drills for Triathlon

Open Water Pool Drills for Triathlon

Maybe you’ve just signed up for your first triathlon. Maybe you’re just looking to get more comfortable in the chaos of water swimming. But even if you are part fish, you’ll still want to sharpen your open water skills if you do all of your training in the pool. Here’s a list of some drills you can do in the pool to get you more comfortable in the chaotic and claustrophobic conditions you may encounter in your race. Just grab some friends and head for the pool!

Sighting in Rough Water

Find a strong swimmer who can swim the butterfly stroke and have them swim down the lane in front of you while you practice sighting a water bottle or other object on deck. The butterflyer will create a lot of waves that are a great simulation of rougher open water! If you don’t know anyone who can swim butterfly, ask the lifeguards or swim instructors at the pool if they can suggest a volunteer for you!


With a swimmer of similar ability or speed, do a few laps trying to stay right on each other’s feet without running into them. When you are both comfortable with this, try moving up to the other swimmer’s hip for an even stronger draft effect. Make sure you’re breathing toward their hip and not away from it so you don’t get a mouth full of water!

Corkscrew Swim

This is a technique that you can use to switch quickly & gracefully onto your back if you need to catch your breath or you can incorporate it into open water turns! To swim the corkscrew, swim with 1 arm doing a freestyle stroke and the other arm doing a backstroke stroke. This will cause you to spin through the water like a corkscrew. Try to keep the pulling effort even in both arms so you stay straight as you go down the pool. Then switch arms. Be careful not to swim this stroke too far, it can make you dizzy!

Closed Eyes Swim

This is just like it sounds- close your eyes and try to swim a length of the pool. If you can’t make it without hitting a lane line then you need to work on keeping your stroke more balanced. If you pull to the right, you may be crossing over on your left arm or have a weaker pull on the right. If you can have someone take video of you doing this drill, it will be easier to see what you need to wfix in your stroke. The easier this becomes for you, the more likely you will be able to stay in a straight line in the open water & keep the course distance closer to what it’s supposed to be!

All in One Lane

Get your group of friends all to join you in the same lane. Have everyone swim to the other side all at the same time with the slower swimmers in the front and the faster ones in the back chasing the front. This drill is better with more people, just make sure you all agree to be friendly! If someone gets nervous from the close quarters, they can just duck under the lane line into the next lane.

Tandem Swim

This is a fun one to do with a buddy and helps you both work on being comfortable near other swimmers while working on your core strength, body positioning and breathing. Have one person swim in the front doing the arm stroke while the other person grabs their feet and kicks. The person kicking will get a lot of practice breathing in rough water and the person pulling will have to stabilize their core to hold their hips up. Be sure to swap positions!

6 Weeks to your first Sprint Triathlon

Beach Starts & Exits

If you have a zero-entry pool, you can practice running and diving into the water just as you would in a race start from a beach. You can also practice exiting the water like it’s a beach! Just don’t run completely out of the water and onto the slippery pool deck!

Deep Water Starts

In the deepest side of the lane, move out away from the wall so you are treading water. Lengthen out on your side as if you are claiming your space on the start line. Give a big, strong sidestroke scissor kick to get you started as you pull hard & fast to get up to speed. Sprint halfway down the pool at a race effort, then relax & cruise the rest of the way into the wall. Do several of these in a row to get comfortable with that big starting kick.


These drills are great to do at the end of your swimming workout when you are a little tired because any errors in your stroke will be more obvious! Have fun with them and good luck in your race!

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

Nadia Sullivan is a Senior Coach at FasCat Coaching Boulder, CO and a lifelong competitive swimmer.  To talk with Nadia or a FasCat Coach about improving your swim, bike, or run, please call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation. Additionally, check out the Multisport Training Plans for only $49 that Nadia designed!


Coach Nadia Sullivan

Pacing the Bike for the Boulder Half Ironman Age Group Athlete

by Nadia Sullivan, June 2016

This year, the Boulder Half Ironman course was changed to 1 lap of the full course. That means athletes will get a chance to experience the rolling climb up Nelson Road that the 140.6 athletes love so much! And with that rolling climb, there’s a few fast descents and some long false flats to get you back to transition. So what does this mean for your bike pacing on this course? It means you shouldn’t be trying to hold a steady effort the entire way, even if you have the gearing for it!

So how should you ride it? Let’s look at an example male & female mid-pack age group triathlete. We’ll assume they’re on mid-range tri bikes with average wheels & a road bike helmet and we’ll pace them on the course using Best Bike Splits (BBS). To keep things simple, we’re going to say that they are from the area and are therefore adapted to the mile high elevation. Our example male athlete is 170 pounds and riding around an 80% average at 200 watts across the entire course. He may have the gearing to hold 200 watts at an aerobic cadence up the steeper sections of Nelson Road, but that means he may not have the best gearing for the fast descents on Highway 36. Using Best Bike Splits, we can plug in his stats and get a much better idea of where he can push the watts a little more and still maintain that 200 watt average over the course and still be set up for a solid run.

We can see that while a there’s a nice little hill right out of transition, our athlete keeps the effort only a little above his target average at 210 watts. The first jog down the Diagonal Highway is a false flat so he’s cruising below his target average to keep his legs ready for the longer climbs. When he turns back up toward Highway 36, the watts are now at or just above his target average, peaking briefly at 240 watts which is still below his threshold. Niwot Road is another fun false flat so he can get some rest. N.63rd St. has rolling hills so he’ll hit the quick ascents at 200-210 watts & relax on the quick descents. He’ll be spiking the watts shortly after the turn onto Nelson Road where the grade gets steep but he’ll still keep it below threshold and average about 230 watts back up to Highway 36. There’s still some climbing to get the to highest point on the course, but from there he can let his legs relax again and spin around 180 watts all the way down to 73rd St. where the terrain gets a little more interesting again. For the last 5 or 6 miles, he’s back up to his target average pace of 200 watts up the false flat of the Diagonal as he preps for the run.

For an average mid-pack woman at 125lbs, pacing will be very similar: relaxed on the long false flats and just below threshold on Nelson Road. But her time will be slower due to her lower power to weight ratio. Riding at 80% would have her averaging 135 watts, a little more than 1 watt/Kg lower than our example man. She’ll average about 18.5mph to his almost 21mph.

So if you’re racing the Boulder 70.3 this June, plan to take it a little easier on the false flats so you have more in the tank for Nelson Road. Just make sure you keep it below threshold because it’s tempting to stand up & hammer on some of those climbs but you’ll pay for those kinds of efforts on the run.

Good luck & hope to see you out there!

Copyright, 2016, FasCat Coaching

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Coach Nadia is a multisport endurance coach with FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO  To inquire about working with Coach Nadia and pacing the bike leg properly of any triathlon, please call 720.406.7444 or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation.