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Michael Piermarini came to me via the TrainingPeaks Coach Match program in July. He had qualified to represent the US at the Long Course Duathlon World Championships at Powerman Zofingen in Switzerland in September and was looking for a coach to help him train for the event.
If you aren’t familiar with it, Powerman Zofingen is brutal and is considered by many as the toughest duathlon in the world. The event consists of a 10k run, 150k bike and 30k run, all over very hilly terrain, including several trail and dirt sections on the runs. Racers are also faced with changing and often nasty weather conditions as well which creates unique preparation and mental challenges for the athlete.
Michael had a background in running and multi-sport, but had never done an event longer than a half ironman prior to this, and had never ridden his bike that far, nor had he faced climbing of the likes of Zofingen before. Our primary goal was finishing, and any place targets beyond that would be a bonus. Given this, we focused primarily on building volume both on the run and bike to ensure both mentally and physically he could cover the distance. We also focused on pacing and developing a race and nutrition plan that he could execute confidently on race day. We spent a lot of time looking beyond just fitness and discussing mental prep along with gear and clothing given the likely conditions expected at the race.
In the end, he pulled off a great result and hit all of his goals for the event. What follows is Michael’s post race analysis:
“I wanted to send an update on the event itself and some thoughts moving forward.
First and foremost, thank you for preparing me for the event in Switzerland itself. It seriously wouldn't have been possible without your assistance and guidance. You kept me grounded and highly focused throughout the training process, which helped make crossing the finish line possible. Thank you so much for everything. I know we normally talk about the specifics of training but I want you to know that it wouldn't have been possible or achievable without you, so bask in it and know how sincerely grateful I am! Thank you George!
Overall: the event itself was a truly amazing experience. Just being in the meeting rooms and at the starting line next to some of the world’s best athletes was tremendous. I never thought I would be standing there, let alone performing on the course.
From a course perspective, it was brutal. Absolutely brutal. The mountains were no joke and most people walked or DNF. Even the woman's overall winner (Pooley) from Great Britain walked the hills. The first run was extremely fun, it started off nearly vertical and then slowly came down hill, winding through off and on road terrain. It was two loops. I picked it up a bit on the second loop as the athletes spread out. I believe it was 39 minutes or so. Not bad given the inclines (I would say 16-18%+ the first 2.5-3k). A lot of people walked the second lap and even more dropped out...surprising
Transition one was decently quick (90 seconds). The bike course started off at a decent 2% incline the first 10k or so. Then the first big climb came up. There was a big group of us together and they were handing out penalties left and right. There were 18 referees and I saw at least 25-30 cards handed out. The first hill had a significant incline % increase towards the top and then flattened out and came downhill. I didn't pedal the downhill and just cruised to save my legs. We then came through a little town and made a U-turn. At this point, my face dropped and my mouth was WIDE open...the hill coming up was insane. The next 5-10k was the toughest part of the bike course. Averaged 5-7 mph up the entire hill. Athletes, top athletes, were walking their bikes up...I stayed on and just plugged through, staying focused and riding the ups and downs of the road to gain momentum where I could.
At the top, it leveled out and went rolling, FAST hills for a bit. Then the last hill came up and it was a windy one through the forest. It POURED hard the entire first lap and half of the second one. I would have hit the downhills a little harder but with the sharp turns in the mountains and wet roads, I wanted to play it conservative and not go flying off the edge. A lot of accidents on the course itself (broken legs, arms, etc.). My family said that there were people pulling off the bike course every lap.
I just tried to stay consistent on the bike course itself, not improve, but maintain. I think I did that but haven't quite looked at the data yet.
Once in transition again, (80-90 seconds) I took off and started. This was the most grueling run course I have ever experienced. The first 3k were all uphill and a mix of on and off road. Then it went downhill just slightly before picking back up. There were 3 really big inclines on each 15k loop of the run course. I broke it down and tried to crush them one at a time. People were walking right and left (both men and women). This is where everyone looked destroyed and defeated. More people dropped out here. I tried to stay as consistent as possible.
Feeling wise, I felt great throughout. I lost feeling in my legs during the first 5k of the second run course and just kept going. Again, consistency and respect for the course was my focus. Honestly, had I known there was only a 10 minute gap between where I finished overall and a podium spot, I would have pushed a little harder. I respected the course and ran my own race. I started 106th overall and finished 66th. 5th in my age with a 5 minute gap between 4th and a 10 minute between 3rd.
Thank you again!”
Glad Michael was able to experience success in such a memorable event and super happy to have helped him take on this amazing challenge!
I had the opportunity to attend TrainingPeaks University this past weekend, a seminar for coaches held at the TrainingPeaks HQ in Boulder CO. The course was designed to appeal to broad range of knowledge and experience levels and covered a number of topics including:
During the discussions there was also an opportunity to contribute new ideas and to understand the drivers for development priorities and where they were going at a "hands on" level with the tool sets. The major theme in forward looking items was further expansion in prediction via additional data analysis and data streams. One of the more interesting "gee whiz" items was the potential for power meters for runners to be a practical option soon. It will be interesting to see if they are accepted by the culture and impact running and multisport coaching and athlete preparation as much as they have in cycling.
I felt I knew my way around the existing applications pretty well going in, but there were definitely some new tricks and capabilities that came to light during the session that were great to learn about It was good to have some focused "hands on" time to move around the tools in a classroom setting and explore some of the capabilities you may not have had the need or time to work with before. Also, it was beneficial to exchange notes with other coaches and help answer questions with issues others maybe having and vice versa. In addition, it was fantastic to hear about the history of the company and how it has evolved, and to meet and hear training lectures directly from both Joe and Dirk Friel who have been so influential in the direction of cycling and multisport training over the past 2 decades.
I think the most beneficial aspect for me personally, was meeting a lot of the people who work at TrainingPeaks, many of whom I have worked with on the phone or via help desk emails on occasion, and seeing the facility. Seeing a motivated, passionate and genuinely helpful team gives me a lot of faith in the company, its products and philosophies. As a former information technology professional, it was great to see a vibrant culture behind the scenes.
Overall it was a great experience, earth shattering, no, but it really wasn't meant to be. I think most coaches would find it as review and/or building upon a base of knowledge they have already established. It was more of a way to "sharpen the saw" for any of you old school Covey folks out there. I am definitely glad I attended and picked up some new knowledge that I will apply to current and future clients. Overall I felt it was well worth the investment.
I was fortunate to get the opportunity to travel to 4 states and participate in 5 races as both a director and an athlete and attend my first Interbike in a 2 week time frame from late Aug to early Sept. It was a busy trip but a good experience. I am going to document each stop briefly over the coming days.
Well, I originally intended to do this earlier, but took me a bit to get around to it. Stop 2 was direct from Burlington, VT to sunny Salt Lake City, UT, followed by a nice drive to Ogden UT for the next stop on my tour, the USA Cycling Master's Road Racing National Championships. 3 days of stage racing and an early wake up had me feeling a bit groggy, but I did my best to sleep on the plane flight out knowing I had to race the Time Trial the following morning. I got into Ogden at a reasonable hour and found my way to the Air BnB house that one of my traveling companions (Stu Waring from the Annapolis Bicycle Racing Team) booked for us outside of Ogden. The place was absolutely fantastic with plenty of space and beautiful views within close driving distance to both the TT and RR courses. In addition to Stu and his wife Christine, I was fortunate to have 2 teammates join me on the trip , Scott and Katy Giles, the cycling wonder couple both racing with me on the US Military Endurance Sports Team in addition to Matt Albanese Stu's teammate from ABRT and their friend Chris.
The risk with doing a crazy trip like this is staying healthy. I managed to keep my recovery and stress pretty in check, my preps were done and I hit the sack pretty early, so all was looking good until the early morning wakeup... Let's just say my "plumbing" started working a bit too well and too often. I clearly picked up some type of funk, but did my best to stay hydrated and try to keep some nutrition in me and put on a brave face for the TT the next morning. But, I just didn't have the spark on the day, and ended up a disappointing 15th. Both Scott and Katy did fantastic, each pulling down silver medals in their respective divisions! I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed as I had good form coming into the week, the course suited me, and when I am "on" I can throw down a good TT. But it was not to be and I wasn't at my best and wasn't able to put down a good performance. Such is the fickleness of sport.
I was still having issues the rest of the day healthwise, but got another good night's sleep and felt better the following day as we previewed the road race course. The course again suited me fairly well with a long descent at the start followed by several flat loops around a reservoir and then into a 7 mile finishing climb that was never terribly steep.
Scott and I are similar types of riders, we favor the break and riding hard and on form can match each other pretty well with him having an edge on the flats and me having an edge on the climbs. I had raced a few bigger master's races such as Gila, Cascade and prior Master's Nats in the past, so I knew some of the contenders, and they knew me and were likely not going to give me much leash, but Scott was a little less known... We devised a strategy to put him up the road early, like from the gun early, hopefully draw some guys out to go with him and then hope the in fighting in the field, or over confidence the break would come back on the climb, would let them get enough of a gap to make it stick. If not, I would sweep as best could on the climb.
Race morning I was feeling better and was motivated having a strong teammate with me. We set off, and the plan worked pretty much as we laid out. Scott made it off the front in the 1st K, hovered at 10 - 20 seconds solo for about 10 miles (much of it downhill) riding just hard enough to hopefully entice some bridgers. Sure enough, 2 strong guys bridged up, the field looked at each other, and they were gone. When the panic in the field started to set in, I played the good teammate and tagged on to dangerous counters and discouraged any organization as best I could. The field just kept cancelling each other out, and the gap grew. After awhile the group collectively knew that was "the move" and a bridge was going no where. After that point, enough teams kept the pace up to just let the gap hover and hope to pull it back on the climb. Our plan was working perfectly.
By the time we made it to the base of the finish climb, the break had 3 minutes and it was very possible it could stick. The field went pretty ballistic at the base, I dug as hard as I could but couldn't quite make it with the best climbers. In the meantime, Scott was just burying himself and it came down to seconds at the end with him holding the chasers off hanging on to take the win and the national champion's jersey in style! I cranked out the climb as best I could and ended up 13th, feeling better than Tues, but not at my best still. Kudos to Scott on an awesome job, was great to have a small part in it. Katy did fantastic as well pulling a bronze medal in the women's race.
Thanks again to Stu Waring for sharing their lodging with us and to USMES for the support in getting to the event. Also thanks to Katy and Christine for covering the feed zone for us. On to AZ and NV for the next stops on the tour.