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I constantly talk about the negative split scenario in training to my athletes and learning to pace properly! Great to see it in print, excellent work as always Joe!

Arvind Bhateja

Thanks Joe. This was a really useful article.

I have a question. How do I know I've done enough base and am ready for the next stage? Is there some kind of testing that will tell me this or is it based on number of workouts and duration (in weeks)?

My training can be very erratic at times thanks to my work. A test to tell me I've done enough base would be really useful.

Scott F

Joe, in races that I've executed well, and achieved best results, proper pacing has always been top of list. Now I'm always patient, respectful of the distance, and the field comes back to me every time. Takes maturity, discipline, and knowing your "real" fitness vs dream state to get it dialed in. But nothing more rewarding than laying down a strong ~second half split, and finishing strong to plant an indelible smile and sense of achievement.

It's been a great Top 10, thanks for sharing.


Joe Friel

Arvind--AEROBIC ENDURANCE. A VO2max or metabolic efficiency test would show improvement in fat burning. You would need a baseline at the start of Base 1 and then again probably 6-8 weeks later. A weekly aerobic threshold (AeT) workout will improve it (probably) and also reveal how you are doing relative to decoupling (search both of these on blog home page if unfamiliar). MUSCULAR FORCE. Weight room strength should show an increase as would an increase in force (power on bike or time on run). SPEED SKILLS. Hard to measure speed skills. In VO2max test it would show up as decreased O2 usage at any given sub-max power or speed. There are also field tests described in my training bible books for measuring progress.

Tony Carfang

Joe, thanks for the list of top 10 mistakes. A few of them definitely hit home in the past.
I really agree with #2, not resting enough leading to hard days turning only moderately hard. I came across an interesting article about the "Black Hole of Training".
In the article, they suggest determining this zone of training by a "Talk Test," the point where conversation becomes difficult, or "more precisly" a Lactate Threshold test. These two tests yield different zones - for me a high zone 2 or low zone 3 heart rate from the talk test, and a high zone 4 for the LTHR.
I have to think that the "Black Hole" zone is more the zone 2 or low 3 Though this area may be fine for endurance or base training, it's clearly too hard to be effective recovery. For build periods, I personally find that training around Lactate Threshold (crisscross or cruise intervals) to be pretty helpful for muscular endurance.
What are your thoughts on the article?

Joe Friel

Tony--I haven't seen the article. But whatever works to make easy days easy is ok by me.

  Jeremy Dean

Hi Joe,

I have a question for you. I've played a tennis for many years. The game is both mentally and physically challenging, and deeply rewarding.

In spring 2010 I started running, then got the idea of doing triathlon. I found it impossible to schedule my swimming, cycling and running workouts so they didn't interfere with tennis. Running, especially, was tough, as it made my legs so tight that I pulled muscles when I tried to play tennis. I really wanted to do triathlon, so I took a break from tennis last summer while I trained. I took part in two sprint tris and I'm now making an annual training plan for next year.

The thing I want to know is, how should I handle tennis in my training plan? On average I play two times a week for two hours per session. I have some ideas but I want to get your expert opinion as to how tennis can fit into my training schedule. It's not something I recall seeing mentioned in your book, I suppose because many triathletes interested in serious training choose to focus entirely on the those three sports. I'm interested in the theory so I can make the decisions for myself.

Is a tennis match comparable to a muscular endurance workout, for example? Are there types of workout I should avoid scheduling adjacent to tennis? I'm certain I'll get a better sense of this situation in 2011, but I thought if you could help, I'd have a better idea of how to arrange things.

Thanks for your help!


Joe Friel

Jeremy--I understand your dilemma. I also play golf and find that tired legs have a really negative impact on performance. I can imagine what that would do to tennis which is much more challenging than golf. I generally schedule my endurance training so that the day before and the morning of a golf game are my easiest times of the week. And I do everything I can to encourage rejuvenation during that time (sleep, nutrition, fluids, massage, elevated legs, compressions socks, etc). Good luck!



With regards to point #3 about not enough Base and starting Build too early, how do you respond to plans such as Endurance Nation that IMMEDIATELY start the offseason with short duration high intensity workouts where total weekly volume is only around 6 - 8 hours for 20 weeks, and it's all high intensity? Their longest ride in the entire 20 week offseason is only like 90 minutes. Their plans don't even start high volume, long distance Ironman prep workouts until just 12 weeks out from your A IM race.

Yet, the folks that sign up for their plans are routinely crushing their pre-Endurance Nation PR's and they have a growing army of folks qualifying for Kona.

Their "Fast before Far" framework seems to be EXACTLY what you say is mistake #3, yet they seem to be proving that it's not a mistake at all.

Curious how you respond. Thanks.

Joe Friel

Ben--There are many effective ways to train for triathlon.


It's tough to believe your 5/2/09 article on time trial pacing isn't among the 10 most read.

I used the negative split tactic in my first long ITT. It was still agonizing, but was able to keep building and building right to the line.

The race was 36K. The course had a moderate tailwind on the outbound segment. Staying at my target power was really tough, especially when two guys went zooming past me. But coming back into the headwind my legs felt rock solid. The course had gradually ascending rollers in the last 5K and the final 800m were uphill. I pulled back one guy in the rollers and almost got the other near the line. It felt like all the time came back on uphill sections. Not burying myself in lactate early on made strong short climbs possible.

Because of the wind and my inexperience I used an Outbound/Inbound tactic, rather than 4 quarters. My tested FTP was 250W.

Leg Tar Act Dur
Out 230 241 27:30
In 260 270 35:00

Looking at average power by quarter (236/248/260/285, FTP=260), there's some time to gain if I tighten the spread. Breaking 1 hour next year is a clean objective and practicing my pacing is my first training goal to support it.

Kevin Klinefelter

Your #3 made me wonder about not pushing too hard in my Zone 2 and recovery rides. Are zone 1 and 2 rides best done in flats or is it okay to go into hilly terrain? I can still keep my heart rate down but cadence is greatly reduced, usually <60 rpm. Does this work the muscles too much for those types of workouts?


Joe Friel

Kevin K--That's _probably_ ok

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