Team Nagi Coaching Newsletter – May 2022
Hope you’ve all had a great month of training. Things have really kicked off here at Team Nagi HQ and race season is well under way! As you will see there have been some terrific performances below at every distance and there is so much more to come over the next few months.
As ever race season presents it’s challenges, especially where the weather is concerned. Quite a few athletes performances have been impacted by extreme heat when racing, especially abroad. This was particularly evident at The Ironman World Championships in St George, Utah where the peak temperature reached 35 degrees C on race day. What made this even more challenging was the dry heat (less that 5% humidity) which presents a whole new set of challenges for the athletes racing in it if they are unacclimatised. When an athlete like Daniela Ryf says it took her 3 weeks of training in that environment to feel even remotely normal when training in it, you can see how this would impact others significantly who don’t have that opportunity. Especially when you consider that most age groupers and many pro’s would only be flying in a week before or just or a few days before the event. It is quite simply nowhere near enough time for your body to acclimatise to it.
Combine this with one of the toughest Ironman courses in the world and it’s very clear to see why so many of the fittest athletes in the world completely fell apart during the race. I don’t think I have ever seen such an attrition rate, not even when I’ve been to Hawaii which has a totally different kind of heat that is extreme humidity (often above 90%). What is clear in my experience is that some athletes race far better when its warm and others don’t but even if you don’t there is a way to prepare for it so you can become considerably better in it. To what degree is highly individual, you just have to train the body to adapt to it in the weeks leading into the event. Failure to do so can result in a significant drop in performance and an inability to race anywhere near where you thought you would be based on training. The method is based deliberate heat exposure or ‘acclimation’ that I will go into in further details below in my podcast recommendation of the month.
I also wanted to take this opportunity to give a huge shout out to our athlete Steve Phillips who achieved a life dream in quality to race at the Ironman World Champs. What made this so special was the fact that Steve had a horrific bike accident in 2019 when he came off his bike at 75km/hr descending a hill and hit his head on the pavement. Steve had no recollection of the accident that ultimately led to a traumatic brain injury that still affects him to this day. Understandably at the time Steve thought his triathlon days were numbered but slowly but surely he rebuilt the confidence to get back on the bike and eventually start competing again. As his confidence grew the desire to pursue his dream goal came back slowly and this eventually led to qualification at St George.
“My mindset was that I’m not going to let this injury define me, I was going to take control of this,” Phillips said. “You have to make the best of what you have.”
Everyone has a story when they complete an Ironman and I think this one was just that little bit special. Huge congrats Steve for never giving up or giving in and getting your just reward.
Ironman Worlds Championships (St George, Utah)
- Steve Phillips
- Splits: 1:10:32 swim / 6:24:57 bike / 5:31:42 run
- Total Time: 13:12:16
- 45-49 category
- Next up: Staffs 70.3
A tough day at the office for Steve at his first ever Ironman World Championships. A performance that was definitely impacted by the extreme dry heat but most importantly he pushed on through and got the finish line. A hugely proud moment for Steve with his family present and hopefully just taste of things to come.
- Charlotte Drummond
- Splits: 33:32 swim / 2:39:38 bike / 1:50:37 run
- Total Time: 5:07:52
- 7th in 30-34 category
- Next up: Ironman Copenhagen
Another race where the temp hit the 30 degrees on race day. A fantastic performance despite that considering this was Charlotte’s first 70.3 completed as a swim/bike/ run. Several of the top girls finished within minutes of each other and I’ve no doubt she will be well in the mix next time too.
The Outlaw Nottingham (Middle distance)
- Helen Burton
- Splits: 43:05 swim / 3:35:59 bike / 3:07:09 run
- Total Time: 7:44:02
- 3rd in 65-69 category
- Next up: The Outlaw Ironman
Another typical gutsy performance from our Super Gran. Most importantly a few pacing lessons learned too that i’m sure will be rectified in the coming weeks…especially when I put the speed cameras on you!
The Oliva Triathlon (Middle distance)
- David Rueda
- Splits: 32:42swim / 2:22:58 bike / 1:29:08 run
- Total Time: 4:28:16
- 45-49 category
- Next up: Gandia Middle Distance Triathlon (Spain)
Wherever this man goes he takes the sunshine with him and yet another race hitting 30 degrees + in Spain. Loved the fact he adapted his approach on race day to be able to deal with it and came through with flying colours.
- Elyas Coutts
- Splits: 32:14 swim / 2:38:11 bike / 2:09:16 run
- Total Time: 5:27:03
- 45-49 category
Hot, hot, hot and humid is the only way to describe racing in Vietnam! Huge congrats Elyas on making through to the other side, an excellent perfromance for a Brit in the Tropics.
Eton qualifier (Sprint)
- Toby Dean
- Splits: 12:27 swim / 33:36 bike / 21:30 run
- Total Time: 1:09:39
- 50-54 category
Southport qualifier (Olympic)
- Toby Dean
- Splits: 23:25 swim / 1:04:04 bike / 45:02 run
- Total Time: 2:16:26
- 5th in 50-54 category
Mallory Park qualifier (Sprint)
- Toby Dean
- Splits: 11:55 swim / 31:03 bike / 19:45 run
- Total Time: 1:05:12
- 1st in 50-54 category
- Next up: The London Triathlon
3 races in 3 weeks for ‘The Triathlon Postman’ (he always delivers on race day) and what a progression it was. What was even more amazing was that Toby pulled his calf muscle AND caught covid 2 weeks out from the first race. It was touch and go even up until the Friday before the first race but somehow the calf and body held up and then it was game on for races 2 and 3. The final race was an absolute stormer winning his age group by several minutes and gaining qualification to race for Team GB once again. This will go down as one of the TN performances of the season for sure. Bravo Toby Dean!
Arundel triathlon (750m pool swim/ 38 km bike/ 8 km run)
- Tony Jarvis
- Splits: 11:56 swim / 1:00:05 bike / 36:24 run
- Total Time: 1:51:16
- 3rd in 40-50 category
- Next up: Eastbourne sprint qualifier
A solid punchy effort from TJ to hit the podium in his first race this season. Merely the jab before the knock upper cut that’s coming at the Eastbourne Qualifiers in a couple of weeks.
- Andrew Reardon
- Total Time: 22:55
- 2nd in category / 3rd male overall
- Next up: The Cotswold Classic
2nd place at the Club Championships for Andrew and his highest ever 20min avg power. Looks like the biking legs are ready to rock and roll this season!
Podcast of the month
One of the key areas that can have a huge impact on performance is racing in warm/hot conditions each year. This is especially the case for UK based athletes or ones that come from cooler climates who then suddenly are exposed to higher temperatures when racing. You can be the fittest you have ever been but if you can’t deal with heat then performance will be comprised, significantly in many cases.
Not only will preparation for it help improve your performance and ability to deal with the heat on race day but there is now a growing body of extraordinary scientific research coming out to say how much deliberate heat exposure can improve overall health. This includes improvements in metabolism, heart health, hormone production, exercise recovery, cognition, mood, and longevity. In fact, this is all remarkably similar to the well documented effects of cold exposure. If there is one thing clear is that the body likes to be stressed in many forms and the responses when done safely can lead to significant benefits in health and well-being. The excellent podcast I’ve included above delves a little deeper into the science of this approach and gives some really good examples of how you can incorporate heat exposure into your life, even if you don’t train for triathlons.
The key question really for athletes out there should then be what can you do within your own training to help your body deal with it better ? The simple answer to that is that it is purely about just setting up a false environment where you expose your body to heat, a process called ‘acclimation’. This is especially important if unlike Daniela Ryf you can arrive at your race location a few weeks before race day to acclimatise naturally.
The process of acclimatisation at warmer location around the world can usually take anything from 5 – 21 days depending on the individual. Some will respond quicker than others and not everyone will have the same capacity to deal with heat even when they have spent a number of weeks in it. But anyone can make a significant improvement if they acclimate to it in a false environment or acclimatise naturally ahead of time.
The easiest way for triathletes to do this is sauna exposure and/or heating a room at home whilst doing a turbo session or if you are lucky enough to have an indoor treadmill. But all of this needs to be done slowly, safely and progressively.
The benefits of frequent sauna are huge due to the typically high temperatures are exposed to typically in the range of 80-100 degrees. This forces a greater adaptation to the heat in a short period of time. What does adaptation mean? Well in its most simplest terms you will start to feel much more comfortable in it due to changes within the body.
A simple sauna protocol is outlined below:
- Ideally aim for 2-3 sessions per week
- These can last for 5-20mins max. Start at the lower end with no more than 10mins exposure if you are not used to it. Add 1min each week to starting duration if that was manageable.
- Can be done at any time but is even more beneficial to do it immediately after training session when the body temperature is already higher than normal. This forces a greater adaptation.
- Drink about 500ml of water for every 10mins you spend in the sauna to rehydrate afterwards. If you are a salty sweater then adding some electrolyte replacement can be beneficial.
- This is a protocol that can be done year round for general health but for performance start these 6-8 weeks out from your race date.
Indoor turbo/ treadmill run protocol
- Start with 1 x 30mins of heat exposure initially. Extend this by 10mins each time until you can do 60mins.
- Minimal hydration is acceptable during the workout but you can consume some fluids. Be sure to hydrate well post session.
- Aim to heat room to 25-30 degrees or close to what you might expect on race day. Radiators/ heaters will be your modality of choice with no fan. Extra clothing can be added if you are struggling to get room temperature high enough.
- Be sure to keep the intensity very easy during the initial stages, avoid high intensity/ interval training at all costs. Intensity range can be defined at the very lowest end of your aerobic range power/speed or heart rate. Heart rate can be extremely useful to make sure you aren’t working too hard. So, if your low end aerobic range (AKA Z1-Z2) is 130-135 BPM in normal cooler training conditions this is what you stick to, even if power and speed drop significantly as will happen in many cases. Over time the idea is for the same HR range your power and speed will slowly start to increase as the body adapts.
- If you start to feel ill or unwell while doing this cease activity immediately. Shorter exposure will be far easier to cope with initially.
How quickly the body adapts varies hugely from one athlete to the next. Some are very quick responders other take more time. What is essential is if you have experienced issues with heat either in training or racing you can improve your bodies capacity to deal with it by following the protocols above. It largely comes down to what is easiest for you and what you have access to, just be creative whilst being sensible at the same time. I would say aiming for at least 2 heat training exposures per week would be the minimum to see that improvement especially if we aren’t experiencing continuous warmer weather.
Instagram post of the month
Athlete feedback of the month
“Kept the pace a little lighter than I usually would, just enjoyed stretching the legs after work. I’ve started reading the Chimp Paradox as you recommended and have named my Chimp Jonny (middle name is John). Jonny is still getting his head around the lower intensity week and I’m trying to explain to him that I won’t be losing loads of fitness by not pushing it as hard – am instead trying to enjoy the more sleep I’m having and later starts.”
New Athlete Q & A
Name: Angus Pollard
Star sign: Cancer
Years in triathlon: 3
Occupation: Commercial Finance Sales Manager
In another life you would have been a..? Musician
Who is your athletic alter ego? Yo yo yo Sam Long
Favourite training session: Anything on the bike
Least favourite training session: Open water swims
Favourite training track (music!): Thanks Fr Th Mmrs – Fall Out Boy
Favourite book: Atomic Habits
Last book you read: The Lean Startup
Favourite training venue/location: Any flat smooth road in Europe to stomp on the pedals.
Favourite race experience: Ironman Wales – not for my performance just for the support, epic day!
Top 3 race bucket list:
- Kona (obviously)
- St. George
Favourite mantra: Pressure is a privilege
If you could choose 3 famous people to come to dinner with you who would they be & why?
Lance Armstrong, Jordan Belfort & Michael Jordan – a very eclectic mix of characters but feel like it would be an interesting conversation (for me)
Training hours per week: 10-15
What are your training & race goals for 2022?
Race goals: Get more 70.3’s under the belt to build out race experience. Hopefully qualify for GB age-group 2023 at London Tri.
Training goals: work hard on moving away from my current mentality of ‘harder is better’
Team out & About
Huge congrats Helen & Alistair on completing your 880km bike ride from Bilbao to Barcelona!
Our ladies in their most natural surroundings, penblwydd hapus Anna John!
Oh my…this bike is going to fly! #pimped
‘Julian’s Angels’, they hunt in packs (put your hat ON Wendy!)
Holiday rule number 1 for triathletes: Never forget your Normatec recovery leggings
Flying the team hat in the Outer Hebrides…Looking good Bev
Last time I saw the ‘Loughnan stare’ his Mum was at the starting line at The Ironman World Championships in Hawaii…go get em Max Loughnan!