A surprising Zwift workout

I’ve been reading lately about how many top level cyclists combine low and high cadence work to fill in the gaps in their training profile. This Zwift workout does just that but keeps you guessing. Will the next interval be high or low cadence? Only one way to find out: download and ride the workout!

Duration: 45min
Purpose: Strength / Strength endurance
Zone: Upper zone 3 to Zone 4

Don’t know how to save custom workouts to your computer? Follow these instructions.

I’m back

After an extended absence from this blog I’m back. Some things have changed (I live in Houston now) and some things haven’t (I’m still an Architect / Triathlete).

I intend to continue to use this blog to post about the various projects I have been working on recently so hopefully, my mistakes can be of use to other people.

Being perfect

I watch the above clip before every race that I do as for me it encapsulates my goal for every race: to be perfect.
I have little impact on the eventual outcome of the race – my position often depends on who shows up on the day and who has a good race (or not) – by I can have a significant impact on my process of racing. I can often choose not to let things get me down, or to continue to keep going when things seem impossible and I know that the races of which I am proudest are the races in which I have tried hardest, regardless of the outcome. When I’ve felt like sitting down under a tree but instead I chased down the next person, when I’ve conquered self-doubt to believe that I can do a time I’ve never done before. I’ll take those memories with me forever.
For many of us our training can be compromised by life’s other demands: work, family and other commitments so realistically our potential outcomes do not include coming first, but they can include being perfect. Making the most of our limited resources and doing our best. The winner of your last race may not win their next race and so their version of perfection may fade, but you can do your best, you can strive to be perfect in every race, no matter what the situation or what has compromised your preparation and in so doing you can achieve perfection again and again.
Now go be perfect!


Using SSL on an Azure AppService website

Certificate request

Generate a certification request using IIS: http://technet.microsoft.com/library/cc732906(WS.10).aspx

Request a certificate from a certificate signing authority

I used GoDaddy – their certificates were pretty cheap for the first year. I will see who to renew through after a year.

Confirm certificate request


Export certificate


Configure custom domain on Azure


Add the certificate to Azure and create a certificate binding


Finally, add a transform to the release configuration of the web.config file (this forces the entire site to use SSL):

    <rewrite xdt:Transform="Insert">
        <rule name="RedirectToHTTPS">
          <match url="(.*)" />
            <add input="{HTTPS}" pattern="off" ignoreCase="true" />
            <add input="{URL}" pattern="/$" negate="true" />
            <add input="{REQUEST_FILENAME}" matchType="IsFile" negate="true" />
          <action type="Redirect" url="https://{SERVER_NAME}/{R:1}" redirectType="SeeOther" />





What did I learn at the TriSutto training camp in St Moritz?

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a training camp at St Moritz hosted by Brett Sutton and the TriSutto coaches. I got to train alongside a number of triathlon professionals including many Ironman champions and an Olympic gold medalist. Even if I didn’t learn anything else last week it would have been worth the price of admission just to see them train.

The camp was a combination of training, talks and recovery with the program each day really being determined by the fickle mountain weather.

I learned a lot last week and I could go on about it for days but I really think that if you truly want to get a feel for how Brett coaches his athletes and what his training group do you should attend a camp yourself. There are a number of camps hosted each year in various locations and you don’t even need to be very fit to attend them: you’ll be able to train at your level. More information on these camps can be found here.

One of the most important messages that I took away from the week is to listen to your body. Brett doesn’t set out structured programs for his athletes in advance, rather he has an idea as to what they will do on each day and when they meet to swim in the morning he adjusts what each athlete will be doing that day based on how they feel, what they did the day before and what they will be doing the next day. When it comes to the sessions themselves Brett expects his athletes again to listen to their bodies, if they feel fresh they can push and if they are tired they can hold back. Sessions are not prescribed but rather guided – athletes get to choose what they are doing on the day within a range of options. This works because his athletes understand the purpose of each session, and they are self motivated. If the session is a bike strength session then the athlete knows to work on their strength and once they have done enough they stop. His athletes don’t blindly follow a program and end up pushing too hard when they are tired or not hard enough when they are feeling good.

This approach reminds me of something I read in a book by Arthur Lydiard. He was coaching Dick Taylor towards the 10000m in the Olympic games when a group of school pupils stopped to chat to him:

“What’s he doing”?, one asked.

“Repetitions”,  Lydiard explained.

They knew all about those. “How many is he going to do?”

“I don’t know”

“What times is he running?”

“I’m not timing him”

They exchanged looks of disbelief. Was Lydiard supposed to be coaching on of New Zealand’s best runners?

Then Lydiard asked, “How far round is this track, anyway?”

They knew then Lydiard did not know what he was talking about.

When Dick finished and joined Lydiard they asked him “How many did you do?”

“I didn’t count them” Dick said.

“What times were you running?”

“I didn’t time them”

Lydiard then decided to explain to the boys before they ran away laughing, that times and numbers were unimportant. What mattered was the effect on Taylor of what he was doing and he knew better than Lydiard what he wanted to do and when he had enough.

Running with Lydiard Paperback – 1 Jul 2001 by Arthur Lydiard (Author), Garth Gilmour (Author) Amazon

Too many of us are slaves to our Garmins, to our watches, to our programs. We chase after a “Green Week” in Training Peaks (which is where you complete every session prescribed during the week) regardless of how we feel and whether we are in good enough shape to achieve the desired outcome of the session. And in so doing, instead of getting fitter / faster we sacrifice our performance, our health and our sanity. I too have behaved that way in the past too but not any more – from now on I will be applying these lessons both to myself and to athletes I coach.


St Moritz Training Camp

I’m off to a training camp at St Moritz next week (6-11 June 2016). The camp is run by Brett Sutton who coaches some of the best triathletes in the world including Nicola Spirig who won Gold at the London Olympics, Daniela Ryf who won the Ironman World Championships last year (and the triple crown $1mil prize purse that comes with it) and Matt Trautman (2 x Ironman SA 70.3 champ amongst other things), some of whom will be at the training camp. He also coached Chrissie Wellington through multiple Ironman World Championships. Brett is one of the most notorious / enigmatic coaches around and is probably in his own way one of the greatest thinkers in the sport. I’ve got so much to learn from him.

The other thing about St Moritz is that it is at 1856m in altitude while I live at about 50m altitude so the air is going to be thinner up there. Also my swimming hasn’t been great of late so that should be interesting. See I’m already lining up the excuses 😉

The truth is the whole thing scares me a little, but it shouldn’t. I’ve been doing this stuff for long enough to know that I will be fine – actually better than that, it will be awesome and I will create memories and isn’t that what life is really about? Creating amazing memories?

Check out the St Moritz webcam here and weather here.

Why I do Ironman

I listened to a podcast the other day in which the interviewee explained that in his view people do Ironman in order to sit around the dinner table and tell others about the time they did an Ironman. They do Ironman in order to appear tough / insane / hardcore (delete as appropriate). While this may be true for some, it was so far from the truth for me that I decided to write this post.

I do Ironman because it brings out the truth in me and the people around me. There is no pretending at the 28k mark of the marathon. The masks which most of us seem to wear in our day to day lives seem to dissolve during the swim and for the rest of the day we are who we are, for better or worse. In a world of appearance and illusion there is truth to be found on the Ironman course. And that truth is better than any illusion as it shows what we can do once we drop the mask and stop pretending: we can do our impossible. Most days we seem to be surrounded by the negative side of mankind – you just need to read the papers to see this – but at an Ironman finish line you can witness mankind at it’s best: true happiness and joy, true satisfaction, true camaraderie.

The irony to me is that even those who entered the race for bragging rights are forced to drop this reason during the day, dig deep and reveal their own truth. That is why this sport is so addictive, and why I will continue to do it for as long as I can.

Where do you find your truth?

Me facing my truth at various points on various days

Are you successful?

I want to write today about something that is very close to my heart: success, or more specifically the meaning of success.

I often hear others talk about people who make a lot of money or have powerful titles or jobs as being successful and I always think the same thing: yes they’ve achieved a lot in their careers but does that make them successful? It may do but for too many people it seems as though they achieve this success at the expense of happiness – they end up divorced or in unloving relationships, possibly with estranged kids and an unquenchable thirst for more money or more of this kind of “success”.

Imagine a world in which when people spoke of others as being successful they spoke about how happy and content that person is. How much they smiled, loved and laughed. Imagine a world where our driving ambition was not to make more money or get a better job title but to love more, care more and laugh more. Imagine our 5 year plans didn’t define where we want to be in our careers but rather where we wanted to be in our lives – the level of contentment we aimed to achieve. In this world the covers of magazines would show contented people who set an example of the values which truly lead to success, rather than people whose appearance we are taunted to emulate.

In our world not everyone can have lots of money or powerful jobs but we can all be content. We can all love, we can all laugh. Sometimes it may be hard to do this but even when life is tough we can strive to return to happiness and in so doing achieve a purity of purpose that no amount of money can buy.

Yes, I want to be successful. But my definition of success is perhaps a little different to many other people. What’s your definition of success?

Why I train to heart rate, not power (or pace).

My first run on the Big Island, Hawaii prior to the Ironman World Championships last year taught me one thing: my race pace in 35 deg heat with high humidity and strong sun is different to my race pace in the much cooler Cape Town which I had left. How did my body tell me this? First my heart rate at race pace was 20 beats higher than it was in Cape Town and second, it told me this by wanting to shut down and seek shade!

Now image I had a training program which told me to run at a given pace – but didn’t take into account the conditions on the day. That session would have been much tougher in the conditions in Hawaii than in Cape Town and would have placed me in completely different training zones, working on different energy systems. It would have been a completely different workout. While doing a number of those sessions per week in Cape Town would have been fine, doing them in Hawaii would have lead me to exhaustion and over-training.

The same is true on a bike. Training to a given power can vary the intensity of the same session from a day to day basis – depending on a number of factors including how tired I am, the weather, if I am dehydrated or don’t fuel the session properly or may be even if I have an underlying infection and I am getting sick but don’t feel ill yet. What should be a relatively easy session can become much harder due to these factors.

To overcome these external factors I train to heart rate – when it’s hot that means my pace slows down and my power is lower – but I work the right systems and illicit the correct training response. When I am tired or sick or my nutrition is off the mark the same thing happens – I slow down but work at the right heart rate. I do use power and pace to measure progress: over time I can compare similar sessions to see what power (or pace) a given heart rate resulted in – which in my eyes, is the real measure of progress.

To go faster in a long distance race you don’t need to produce huge amounts of power, you have to produce that power efficiently, that is with less effort, and I use my heart rate as a proxy for effort. If I can produce the same power at a lower heart rate then, all other things being equal, I can hold that power for longer. So I train to improve my efficiency by making sure I am training the right systems as often as possible.

So in short, I train to heart rate and use power and pace to measure progress.

Train Well – The Magic Ingredients, Part 1: MAF Training

In my previous blog post I mentioned that one of my goals was to “train well”. There are a number of aspects to “training well” in my opinion so over the next few blog posts I am going to talk about what I consider to be “training well”. To begin with, I want to tell you three stories. The first involves little old me, the second, one of the greatest triathletes of all time and the third involved a current professional triathlete who had a breakthrough Kona last year (2015).

I have a history of issues with hamstring injury which makes it difficult / dangerous for me to do high intensity running, specifically track sessions. This injury has at times in the past stopped me from running altogether so I have to be very careful not to push too hard and make the injury flare up again. After Ironman South Africa 2015 I decided to stop doing high intensity running altogether and leading up to 70.3 Durban 2015 I only ran to heart rate – specifically MAF heart rate as defined by Dr. Phill Maffetone (more below), which is 142bpm in my case. All my long runs and my short runs were all done to this heart rate. Slowly, over time I noticed a progression in my pace running at 142bpm: I went from 5:30 per km at the beginning to 4:45 per km closer to the race. During the race in Durban I ran a PB for a half marathon of 1:38. This was not only a PB for a half marathon during a triathlon, but a PB for a half marathon, triathlon or not. Again, I did this while doing no hard running.

Mark Allen is considered one of the greatest triathletes of all time. He is most well known for winning 6 Ironman World Championships but he also dominated shorter (higher intensity) races during his day. The thing is, out of season his training mates used to think he was getting slow. He would frequently be dropped when riding with others and do a lot of his training by himself, at his own pace. Then when the season came around, suddenly things changed and he sped up dramatically, dropping everyone else (literally everyone!) and winning 6 x Kona and 10 x Nice International Championships (probably the equivalent of Kona back in the day but less important with the passage of time). Now the question is: what was he doing? Mark Allen was coached by Phil Maffetone – he would train to his MAF heart rate out of season, building a massive endurance engine and then when the season came around he would layer on power and speed and school everyone.

Timothy O’Donnell is one of the most successful triathletes of our time. Although he has not (yet) won Kona he won the 2009 ITU Long Distance championships and has won numerous Ironman races. Tim started working with Mark Allen in 2014. In a number of interviews since both Tim and Mark have referred to a “gap” in Tim’s previous training – although he is a professional triathlete and has years of endurance training behind him, his endurance base was letting him down. Mark and Tim then worked together to do a significant amount of training to address this imbalance, which seems to have worked. Tim disappeared off the front of the bike in Kona 2015 wondering why everyone else was going so slow and eventually managed to hold on for third, considered by many a breakthrough performance. What did Tim do to make a difference? He followed Marks guidance and worked at this magic MAF heart rate.

So how do you find out about this magic little ingredient? The best source, is the man himself, Dr. Phil Maffetone and you can read all about him and his magic 180 formula here. Simply put the ingredient is to train as much as possible at your MAF heart rate until you plateau and then shake things up. This explanation probably leads to more questions than answers for example:

  1. Should I train to this heart rate on the bike and run?
    Yes, yes you should. It will be hard to keep your heart rate down to this rate while running and hard to get your heart rate up to this level while on the bike but you still need to do it. Over time your body will adapt: your legs will become stronger and your running efficiency improve. This will make it easier to run / cycle at your MAF heart rate. Dr. Phil is quite adamant about this – there are no exceptions.
  2. How do I know if it is working?
    Do a MAF test. This is explained on Dr. Phil’s website and is the best way of measuring your progression.
  3. But I’m getting slower at my MAF heart rate!
    The Maffetone method is a holistic method. If you are getting slower (or not improving, or improving slowly) you need to look beyond your training. Are you sick? Are you eating well? Have you been more stressed than normal? Are you injured? Any of these problems could lead to a lack of improvement in performance or even a regression in performance.
  4. I’ve improved a lot but now I’m at a plateau. What now?
    There are a number of possible things to look at: is your diet helping you or hindering you? You could also have achieved your maximum current performance at your MAF and you may now need to shake it up by doing some more intensity or something else different.

The key take away from this story is that many of of can improve by working on our endurance base, with specific work done at MAF heart rate. It’s not as glamorous as smashing out a tough run session of dropping everyone in a group ride, but if your goal is to race as fast as possible, there is a good chance you can get faster but working at MAF heart rate.

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