Written by: Coach Derek Dalzell
Whether you’re a high school athlete, or long past your glory days, winning a state championship is what legends are made of. It’s the highest level of success any high school athlete can achieve. With such a high goal in mind, it’s critical that athletes monitor their training to get the most out of their bodies. The story below is how data is helping one high school athlete chase his dream of becoming a state champion.
Getting Started With Data
To protect the identify of this athlete, no names will be used. However, “Athlete X” has been training with data for the past several years to ensure overtraining does not take place. When working with youth athletes, it’s critical we don’t over-stress their bodies. Far too often, you see strong athletes putting in mileage that simply cannot be maintained at a young age. To bring yourself up to speed on these concepts, check out COROS blogs on Training Load, Base Fitness, and Fatigue. With the idea of prolonged success in athletics, Athlete X has been building in a manageable way over the years. Now its time to reap the benefits.
Data Tracking Tools
Athlete X is using the COROS PACE 2 to collect training and racing data. As their coach, I am using the COROS Training Hub to analyze the data. With the use of these tools, we have everything needed to chase a state championship.
Getting Ready for Key Events
With State Championships still being 2 months away for many track athletes, we want to keep in mind that we are still in the building process (periodization blog). That being said, there will be key events throughout the season where you want to get an accurate representation of your athletes abilities. This is when a taper makes sense and should be used strategically for athletic performance. Prior to this race, Athlete X went through a mini-taper and was primed to race against some of the fastest athletes in the state.
3200m Race Tactics
For Athlete X, he has built strong aerobic endurance over his youth, but his strengths remains aerobic capacity and anaerobic endurance. He essentially has the ability to maintain a strong pace for 800-1200 meters and run other competitors off his hip. This is known due to the power data we have collected over the past several years. As you head into any race, the goal should always be to maximize your strengths and limit your weaknesses. In the case of the 3200m, Athlete X must lift the pace from 1k out to limit the kick from other competitors. He isn’t the best sprinter in the field, so we don’t want this to turn into a 400m race with everyone still in the mix.
Race Analysis To Confirm Tactics
The power of a race analysis is in looking at how a race played out relative to your goals. Do you have a plan going into your race? Where you able to execute that plan? If not, when did the metrics break down. The moment those metrics break down is exactly where you should focus your training. This is likely the missing piece to your success. For Athlete X, we will look at the 3200 race and see if he utilized his strengths or allowed the field to dictate the race.
3200 Race Analysis
Athlete X sat in the pack and conserved energy. The more we can limit surging during this span, the more energy (watts) he will have above threshold for later in the race. As with all high school races, they start out faster than they should and progressively get slower through the middle sections. You can see from above that the pace starts out hot at 4:05-4:15/mile through the first 400. Athlete X had to surge multiple times to stay with the pack, but these surges dwindled as the race went on.
Average pace through 2200: 4:29/mile
Average cadence through 2200: 181 steps/minute
Average power through 2200: 388 watts
Final 1k of race
Having conserved energy through 2200, and looking to maximize his strengths, Athlete X surged to the front with 1k to go. You can see the spike in pace around 6:20 into the race. Athlete X let the pace fall slightly as they ran into the headwind, but then kept the pressure on. By knowing his strength relative to the competition (anaerobic endurance), he felt comfortable lifting his watts above threshold. If he was tapping into his energy stores, then we knew everyone else would as well. Essentially what this does is take the sprinting ability away from other athletes. Now, instead of a 400m race where everyone still has a kick left, it is essentially who has the largest anaerobic capacity. We feel strongly that Athlete X has developed this better than others, therefore this was our tactic.
Average pace last 1k: 4:25/mile
Average cadence last 1k: 185 steps/minute
Average watts last 1k: 400 watts
This was a picture perfect race by Athlete X. He was racing some of the best competition in the state and played to his strengths. Athlete X won the race and is now listed as one of the favorites heading into the rest of the season.
Going Forward with Training Focus
While the race was a huge success for Athlete X, we are still in the build phase of the season. The conditions of the 3200 were unfavorable (20mph winds), but the fastest time in the state is still about 1.8 sec/400 faster. With the focus of building for states, we are now using this race data to help develop our training strategy.
Aerobic Threshold/Above Threshold
Athlete X ran at 388 watts and 181 cadence while sitting in the pack. At states, we expect the pace to be a bit faster. Therefore, we need to develop Athlete X’s ability to hold higher watts and cadences without going anaerobic. 1k and mile intervals for this athlete going forward should be focused around 390-415 watts with a focus of maintaining a cadence of 183 or higher. The more time we develop at this intensity, the better suited Athlete X will be for states. A key to these intervals will be reducing the recovery time so we ensure an aerobic workout.
Anaerobic Endurance/Anaerobic Power
While Athlete X held 400 watts average for 1k, his last 300 meters were run at an average of 437 watts. Therefore, we would target roughly 415-425 watts for 800 meter repeats, and 435-480 watts for 400 meter repeats. With anaerobic intervals, you need to provide more recovery time. Therefore, these workouts would look like 8×400 @ 450 watts+ with a 400 meter walk recovery between. Ideally the athlete is running these at 190+ cadence.
Specificity and Monitoring
To help ensure specificity of training, we will keep a close eye on pace zone distribution in the training hub. What we are looking for as we get closer to states is to build time at specific intensities. As noted above, we will always keep a close eye on fatigue throughout the process. While this intensity does create plenty of impact for Athlete X, we will maintain his aerobic base through non-load bearing activities (swimming, cycling, etc). By cross-training and incorporating active recovery, we can continue to build in a safe and effective manner.
Every athlete, young or old, should be collecting data. It allows an athlete/coach to identify key areas of strengths and weaknesses. Once you understand where the athletes strengths are, then race tactics should be set up around this. Following key training sessions or races, analysis of the event should happen to identify where items broke down, or where you gapped the competition. Take this new information into the following training sessions and watch as progress continues at a steady rate. Progress only stalls for athletes when they stop making adjustments to their training. If you aren’t monitoring this workload/output, how will you know if you’re making progress or stalling out?