Friday, February 7, 2014

Learn from a pro: What it takes and mistakes to avoid?

A couple weeks ago I trained with pro triathlete, Jeremy Howard. Though he only earned his pro card a year ago, his resume in endurance sports is no joke. In 2011 he finished 5th overall at the UltraMan World Championships in Hawaii. If you think an Ironman is a test of endurance, try swimming 6.2 miles, cycling 261.4 miles, and running 52.4 miles in one weekend. He currently races with the Perfect Fuel Chocolate Elite Team, coaches and owns a race consulting firms that helps organize and manage races like the American Odyssey Relay and Old Glory Coast to Coast Relay.

He was gracious enough to let me interview him.


PictureWhy triathlon? What initially attracted you to the sport?

I grew up swimming, and I dabbled in running starting in high school.  I was pretty good at both, not great, but that pushed me to want to try triathlon.  I enjoyed it and did 1-2 races a year for a long time, but it was never a priority.  It was really the prodding of my best friend, Christian McEvoy.  He was a very talented cyclist and very good triathlete and I was his training partner leading up to and crewed for him at the 2010 Ultraman.  He constantly told me all I needed was time on the bike, and that I could do incredibly well in the sport.  If it wasn't for his support and encouragement I wouldn't be doing this today. 

What does it take, emotionally, physically, or otherwise, to become a professional endurance athlete?
You've got to have a lot of patience.  There is certainly the physical aspect to the training and performance, but I feel that is the easiest part of it all.  Sure, the training can be monotonous at times and it is difficult to get out fro workouts when you are physically drained and tired.  It takes a strong support network and a lot of mental fortitude to remind yourself to be patient.  The sport is getting faster every year as more and more people are getting involved and staying involved.  It takes years to reach your potential - it's been said that for Long Course and Ironman athletes that you don't peak until your late 30's.  So, you just need to focus on the little things that you can improve and constantly remind yourself that you're getting closer to where you want to be.  

What's the biggest mistake you see many age-groupers make in their training or racing?

The biggest mistake I see age-groupers making in their training is a lack of focus.  They tend to train in the strongest discipline the most, while ignoring their weaknesses.  They also tend to perform quality workouts at random instead of having them build in a logical progression from week to week with rest weeks incorporated into the schedule.  On the racing side, I see so many age groups making two mistakes 1) panicking during the swim either due to a lack of familiarity with the open water or setting themselves up incorrectly at the start and 2) pushing too hard on the bike - you want to race, but more importantly you want to be able to race the run.  If paced properly you should be able to run off the bike within a 5-10 minutes of your best stand alone half marathon. 

What does a typical week of training look like for you? 

A typical  week of training, for me, changes drastically throughout the year.  Right now I am in a base phase where I am focused on strength.  I am lifting 2x, and swimming, running and biking 4x each week.  None of my workouts are exceeding 2hrs and my daily volume is pretty consistent between 2-3hrs.  Most of my sport specific workouts are aerobic, but I am hitting one quality workout in each discipline weekly.  Speed on the swim, intervals at Functional Threshold Power (FTP) on the bike, and hill repeats on the run.  There is also a lot of technical work built into my base workouts.  Later in the year, during race season, my daily volume will fluctuate drastically between 90 minutes and 12 hours, with a lot more work at Ironman or Half Ironman effort. 

What's a go-to workout for you (whether swim, bike, run or brick)?

Not sure this counts, but it's one that I am looking forward to - 20x400@2:00 running.  These are performed at Olympic distance effort (right up to threshold) and this will be the third year in a row that I've done this.  I don't really have a go to workout that I perform on a regular basis. I have benchmark workouts that I will hit, on average twice per year. 

Do you take a specific approach with your nutrition?

Funny you should ask this now.  I have not, in the past, but as I move into my first full year as a Pro, I decided to be more proactive, and am currently in the middle of the Standard Process Cleanse.  This is a three week cleanse that is intended to rid the body of all toxins and to promote healthy eating habits.  I'm 8 days in right now and feel pretty good.  I generally have eaten well, but enjoy my fair share of coffee and beer.  I will likely consume those in a bit more moderation, as well as expand the variety of veggies in my diet, while reducing my meat intake.  Nothing wholly drastic from what I've done - just balancing things out a little bit better. 

What's your proudest accomplishment thus far in the sport?

My biggest accomplishment would have to be my race at UltraMan in 2011 - finishing 5th overall as the 1st American.  I had probably done fewer than 15 triathlons over a 12 year span at that point, had done one Half Ironman, in 2008, and completed my first full earlier that year, in May at Ironman St. George.  I was pleased with my training leading up to Ultraman, but was completely surprised at how I was able to race over those distances and on back-to-back days.  I was also extremely fortunate to have my parents and best friend out crewing for me, which made the experience that much better. 

Big goals this year?

This year is all about learning to race in the Pro Field.  I have more races on my schedule than ever before, and will be tackling two Ironman races in September, two weeks apart.  My biggest goals are concerning racing frequently and recovering and learning to perform while training through certain races.  My biggest quantitative goals are for the run.  The run has been my off-season focus and I would like to run sub-1:20 half marathons and sub-3:00 marathons in each of my Ironman events. 
Where can people learn more about you?  

Twitter:         @jh_triathlete     
Instagram:   @JHtriathlete
Perfect Fuel Chocolate Elite Team Page - 

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