Running and Swimming Thresholds – making adjustments

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    I was struggling with my running speed/pace zones. They just seemed so slow. I really had to force myself to run slowly especially in Z1/2. I read in the documentation that staying in the lower zones was a good exercise for the brain to condition it to adapt to the slower speeds. However, my RPE told me that I could go faster. Last week, the Triathlon Maintenance Plan had a RF10 running session of 5 minute Z1 sessions bookending a 60 minute Z2. I decided to do the 20 minute test. I did a 15 minute warm up in Z1/2 and then ran a faster Z3 for 20 minutes. I had hoped to shift my zones up by one level. The result was that my threshold shifted up by two levels. Previously, Z3 was 6:40 – 7:10. It is now 5:50 to 6:16. As well, my km splits showed these speeds in the km splits: km 3 – 6’03”, km 4 – 5’55”, km 5 -5’38”. The important thing is that I was actually running faster as I neared the end of the test. I felt that I could have run at this pace for another 10-15 minutes. I just felt so strong.

    Today, I read tomorrow’s workout, an RT11 workout. I read the comments for the workout, “Use these tempo sets to confirm or reestablish your zones”. I then read through the ‘Intensity Guidelines for Running and Triathlons’. I also read through some of the forum posts/answers related to the question of when to retest thresholds.

    At this point in the post, I would just like to thank the authors of the 80/20 Plan for so clearly laying out the whole restesting procedure and for actually incorporating retesting sessions throughout the plan. I am so very happy to have started my 70.3 training with the maintenance plan as it is helping me understand and overcome confusion as I train. I will be so much better prepared to start the 18 week training program in March 22, 2022 as I get ready for my May race.

    So far, the post has been about running. Not only did my threshold for running need an adjustment, but both cycling and swimming needed an adjustment. I was swimming too fast (pace) and riding too slowly (HR). Why did I know that I was cycing too slowly? On one 30 minute ride, only 6 minutes of HR zones were recorded. I contacted TP to find out why and they said this was because TP does not record any HR below the bottom zone. I was riding too slowly. The next ride, I rode harder and faster. Now, I had complete HR zones, but they were a bit too high. Obviously, this will take a bit of trial and error to get it right. If only I had a power meter, sigh.

    With the swim, I did the 400/200 m test to get my zones. Since that test, I have always been swimming too fast. My times are always above/faster than the zone segments. I needed to slow down, to learn to swim more slowly, to focus on technique. This seems to be the only event where technique has to be really, really focused on. I can swim the 1.9 km distance in around an hour, but my technique is poor. I recently booked a session with a swim coach and have another session with her next week. We are focusing on breathing, especially bilateral breathing. As my breathing improves, my speed goes up. So, it seems that as the lessons progress and as my technique improves, I will constantly need to retest my pace.

    My question, you ask? I don’t know if I really have one, or just wanted to share my journey. I guess I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the training, by the constant need to re-assess performance, establish new thresholds. The changes seem never-ending. The real plus in all this is that I am getting fitter and faster. I just turned 69 and feel that I am in the best shape ever, which I know is not true especially given how competitive a hockey player I was when I was younger. It just seems that way…


    thanks for sharing your journey. Building the ability to understand your own effort and pacing is something that takes time, patience and a lot of experimentation in training. Over time you will start to notice that will start to get a better feel for your zones and in doing so need less testing and threshold adjustment. Matt wrote a great blog post about athletes relationships with data and gadgets

    Relationship Counseling for Athletes and Their Devices

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