Thursday, January 21, 2016

Opinion: Ryan Hall Retirement

One of the things I have tried in the past to stay away from have been controversial topics and opinions, but I think the time has come where that needs to change. I will now occasionally use this blog to share opinions on things, because I need to be honest with athletes if I am truly a figurehead in the endurance sports world. Which leads me to the first topic....

Ryan Hall announced his retirement this week. At 33 years of age, a number of injuries and other setbacks, it seems we've all been a bit bummed that he couldn't return to the form he showed at Boston in 2011, and London in 2008, where he broke 2:07 at both. Boston was the fastest time any American had ever covered the marathon distance, at 2:04:58. It was amazing, in a word. But it was also not a World Record, as the course was point to point, with net downhill. And that asterisk on that performance is a metaphor for Ryan's career.

I watched Ryan grow through the sport, with some amazing races, going back to high school in Big Bear. At Stanford, racing Dathan Ritzenhein at the NCAA XC Champs, and then onto the track beyond that. His sub 1-hour half marathon is probably one of the most amazing American performances I will see in my lifetime. He has worked harder than most athletes, much less people, will ever know. He has sacrificed and made commitments, risked his health in training, and hoped for things to work out. But, there will always be an asterisk in mind.

When Ryan* became part of an investigation into a doctor, and Alberto Salazar, in regard to thyroid medication, I had to step back and reconsider my thoughts on Ryan*. I had to put an asterisk on everything he had done. (Sadly, for a publication like the NYT, I am disappointed they didn't even discuss the topic in the article, it's a critical piece of the full story.)

I was at a small, informal meeting of Ryan* and some high school runners here in San Diego a few years ago, and I had promised not to say or mention the thyroid medication at the event, as I was a guest of a friend, a local coach. Why did I go? I was hopeful he would speak to some of the decisions he had made, times in his life where even though it maybe wasn't "illegal" to take thyroid medication, he knew the difference between right and wrong. He had a chance to teach these young minds that performance is great, but being a great person is better. He didn't. No mention of it.

I'm not saying Ryan Hall* is a bad person, I don't know him. He probably treats the people in his life with much love and appreciation, as he interviews well, and sounds very humble. He probably gives a lot to his community. (But of course, Lance gave a lot to his community too). He is clearly a God-fearing man, but I wonder how he convinced himself that using a medication that was clearly suspect in its ethical use and promoted to him as a way to perform better, was ok. I wonder if he would stand in front of his church, or a group of students, or even his own kids, and say, "If you can find a short-cut in life, take it! If it's questionably ethical, who cares? If it's not illegal, do it!"

That's what Ryan* did. He took a shortcut, because Salazar and those around him told him it was ok, and he chose to be a sheep, rather than thinking for himself. He knew better. I've read his tweets and interviews for years, where he talks and preaches about being a good Christian man, and yet he can't find the difference between right and wrong when it matters the most to his passion and career? If he made a mistake, ok, then admit it and use it to better the world. Explain the challenges of being under pressure, trying to live as a professional athlete against the best in the world. But he didn't do that. He denied it was unethical. Claimed his thyroid just wasn't working right, so it wasn't cheating. This is like saying my adrenal glands don't work right when I am training 40+ hours per week, so I need testosterone treatments to help it. Sorry man, doesn't work that way. (Ironically, the NYT article link discusses this exactly above, as that has been his argument, which only disappoints me more, based on the hypocrisy of the original choice to use the thyroid meds. He knows right and wrong.) And is it any real surprise that after the thyroid medication exposure, in late 2012, he never achieved the same level as 2011? Maybe it was a performance enhancer after all? Newsflash: endurance athletes who train extensively affect their hormone levels. Those who want to off-set the negative effects of training take substances to off-set them. They're called DOPERS. They use testosterone or thyroid, or insert whatever drug here _____.

He and his wife Sarah have 4 adopted kids, and I have no reason to think they aren't great, loving parents, but I hope he uses this experience as a teachable moment for them. He has failed so far in doing that with the rest of the world.

So, sorry to say I am not celebrating Ryan Hall's* retirement. I am instead somber about a great talent and person who was tainted by the lure of the shortcut, of drugs in our sports. Some, (or perhaps many), will disagree, as he has accomplished a number of incredible things in running. But once credibility is lost, what can we really trust was truly accomplished by Ryan*, and not the drugs?

Ryan Hall* will always be the way I think of him. The asterisk being the symbol of an athlete who chose the shortcut. Please choose differently if you find yourself in similar situations.

Coach Vance

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Finding Your Run FTP & Setting Up in TrainingPeaks

The first of many writings on running power meters, this one posted at TrainingPeaks....

Running With Power: How to Find Your Run FTP

If you are now currently using a power meter for running, like the new Stryd or RPM2 products, you likely are wondering how you can utilize the tool to maximize the benefit of the technology in your training and racing. Power meters for running are a very new technology, and there is still a lot to learn ahead. However, to begin using it effectively to learn about your training and training response, you should begin as you would if you were using a cycling power meter.

Collecting Data

The first thing you should be doing is simply performing your normal training and observe the data as you train. Track the data and see how the numbers fluctuate or correlate with different intensities, different inclines or declines, and more. Don’t try to control your training based on the power numbers, as you don’t have a baseline for what they truly mean yet. At first, collect the data from your normal training and see how the numbers are trending.


When you feel you are ready, you can then test for your run Functional Threshold Power (FTP). Now, if you’re a triathlete who uses power on the bike, this number will not likely be the same as on the bike for you. In fact, it is likely larger than your cycling FTP. So don’t try to use that value. Be specific and set your run functional threshold for power, or what I call, rFTPw. If you’re a runner, you likely already use threshold pace in TrainingPeaks, or what I call rFTPa. I use these terms so not to confuse them with cycling, and especially not to confuse both pace and power when comparing or discussing FTP.
You can read the rest here:

You can also find more info on my book on power meters for running, at

Coach Vance

Thursday, December 17, 2015

CrossFit and Endurance Athletes

I received an email today from a coach asking about my thoughts on CrossFit for endurance athletes. It's an interesting topic. I have experience, both as an athlete and coach, working with CrossFit and endurance sports. Note, I am not speaking about CrossFit Endurance, simply CrossFit.

Here's the email from Jane....

I was wondering if cross fit training has a place in the yearly cycle? A lot of people I KNOW ARE DOING IT , BUT I FEEL IT'S TO MUCH LIKE A COMPROMISE BETWEEN CARDIO AND STRENGTH TRAINING. What is your opinion?
My response to her was:

CrossFit is all about overall, general development of athleticism and strength, nothing specialized. That is basically what the general preparation phase of any endurance athlete is. So I think it has a place in that phase. For most endurance athletes, the type of high-intensity training that CrossFit provides is something many of them ignore, so there is definitely a need for most endurance athletes to include some of this type of training. How much? That's individual.  

The issue is more so the risk of injury, especially if trying to maintain a somewhat moderate level of endurance training. CrossFit instructors in general have a relatively high amount of intensity everyday in the training, and sooner or later, this catches up to the athlete, creating injuries, limiting progress. 

So it must be a careful and dedicated balance, or compromise as you mentioned. Not easy, but the risk can provide some high rewards if some of the principles are applied properly. 

Hope this helps. 

Coach Vance

Friday, October 30, 2015

Speaking on Running Power Meters in Kona 2015

While in Kona, I spoke at the Ironman Expo, for RPM2, (pronounced RPM squared), about the possibilities of power meters for running, as their product is one of this new technology.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Natural Running Network Podcast on Power Meters for Running

I recently did an interview on the Natural Running Network Podcast, discussing power meters for running, their potential, what we know so far, and more.

You can find the podcast interview here:

You can expect a lot more posts coming soon on power meters for running, how they work, how to interpret the data and more.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Data vs. Perception - An Example of the Relationship

One of my athletes logged a bike workout this week where he said...

"Loved the workout tonight. I feel like my power is going the wrong way."

But when I looked at the workout, and how it compared, it was his best session under me, for the type of workout it was, and his best 6 min power output in a year. When I replied to him with this info... 

"I'm not seeing that at all Ron. I expect you're a little tired, but this was one of your best workouts in a long time. See attached. 

Remember, we haven't even touched this type of intensity in awhile, and you showed you're still very strong at it. I am excited to see what you do when I let you loose soon on some harder, longer rides. "

This clearly brought a reality to his perception, that only numbers and data can do. His reply was...

"Thanks for the email!

That is why we can’t train by perception. Data doesn’t lie. Feelings do. I really enjoyed the workout tonight. I enjoy feeling a little worked afterwards."

While I agree the data doesn't lie and feelings do, I believe you can and should train on perception, BUT USE THE DATA to refine that perception. When your perception is in line with reality, you can trust it better, especially in those moments in a race or workout where you are feeling good, so the numbers don't control you, they just guide you. 

Here are two of the charts I sent him...

Use the data to refine your perception, and I think you'll find a better sense of yourself and fulfillment in your training and racing. 

Coach Vance

Monday, August 24, 2015

Presenting Benchmark Testing for Power at Interbike

I am looking forward to presenting the Benchmark Testing For Power at the Slowtwitch Cycling Power Coaching Certification Course at Interbike. I will teach coaches how to test for Functional Threshold Power, as well as other key tests, and how to interpret the results, and where those athletes rate based on the tests, which is also coming out in my new book soon. (More on that in a later post). 

Interested in attending? You can register at

Additional information about the Cycling Power Certification and Slowtwitch Coaching can be found here: 
Coach Vance

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ironman and 70.3 Speed and Pace Charts

Many athletes want to achieve a certain split, either for the bike or run, but have little idea of how fast that split actually is. The following charts are little cheat sheets I created for reference of the actual speed/pace that correlates to the time/split. For running, we did it in both min/km and min/mile.

Special thanks to Dan Feeney, for his help creating these. Enjoy and feel free to share, but please keep credit label on the images.


Coach Vance

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

7 Pre-Workout Routines for Better Performance

Here's an article I wrote for TrainingPeaks, which discusses some great routines I use with my athletes.

7 Pre-Workout Routines for Better Performance

Have you ever stumbled out of bed and wondered why it takes so long for you to gain your balance or be able to walk straight? Or have you ever sat for so long in a car or at a desk that the first few steps you wonder if your legs are listening to what your brain is telling them to do?
These are just a couple examples of how the connections between our brains and our muscles are sometimes not functioning properly due to periods of non-use. In the world of physical therapy, it is called neuromuscular activation. “Neuro” comes from the nervous system, which sends the signals from the brain to the “muscular” system, to activate the muscles.

Physical Therapy

Many physical therapists work with individuals just trying to get them to utilize muscles which aren’t firing or being used in common movements which would greatly enhance the strength and stability of the person during the movements. Most athletes scoff at this idea, but the research shows significant performance differences with neuromuscular activation improvements and some simple routines prior to bouts of exercise can be very effective at improving activation. For example, most athletes have seen dramatic neuromuscular improvements in the weight room, just in the first few weeks of lifting weights. It takes six weeks for athletes to show muscle growth from strength training, so those first six weeks of strength gains from those routines is almost entirely neuromuscular adaptation and improvements in activation.
You can read the rest of the article here...

Enjoy and good luck!

Coach Vance

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

It's Important to Know Your FTP

I had an email discussion today with an athlete who uses power, but told me they weren't sure of their FTP. Though it is great this athlete made the leap to use power and the data to help their training, but without a baseline point to use from which to judge the numbers, they really don't mean much.

The athlete stated to me they guessed their power was somewhere around 250-275 watts. This sounds fine, but the problem is this 25 watt range represents a difference of about 10%! That is huge when talking about FTP! An athlete who can even raise their FTP 10% in one season has either stated from a point of low fitness, or done a phenomenal job of training.

Every session being off by as much as 10% in the estimate of IF and TSS changes the entire load on the athlete, and what trends can be learned, strategies for pacing can be made, and more.

It is important to know you FTP, so don't waste time with it. Here's a simple test:
Warm-up easy for 10 mins, then do 5 mins of 15 secs fast, 45 seconds easy, then 5 mins build each minute individually, easy to fast, and the fast gets faster each minute. Then take a 2 min easy spin, and start a 20 minute time-trial, of the best power you can average for the whole 20 mins. Take 95% of the average power, and that is your estimated FTP. Cool down an easy 10-15 mins of spinning.

Do this, and the numbers you use will actually begin to make sense. Without knowing your FTP, they don't mean much.

Coach Vance