It’s not the secrets, it’s how you use them

December 3, 2011

“You only need to be fast 3-4 days of the year… the rest is just for talk.” – Pat Wheeler

Athletes have one simple aim… to get faster. The tricky part is this: how do we get faster? It’s actually not as tricky as you think. If you have a good plan, are consistent in your training, practice good restoration and recovery, and utilize proper nutrition day in and out, you as an athlete will improve. It really can be this simple.

Most athletes train too hard, we know this. Scroll through your Facebook news feed and see this  ….keep in mind it is December.

  • I ran 8 X 1 mile repeats on the track in 5:52
  • I ran 22 miles today at marathon goal pace.
  • I did 800 threshold thing-a-ma-bobs with a tire over my head.

(note most athletes who post this kind of thing are looking for one thing. Not race results… peer validation)

You tend to see these posts out of these same athletes on race day:

  • I had the fastest bike split, and then……
  • I have a great race until……

And trust me…… I have in the past….. been the captain of this movement.

My 2012 and 2013 goals are honestly to practice what I preach to a damn T. I am finally training in the method I am coaching and it’d brought me an entirely new focus as a coach and as an athlete.

While this will seem like a shameless plug for QT2, let’s face it… it’s not a shameless plug, it’s a very proud plug. You will rarely if ever see a QT2 athlete post something like that. You will see a Qt2 athlete post recovery watts (most under 100 watts), and our athletes will just prove it with race results. No argument needed. You won’t hear them talk about bike splits…. what you will see is that five of our athletes ran sub 3:05 in Kona. You will see that Mrs. Jessie Donovan smashed Ironman in Arizona, running a 3:16 off the bike in her pro debut.

As Tim Snow says…. “The bike split gets the press, the run split gets the win”.

So what’s the deal? What gives?

To be honest QT2 training is not glamorous. Sure there are mile repeats on the track, sure there are monster sets in the pool. The work is very very very and if that is not clear….. very structured. To a decimal point. You will hear of our athletes doing 183 minute bikes and try to dissect ……why the odd number? A mental strategy from coach to athlete? No, not at all. There is a reason behind every minute we prescribe. There are no blank spots in our training plans.

Our training programs are methodically configured, constructed and developed to meet all of our athletes. When I began coaching with QT2 I worried a great deal about the Mission Plans. Most of my Train-This athletes who came with me went to this plan. I know I was told it’s not cookie cutter but ….was that true?

I can now say with 100% truth…. absolutely. Each Mission Plan I have written is 110% to the athlete themselves. It’s a freaking good deal.

At QT2 we help you build a giant aerobic foundation. That’s the base of the entire season and depending on the athlete it will last 12-16 weeks of easy aerobic boring as hell training. Actually, let me clarify it.

Weeks 1-4: You will swim, bike and run the slowest you ever have in your life. You will question these heart rate zones, if you are like me totally ignore them (and develop an injury). You will look at FaceBook and see your friend is running 10 miles on Sunday morning, most at 6:30 pace and you will feel behind, out of shape, unfit, and very distrustful. I will hear you tell me you’ve run 10 minute miles when you run 3:30 marathons. You will cover up pace and power and when you finally get the guts to look at it in your post workout data…. you will think…… I can’t go so slow.

Weeks 5-8: You will start to notice something weird. You will see your HR and paces change. This may happen later depending on how many times you ignored your HR during weeks 1-4. You will suddenly be running a few seconds faster than you were at week one…. at a lower heart rate? You will think…. maybe this does work, maybe QT2 is on to something. You will feel good. In fact…. when Joe Joe is still out running his 10 miles on Sunday morning at 6:30 pace and complaining of knee pain….. you will feel like you own this secret. But you wont’ tell anyone anything out of fear that…. you feel too good, and fear of jinxing yourself.

Weeks 9-12: Depending on how well you stuck to those zones….. you will begin to think….. man I have a freaking HOUSE underneath me. You will look ahead and see some BST’s and tempo work and begin to say….. oh man here it comes, I am so ready.

That first race you will come across that finish line a believer. You will think….. holy sh*t I don’t know where that came from.

We do. Look back. You just built yourself into one smokin strong freaking athlete.

It’s a process. It takes a while. If you are me it takes 2 seasons.


What we do around here is we push up our threshold from the bottom…… if you think of threshold as a line… there are two ways to raise it. (This is going to be extremely basic; any good exercise physiologist will agree that this is a much too simplistic explanation and that there are many facets to lactate threshold…… but bear with my simplicity.)

You can raise it by pushing it up with a good dose of aerobic training.

You can pull it from the top with interval work.

Again… that’s much too simplistic an explanation, and there are good combinations of both that do the same thing.

At Qt2 we primarily push it from the bottom up. Our athletes have very few if any injuries. Training so aerobically allows us to build very strong and healthy athletes.  With that being said we test our athletes to determine which type of athlete they are. With those results we prescribe the right balance. Some need more intensity work than others depending on those results. Now we have athletes who need a lot of intensity and some who need minimal.

Either way there will be a good solid base / foundation / aerobic base laid down. Think of it as the foundation of the house. The stronger the foundation, the stronger the house. You don’t build a skyscraper on sand.

Another way to say it is this: the deeper the root, the taller the tree.

At the right time and in the right place….. you will realize that your goal…. to become your fastest self…. has been achieved.

There are people who win every training session. That’s for Facebook. Then there are those who nail every race. That’s for a podium spot. It really depends which you care most about.

So remember….. there are 3-4 days of the season you need to be fast. The rest is just for talk.



  1. So true!! I have watched this approach work time after time. I also think that the athlete who has the mental fortitude to stick to this training regime while all of their cohorts are posting their faster workout paces is someone who is also mentally stronger on race day. Thanks for proudly plugging your training philosophy! Now I’m just hoping I have the mental fortitude to stick with it this year! 😀

  2. I am a bit skeptical, Mary. You have been in this game longer than I have, which makes me hesitant to speak up, and I’m not saying that I don’t believe any of the stuff your saying, but I believe there is a real benefit to higher intensity training. I have the fountain of youth on my side (26 yrs young) and again, I’m only 2.5 years into triathlon, but I see my biggest gains a couple weeks after my hardest workouts. I 100% agree that you must bookend all of those with rest/recover, and I’ll even give you that you should start out with a deep aerobic base, but I think even during that base phase you can start to develop speed and power. Joe Friel has written a couple times about his “crash” workouts or weeks (I can’t remember specifically what he calls them), but they are basically just weeks where you shock your body and go way harder than you normally would at that point in your training. Of course, you follow it up with an easy recovery week, and you reap the rewards a little while down the road. But the thing is you tip-toe the line of maximum effort and injury and then let your body heal to get stronger than you would putting less stress on your body.

    But I guess my big “problem” with your philosophy here is the lack of risk for a greater reward. I took a pretty conservative approach to training for my first IM at LP this year, and I was pleased, but I can’t help but think I could have done more. I didn’t get injured, and I was strong throughout the race – I didn’t have any “I was doing awesome until…” moments, but it makes me think what could have happened if I had laid it out there a little more on race day or during my training… And even though I know that one answer is “you could have gotten hurt during training” or “you could have bonked on the run”, I can’t help but wonder because I didn’t do it. I guess I just don’t know that being conservative is the approach for all athletes. I’m not saying that you need to go fast everyday or even every week, but I think if you want to go fast those 3-4 days a year, you need to go fast a couple times before that too. And maybe those 800 threshold thing-a-ma-bobs with a tire over my head could really yield some great fitness if implemented properly (although they still doesn’t need to be posted on facebook).

    Just my 2 cents!

    • Great points! As I said…. There is a lot of intensity in our program…. Depending on the athlete’s needs. I never said we go easy all year long.

      The proper stress, at the proper time, built for each person. We.. just like friel…. Periodize. He teaches a solid aerobic foundation as well. So not only is this not my philosophy…. It’s many others…. And most important is that we stress each athlete the way they need to be.

      Does that make sense? There is some great reading about this in Jesses blog….. It’s right on my blogroll. It sounds like you have a great grasp…. And congrats on what you’ve achieved sister!

      • I guess one reason I did decide to comment is that I’ve been eyeing up Qt2 for a little while, but I’m worried about the conservative approach. I’ve only been self-coached thus far (or rather, coached by all the books/blogs out there). However, by the time I go at the IM distance again, which won’t be for about 2 more years for various reasons, I might want a coach.

        Anyway, by then I should have a pretty solid year round aerobic base. So, let’s say I come looking for a coach in January building up to either IMLP or the new IM Mont Tremblant, am I going to have to swim/bike/run slow all winter and potentially ‘waste’ (my word, not yours) some opportunity to increase turnover/power? I’m not taking about track workouts Tues and Thurs, 6k in the pool Wed and Sat. and then 5hr bike 2.5 hr runs outside every week in January… but is it Qt2 way that I won’t be ‘pulling up’ my LT, I’ll just be ‘pushing it up’ via aerobic training all winter? I feel like a ‘mistake’ I made in IM training this year was taking it too easy on the bike and in the pool during those winter months.

        And, not that it really matters, but I’m a mister, not a sister…

      • All right mister! 🙂

        I would say that if you began with a coach in Jan for an ironman in Aug…. They should look at;

        1. Experience (even beyond tri),

        2. What you have done thus far into your season. Current level you could say.

        3. Body composition.

        And a few other factors. Depending on that, and how you’d tested, the right amount of stress and intensity would be applied for your particular needs.

        I know that’s very general….

        QT2’s results are very solid. You’d be in good hands if you came to us of course.

        Check out some of our webinars…. Hr training and the bakers dozen would be great ones to begin.

        You obviously have a thirst for learning and improving…. So grab up all you can!

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