Thursday, May 15, 2008

Big A challenges YOU to a drag race!!

Pick your weapon of choice:
Option 1: A 2008 Corvette Z06

Option 2: A 2008 Honda Accord
Option 3: A 2008 Prius Hybrid

Now remember, this is a race. Make your selection.

I’ll tell you what, while I love driving in general, I have a bit of a penchant for long distance driving, so let’s race from my home town of Boulder to Albuquerque, NM, OK (about 350mi)?

There’s one more condition to the race, to keep things fair (and authentic to triathlon) we start with our gas tanks full and do it on one tank of gas. Thinking of changing your selection yet? No? You’re right, it’s still a race, whether it’s 50mi or 500mi, the fastest guy wins in the end, right?

OK, so let’s play it out. You screech out of the Boulder Res using every bit of your 505 Horsepower (in triathlon speak 376,000 Watts at VO2max, or in relative terms, you’re making Lance Armstrong’s 6.7 W/kg look pretty pathetic with your 265 W/kg :-) . You hit a solid cruising speed of 140mph (only 70% of your max!!) and you’re thinking this is cake. You’ve got the win in the bag. You’re passing cars left right and center – zing, zing.

Your buddy in the Accord takes off too at about 100mph (70% of his max) and he’s losing ground fast. You’re thinking to yourself, I bet he’s wishing he had those extra 143W/kg right now. Right?

Meanwhile, driving Miss Daisy takes off at a snails pace in the Prius at 80mph (70% of her max). Things aren’t looking great for her as the two guys scream off toward the Horizon. Honestly, with her 44W/kg she’d be better off enlisting the help of 6 Lance Armstrong’s with FT’s of ~ 7W/kg to pull her along dog sled style!! :-)

So, things are looking pretty clear cut as you scream along I25 toward Albuquerque, but then as you approach about 320mi, all of a sudden your super sexy sports car isn’t sounding so super sexy. You try and try to keep her going, but before you know it, you’ve got your head in your hands at the side of the road as your buddy in the accord (with 140W/kg less top end than you) comes rolling by. Doesn’t make sense, you both started with same size fuel tanks (18 G) topped off. Oh well, nothing you can do about it now but drop out of the race or get behind your car and push at a ridiculous crawl.

You’re no quitter, so as you tramp out the miles in the desert heat you get to thinking. “What went wrong?” It’s not too long before you put 2 and 2 together. Same size tanks, one guy runs out of gas before the other, man, that accord must be a lot more efficient with his fuel. You’re right. The accord is getting 22miles from every gallon of glycogen (oops, I mean fuel :-) whereas you and your sexy beast are getting 4 miles less for every gallon. As the buzzards start to circle, you get to thinking, “Gee, if fuel economy is the name of the game, Miss Daisy in the Prius is looking mighty good right about now.”

You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But the fact remains, with her pretty pitiful 44W/kg and her equally unimpressive top end speed of 115mph, Miss Daisy just isn’t going to have the Horsepower to catch the accord within the 350mi. She’ll get there, to be sure (and a whole lot faster than any of the clowns who wind up running out of gas and pushing) but at 80mph it’s going to take her about an hour longer than it takes your former buddy (who didn’t stop to pick you up – hey, it’s a race :-) in the Accord.

Believe it or not, this story isn’t just a case of Big A sitting on his couch spinning a yarn. Like all good parables, there is a strong hidden meaning in this story. Let me point it out for you: If you’re a Corvette (see below)

and you decide that this long distance racing thing is for you, spending training time eeking out another 10 horse power from your top end isn’t going to do much for you.

Likewise, if you have more of a Prius profile (see below), a dose of long steady distance training designed to improve your efficiency isn’t going to help you compete with the big boys come race day.

It is essential that in order to get to the next level, you determine what your true current limiters are. I see a lot of triathletes training blind in this regard. The only real way to determine whether you are a Prius or a Corvette is to take a FUEL test.

If you’re anything like the athletes that we’ve tested to this point, you may be surprised with the results.


Anonymous said...

Ok - I'll bite....

How does one do a Fuel Test?

Alan Couzens said...

You've bitten, but can I reel you in? :-)

Come see us in Boulder.

Seriously, we are testing in a way that not too many labs around the US do. Our tests are time intensive and only really appealing to longer duration sports.

Let me know if you're interested.



Anonymous said...

Funny :-)

I can't justify with my girlfriend a flight to the States for a lab test ;-)

I live in Melbourne, Australia - so if you know anyone that does it here I'd be interested to know.

Ward said...

I have read your several posts on fuel testing and I am impressed and intrigued. How much does a test cost?

BRFOOT said...

Great analogy! and let me tell you it's hard as hell being a corvette in this game. You put in a ton of time at MAF with so so results.Yet your honda buddies put in less or no MAF time and get better. But you know if you can just stay with them to the last 100 you can out sprint them to the finish.Kind of sucks.

Alan Couzens said...

Piquet - My Aussie brother, I am not familiar with any institutions down under that do the test.

Looks like you've got a good excuse to convince the gf that Boulder would be a good place to escape to this Aussie winter :-)



Alan Couzens said...

Brfoot- Question is, is MAF training within your own personal 'fat burning zone'? For me, fat burning is already heading south at my MAF HR.


Alan Couzens said...


Drop Mat an email:

mat "at" endurancecorner "dot com".

He'll fill you in on available dates and pricing options.



Andrew Read said...

Not wanting to hijack, but as one Aussie helping another maybe it'd be ok? I'm also from Melbourne, but know a guy in Sydney _ Kristian Manietta, from, who happens to coach Charlotte Paul, so he knows what he's doing. They have details on their testing plus costs involved on their website.

I'm just starting to get into longer couse stuff, and plan to go up to Sydney at the end of the year and get tested by him.

runtilyoudrop said...

What you really want to do is bolt a turbo onto your Honda to improve fuel economy in the upper reaches of your power band whilst also getting extra power.

I have yet to find evidence to demonstrate the optimal speed to train to improve fat burning efficiency.

Maybe it is just a function of lots of LSD but maybe there is an optimum somewhere between LSD and IM racepace!

Paulo Sousa said...

Always a good read here...

TimG said...

Another Aussie hijack/post - Not sure Kristian does testing with gas measurement. I have a feeling it is all lactate. I could be wrong though. No mention on his site

I am actively looking into doing this in the North shore (NSW)...there is an academy that does it, I have the email but can't find it now. $299 for the test, $250 for 2 people (that is each).

Email me at tim dot gainsford at gmail dot com and I can forward the details if you're interested. End of hijack!

Alan Couzens said...

Hey Tim (and other hijackers :-)

If you guys need any additional info about our test protocol to take with you to NSWIS, feel free to drop me an email.

Would be happy to help out a fellow Aussie.



Andrew Read said...

My bad - you're right about Kristian's tests.

AC - any chance of you having some VIS contacts for us cold southeners?

mat steinmetz said...

Mat here,

Training in your max fat burning zone is far from proven at making you a better fat burner. However, this does allow you to do more work over a period of time.

We have seen an increase in fat buring in Alan's clients who have adopted this method. Was it the training? diet? or just plain luck?

We are still learning, but to not consider your metabolic profile is a mistake in my opinion. This could be the answer to some of these head scratching experiences that many have.

Athletes are simply racing at an effort in which they can't metabolize fat or replinish glycogen.


Chuckie V said...

You're missing the point here Alan. It's not about fuel economy but rather which car will get you the chicks!

Alan Couzens said...


There's nothing too sexy about an old beat up corvette with it's wheels falling off, coughing and spluttering all over itself, limping its way to the finish (I can confirm first hand after this weekend's triple T :-)

Sensible women dig the Accord!!

Andrew - sorry been out of Oz too long, not sure if VIS offers metabolic testing to the public.

As to Mat's comments, for the most part he's right. Sports science studies on fat oxidation during IM efforts are a little sparse. I'll be doing a mini literature review on what science has to say to this point on my next blog.