Evan Debarra, 42 70Kg GranFondo/ Sportive

Evan presented to me early summer of 2014 as an aspirational novice triathlete and half-Ironman of 39 years old. Weighing 70kg, at 185cm he was under-powered on the bike. He had several years of un-structured training from a heavier weight (81kg) and had lost functional lean muscle mass in the process without the protective effect that specific strength conditioning can give with controlled weight loss, a typical mistake made by many novice athletes. For the 2015 season Evan was keen to persist with triathlon and improve, although constrained by little available time spread across three disciplines, it was difficult to improve steadily, focused block training for each discipline tends to be more productive before blending training for race preparation weeks or months before. Evan had the added complexity and stress of dividing work and leisure between two European cities on a regular basis, with much travelling.

We set about improving Evans bike power profile and raising both threshold and anaerobic capacity through neuromuscular recruitment and then aerobic conditioning. With fewer than 6hrs a week dedicated to cycling and gym work I prescribed effective interval sessions to work on VO2peak, anaerobic and threshold intensity and duration, scheduled in optimal sequence and frequency. Evan had a loose race calendar for Olympic Distance triathlon and was open to my suggestions of which competitive events may suit him best, so we targeted the Winter BallBuster, one of the UK’s longest running endurance events in 2014, to improve his two favourite activities, cycling and running. I supported Evans running sessions in combination, again with a heavy interval component and some treadmill work around gym and brick sessions.

Evan was extremely happy with the result for his first Ballbuster, 4:06:53 (with many DNFs). This also set him up for a better long-term training path to exploit his potential on the bike. He continued to train, selecting the Kraków Half Marathon in April 2015 as his next goal, for which I provided a training programme including regular coaching calls. He completed the race in 1:39:01. This was 40” off his PB last achieved in 2012, which he put down to a problem with energy gels he consumed during the race. He went on to race in a cross-country MTB sprint triathlon in May, followed by Olympic distance races in July, August and September, his first OD triathlons.

He returned to the Winter Ballbuster in November 2015 and improved his finish time by 13 minutes.

For targeted endurance events I use backward induction of the relevant type of periodisation suited to the athlete and their performance objective. This makes every tailored programme more responsive to minor changes due to work commitments, trip and family and positive or negative performance progression and hence optimally effective.

In 2015, although still running short distances Evans targets were mainly bike orientated, his swim sessions had now receded back to enjoyable active recovery after gym work, instead of punishing time in the pool. Evans training went from strength to strength, literally improving muscular efficiency and cardio-respiratory with short productive sessions between, objectively driven with purpose and no guess-work. I proposed an event strategy for the original Box-Hill sportive that boosted his understanding of using optimal pacing to make the most of gained fitness. Evans anaerobic and neuromuscular improvements meant shorter intense efforts were less demanding and could maintain a higher average speed over these, but also leg strength supported longer and steeper hill climbs without stressing the cardio-vascular system as much. A whole shift in training zone was achieved in his lactate threshold profile (see inset image). He set his next goal as the medium distance Amstel Gold sportive edition in Holland in early spring.


Evans conditioning over winter 2015/2016 was more meticulous, and he followed the strength plan very well along with the parallel endurance sessions, mainly comprised of short personally-designed interval sessions suiting the harsh winter conditions in Poland where he is mostly located. Evan also sought physiotherapy for soft-tissue mobilisation and myofascial release (see here) which has helped prepare the muscle for strength training and improve its quality. Evans critical power had rocketed for each of the trial durations tested, even in advance of specific conditioning during spring 2016. His lactate-power profile was also confirmed these gains and can see the impressive progression in threshold power in less than 2 years. I also expect that Evan could push closer to his peak potential of around 280-300Watts and over 4Watts/Kg, although this may take at least another season.

Evan reported a great race for Amstel, covering 143km, 2200m in just under 6hrs, handicapped with a heavy rucksack even on the Cauberg.

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