Ironman 70.3 World Champs Part 1


What an amazing 2 weeks in Europe!  Triathlon and sport in general has given me the opportunity to see some amazing places and Zell am See, Austria did not disappoint.  


Departure, August 24th

Arrived at airport with plenty of time to spare.  Note: Very good idea when traveling with bike as things can take longer than expected.  Well, the bike actually got us into the over sized check in area at DIA so we breezed right through.  TSA security moved pretty well given all the Monday end of summer travelers and we were on our way (late departure) to Dulles for our connecting flight to Munich.  Arriving at Dulles, we had to hustle through the terminal for connecting flight and they were already boarding the plane when we got to the gate.  I had a little surprise for Sharon in store as we went right to the priority boarding area, bypassing the lines and onto the plane to our first class seats.  I was stoked that I was able to pull this off and she was indeed surprised. Note: if you are going to splurge on a leg of the trip, do it on the overnight part/longer leg.  It really helps to have a little more leg room and I believe helped with the jet lag.  


Arrival and Race week Aug 25th - Aug 30th

We landed in Munich shortly before 8am and the bags came off the plane pretty fast.  There were several others in the terminal heading to Zell am See as evident by all the bike boxes in oversize luggage.  Rolling through the airport to Hertz rental car for our diesel 6 speed Peugeot Wagon that we would call home for the next 11 days.  When traveling with bike box always good to have a wagon as it makes loading much easier.  We hit the road for the drive to Zell am See and my co-pilot did a great job getting us on the Autobahn.  About 90 minutes into our travels we pulled into a village near Kitzbuel for a quick bite to eat before finishing the drive.  The weather today was rainy for the most part, but this would be our only day of this as the rest of our time in Zell we were treated to sunny, warm days.  We picked the keys up to our apartment a little after 3pm in Zell and then a short 15 minute drive to Kaprun to get settled.  We had a great little flat that opened up to a small patio overlooking the Austrian Alps which quickly got us into vacation mode.  I started working on getting the bike assembled for a ride the following day and after a quick visit to the local "Billa" market for supplies and lite dinner it was time for bed.


The plan for Wednesday was to ride about 2/3's of the bike course at Noon with other athletes to see the climb and descent that awaited.  Well, I woke up after 9 good hours of sleep around 6:30 am and should have gotten up, but decided to doze a bit.  Next thing I know it is 11:30!!!  No panic, plan B.  Sharon would drive me ahead of the ride and drop me off then meet me at IM Village after the ride.  Quick change, bike loaded and off we went to catch the group. Timing was great as we caught them just before the big climb.  Course recon is essential and seeing the climb and descent helped me dial in my power for the climb and see the caution I needed to use on the initial descent.  Rolling back through the valley to Zell am See, my legs felt good and the jet lag was leaving the body more.  


I met Sharon at IM Village while getting some final adjustments made to my bike.  She had a little mishap while looking for parking and ended up with flat front tire.  One of the security guards at the village was kind enough to assist me in changing it.  After some discussion, we realized we would need to get a new full size tire installed given all the miles left to drive to Italy.  We found a tire shop that ordered us a tire and got it installed the following day.  


Thursday was our day at the famous Kaprun Spa and it did not disappoint.  After short morning swim and run we headed off the the spa for a full day of relaxation and food.  Starting with brunch, some warm pools to relax in, then Sharon headed off for her massage and I took a little nap before mine.  Then more relaxing on comfy lounge chairs, more food, drinking lots of water and just like that 10 hours passed as we were winding down on the panoramic pool on the upper level looking over the valley at sunset.


Friday and Saturday -

Both days were very peaceful.  Morning workouts to keep the body sharp and catching up on some work details before going offline a couple days.  Friday afternoon we took care of race registration before the welcome banquet that evening.  Saturday we took the tram up to the top of Kitzsteinhorn for a cappuccino and apple strudel and took in the views of the Austrian Alps from 3000m.

View from top of Kitzsteinhorn looking back at Lake Zell

View from top of Kitzsteinhorn looking back at Lake Zell

 All that remained for the to do list was bike check in and that went very quick.  A lite meal back at the apartment and some reading before lights out at 10pm

Ironman 70.3 Boulder report

Eric NoCo Boulder 2015_2

June was a busy month for so many Train Smart Race Fast athletes and the coach even got a chance to lace up the shoes and race a couple of events.  First up was Ironman 70.3 Boulder.  The day started off well carpooling to the race with Troy Tafoya and Martin Paetzold as the dark night skies gradually turned to a beautiful sunrise.  Not a cloud in the sky as we made final race day preparations.  I checked in with a few other athletes that were racing before heading down for a warm up swim.  After that we staged in our swim waves and before you knew it, time to go.  The men's 50-54 wave went off smoothly and people did a good job of seeding themselves properly as I did not have to swim over anyone, or  swam over by anyone as we got under way.  A few of us had some good, clear open water until catching up the wave ahead of us and then it was just navigating around some of the slower swimmers all the way to the swim finish.  Quick exit out of the swim, start peeling off the wetsuit and into T1.  Continuing to move quickly and efficiently, I got the rest of the wetsuit off, helmet and shoes on and headed out for the ride.

The bike could not have went better!  The plan was to monitor the early pace and limit power to 85% of FTP during that first 15 minutes up to Highway 36 then just settle in as the course rolled along up towards Lyons.  Time to start getting the hydration and nutrition going with my INFINIT and with the day projecting to warm up, essential to keep draining the bottles.  Moving through the riders ahead on the course, I neared the 1/2 way point.  I asked Sharon to let me know what place I had come out of the swim.  She was so awesome and made up a big #5 sign.   That was motivating as I had passed a few guys in my age group earlier on the bike, but one rider was always near me as we rolled along the next 30 or so miles, Andre Bekker from South Africa.  We actually chatted a couple times on the bike as we motored along and back into T2 coming off the bike together.  A quick change into running socks, shoes, then grabbed the hat and race belt to head out for the run.  Andre was fast in T2 and put 25-30 seconds into me.  I did not see him on the run for the first mile, but then caught a glimpse of him as we rounded a small corner.  I continued to close ground on him and caught him a the first turn around 3.3 miles into the run.  The next 8 1/2 miles we ran together never more than 10 feet apart until just about the 12 mile mark.  Then he put in a strong surge to open up a gap that I could just not close down.  After the finish we chatted a bit and thanked each other for a great race and pushing each other to our best.   I am very pleased with my 2nd place finish and qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Austria on August 30th.  I am really looking forward to the challenge of racing against the top athletes in the world again in my age group.  Last time I got to do that was Kona 2010.

Race stats

Swim 29

Bike 2:20

Run 1:39

What I learned from the race is that, while I may not have had the ideal race lead up in a physical sense due to a rib injury from a fall in March, I was dialed in on the mental side and drew on my 30 years of triathlon experience to manage the days events.  Lots of athletes line up on race day very fit, but lack the mental side to execute.  Find a mantra that works for you.  Visualize your race day in the days, weeks leading up to it.  I know where I can improve, more leg speed as I am sure Andre along with the other top racers will be running quite fast off the bike in Zell am See, Austria in 8 weeks.

That's the condensed version of the day.  If you want more details like pacing, strategy, nutrition, mental, please shoot me an e-mail and I would be happy to share.

Coach Eric


The importance of proper breathing.


A while back, one of my blog articles talked about breathing and how important it is for swimmers to master this concept.   Now is seems simple to just breathe when exercising and to moderate the amount of inhale vs exhale depending on how hard you are working.   I was talking with my physical therapist the other day about this and was reminded of a good article he had written to help myself and others better understand breathing.  Here is the link which I hope you will find helpful in your understanding of how important breathing is and give you a better idea on how your respiratory mechanics SHOULD work.

Train Smart Race Fast!

Coach Eric



“The Long Run”


A long time client Bill Greentree, recently forwarded an article about varying the types of running surfaces that triggered me to write this post.  Running is such a great activity that can be done anywhere with minimal amounts of gear and preparation.  From home, work, the gym or on travel, just lace up the shoes and get out the door!   Runners however have a tendency to get injured through a combination of  poor biomechanics, too much volume and not backing off when needed.  If you talk to anyone that has run for any length of time, they will usually have experienced some form of set back or injury that has halted their running.  Lets look at three things: technique, trails & treadmills that may help keep injury potential down, and keep you in the sport for "The Long Run"

Technique - EVERY RUN you do, should have a portion of the run devoted to a technique focus.  That does not mean you run with poor technique the remaining parts of the run, but pick a time(s) when you really focus on running technique.  I like to call this a "systems check."  As you are running, start evaluating various parts of your technique to see how you are holding it together or need some improvement.  A few key things to check but certainly not limited to would be posture, breathing, cadence and arm swing.  Start with a focus on technique when you are running easy, fresh and warming up.  Also, pay attention to technique when going fast to have a better understanding of what makes you go and what makes you slow.

Trails - Living in Colorado, there are no shortage of these to be found.  Trails go up, down, left and right so you are almost always having a slightly different foot strike.  This helps to better strengthen all the muscles involved with running, balance and picking up those feet.  Running a trail with rocks, roots and other objects and you will quickly reveal strengths and weakness in running form.  Generally trails provide a softer surface to run on and no cars, bikes, dogs, pedestrians and stop lights to navigate.  Check with your local running store or club and you should come away with plenty ideas for your next off road adventure.

Treadmills (TM) - Sometimes a love/hate relationship or called "The Dreadmill", TM have their place in a running program.  Need a softer surface? TM will provide this and by raising the %grade to 1-2% it may help with those dealing impact type injuries.   TM are a great way to work on hills without the downhill portion.  Just tap the up arrow on the %grade and watch the HR go up as well.  You can play with a combination of speed and %grade to elicit the training objective desired.  Check out this chart for some approximations on various speed vs %grade efforts.

TM are also great for teaching proper pacing as it will just keep on ticking over the minutes at whatever pace you set it for.  It always feels easy at the beginning, but how does it feel 5,10 or 15 minutes into a run?

Certainly there is more to expand on each of these, and I encourage you to explore them more. This may help you find the right balance of surfaces for your training and racing goals and keep you going for "The Long Run" and for any "Eagles" fans... here ya go!

Train Smart Race Fast,

Coach Eric




Winter Crosstraining


Looking for some fun, winter exercise options? Have you considered snowshoeing?

It is a great way to keep your cardio fitness gains from the summer months while exploring some quiet and peaceful places in our Colorado winter wonderland.   Snowshoeing requires a good base level of fitness so some sport specific training prior to tackling the trails is a good idea.  First, a few things that will help make the trip a success and then some training considerations to better prepare you.

Gear – For starters, when it’s time for the first hike, rent snowshoes or borrow a pair from a friend. Just make sure to try them on before heading out the first time. Trekking poles are another item that many find helpful for additional balance and support as trail conditions vary. Packing the appropriate gear will make the adventure that much better along with some tasty snacks. Dressing in layers allows you to be flexible by adding or peeling off layers depending on your effort and the weather.   Visit For more specific info on gear check and snowshoeing tips

Safety – If it’s your first time out, going with a friend or group that has some experience is a good idea. Make sure to check the weather report and trail conditions before starting. A saying we use in the ocean is “when in doubt, don’t go out” and this would apply here as well. Conditions can change quickly and there is no shame in turning around early on a hike or not starting one in adverse conditions.

Where – Rocky Mountain National Park has miles of trails to explore.

Training - Here we have the nuts and bolts to get you ready for your snowshoe adventure. You will need to focus on cardio exercises that are sport-specific to best prepare you for the demands of snowshoeing. Walking or hiking outdoors on a rolling to hilly route would be a good place to start. This can also be accomplished by varying the incline on a treadmill if no hills are nearby. Other cardio options to consider would be a stair-master or elliptical trainer and taking the stairs whenever you can goes without saying.   A blend of low and high intensity aerobic workouts will keep the training varied and better prepare you for the demands of the hike. Once you are comfortable walking at least 45 minutes, then it would be time to try some of your walks with a small pack, preferably the one you snowshoe with. This will increase the load on your hips, legs and upper body muscles so good form (posture) is important. If you are planning to hike longer distance or terrain that has a lot of elevation gain/loss, you will benefit from adding a little bit of weight to the pack and/or extending the time of your longer walks.

Strength and Flexibility – If new to strength training, then consulting with a trainer at your gym would be a great place to start. This will help take some of the fear out of the gym, but more importantly help minimize the chances of injury getting started. If you plan on just doing your own thing, start slow with body weight exercises and/or light weights that you can comfortably lift 12-15 times and one set is plenty if starting from scratch. If you have been in the gym already, then two sets of 12-15 repeats will be a good starting point. Focus on large muscle groups targeting the hips, legs, back and shoulders. Some lower body exercises to implement (but certainly not limited to) would be: Squats, lunges (both forward and backward), hamstring curls (machine or swiss ball) and single leg ¼ squats. Upper body could include: dumbbell rows, push-ups, shoulder press and tricep extension. The muscles of the lower leg and ankle will be under increased load as well, so a couple of simple exercises to include would be calf raises and walking on your heels, toes, inside and outside of your feet. Flexibility is always an important part of any program and everyday good health. Make sure to include stretching for the psoas to open up the hips, along with leg, back and chest muscles to help keep that good posture. Snowshoeing at times may require you to take steps bigger/higher than you are normally accustomed to over varied terrain.

Happy Trails!

Coach Eric






Improve your swimming technique… Train with a center mount snorkel.

 Center Mount Snorkel

Recently I returned to using a center mount snorkel for part of my swim sessions in the pool.  I forgot how much fun this is when air is always available & also realized that my stroke needs some tuning up.   Typically I will start with it during warm up swimming 2-300 yards at an easy pace.  Then, gradually building the distance on some shorter sets as I get used to flip turns again while not swallowing water coming back to the surface.  I have also been incorporating into my cool downs to help me refocus on my technique before ending the training session.  Here are some of the things I like about training with the center mount snorkel.

Swimming: First and foremost, it allows the athlete to focus on technique without having to turn the head to breathe.  Often times, breathing strokes will cause a swimmer to become unbalanced in the water causing them to wiggle from side to side or worse yet, compromise body position with sinking hips, legs and feet.  With the snorkel the swimmer is able to keep their head in a neutral position, working on good body alignment and balance in the stroke.  Athletes with breath timing issues can learn to time their breathing without turning the head.  A great drill for this is 4 x 25  rest :10 seconds with snorkel timing your exhale to the pulling arm you wish to breathe on.  Then swim 1 x  50 without the snorkel breathing to pulling arm side you just practiced.  Repeat 2-3 more times.

Kicking: With the snorkel, like swimming allows the athlete to maintain good body alignment and can reduce stress put on the lower back if kicking too much with a kickboard.   Beginners can start with 4 x 25 flutter kicking rest :10-15 seconds.  Arms stretched out overhead at shoulder width holding onto the bottom of a kickboard to help stabilize.  Once this skill is acquired then try the 4 x 25 without the kickboard arms stretched out overhead at shoulder width or in a streamline position.

Drills: I like to do what I call a progression scull.  This is where the athlete starts in the front scull position, arms stretched out in front at shoulder width 14-18 inches below the surface of the water.  Start with some gentle sculling movements then gradually progress the scull through the freesytle pulling pattern until you reach the finish of your stroke.  Like above 4 x 25 on 10-15 seconds rest will do and then swim 1 x 50. If done correctly, you should really feel a good connection with your hands to the water.  Single arm swimming is also good with the snorkel as it allows the swimmer to coordinate hand/arm speed through the pull to their hip speed.  Doing single arm pull with the non-pulling arm stretched out in front is a good way to start.  I like this position as it allows the swimmer to feel a nice long body line from finger tips, through shoulder to hip.  Also, since you don't have to breathe, you can pay attention to that lead arm when pulling to make sure it is not crossing center, the elbow is dropping or exhibiting other deviant behavior.

If you have not used a center mount snorkel before, I highly recommend giving it a try.  Typical cost is between $30-$40.  Be patient as you get used to breathing with the snorkel.  Keep the repeats short so you can keep the technique focus at a premium.

Train Smart...Race Fast

Coach Eric

It’s not rocket science… just practice your ABC’s

The long days of summer are fading, but that does not mean your health and fitness needs to fade as well.  There are plenty of things you can continue doing this fall and winter to maintain your summer fitness gains. In addition to sleep, two other things play an equally important role in maintaining optimal fitness and they are balanced nutrition and consistent exercise.  Just imagine if we could do just those three things consistently how much better we would feel every day.

“ABC’s of optimal health and training”

A = Adequate sleep

B = Balanced nutrition

C = Consistent exercise 

#1 Adequate Sleep – Our own personal energy level could be one of our most valuable resources and sleep plays a big role in this. With adequate sleep you have a much better chance of success with #2 and #3 below, so make it a priority. People have different sleep requirements, so the key is finding out what yours is and then doing your best to get those zzz’s. Some people do fine on 6-7 hours a night, others need 8+ and teenagers can never seem to get enough. Proper sleep allows our bodies to rejuvenate and recover from the day’s activities.

#2 Balanced Nutrition – Similar to sleep, everyone is going to have their own specific needs depending on age, level of activity or trying to lose, maintain or gain weight. A balanced diet of foods is fuel for optimal mental and physical energy. Here is a simple thing to do that just requires a little bit of discipline. Find out what you are really eating every day by keeping a food journal. Try the journal for three days and write down everything you eat & drink. This can be a big eye opener for a lot of people in terms of how much or little they are eating as well as the quality in food choices. Often times, just the act of keeping a food journal will help you make better food choices. From this you will have a better idea on what foods you may need to add to your diet as well as those that may need to be consumed in more moderation or eliminated to maintain healthy body composition and optimum energy levels.

#3 Consistent Exercise – The benefits of exercise are to numerous to list. There are so many great ways to get exercise especially living along the Front Range here in Colorado.  I would encourage you to have a variety of activities to choose from. Variety is the spice of life and participating in different forms of exercise is a great way to cross train and help keep overuse injuries down. With the weather changing, you may need to take some of your exercise indoors, or just get some better gear to handle the cooler weather. Either way, you need to keep moving regardless of the temperature. Exercise is probably one of the best ways to change your mood. Think about it, when was the last time you finished a workout and felt depressed, or grumpy? Yes, you may be tired, but it is a good tired that in turn may help you with #1 above. Whether you exercise by yourself or with a group just be consistent in trying to get some movement each and every day.

We all have 24 hours each day, no more, no less. Make the choice to get adequate sleep each and every day.  This combined with balanced nutrition and consistent exercise is a great recipe for maintaining optimal health, mind & body!

Train Smart...Race Fast
Coach Eric

Why do you do what you do?

We all have our reasons for why we do what we do and if you have not given that some thought recently, I encourage you to check in with yourself.  During a recent interview with Vasa Inc they asked me some questions about why I do what I do and for those who do not know me, this may give you a better idea of what makes me tick both personally and professionally.

'Why' interview with Multi-Sport Coach Eric Neilsen

Why do you do what you do? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
When I was younger, I was athletic but overweight. I wanted to do sports, but being overweight, I was never comfortable. It was a very challenging time in my life, because that's when your self-esteem is literally forming (or not forming).
In college things changed. Through a mindful balance of exercise and nutrition, my body changed. It wanted to go exercise. And since then I never looked back.
I do what I do—coaching people to be their best—because I remember what it felt like when I wanted to do things, but couldn't because of my choices. I had low self-esteem. I would have loved to swim on the team, but back then, there were only Speedos—and that was never going to happen.
I chose this career path to empower people to reach their potential. I know, first-hand, what it feels like not to be able to do a sport—and then be able to do it. I thrive on helping people reach their goals. I love the process of goal achievement.
In that way, every day is new and fresh.
When people "get it," and it clicks—when they have that "aha moment"—they blossom. I love that moment. It's magical and beautiful—and it can happen at any age.
If you believe it, you can achieve it.
What was your proudest moment?
Well, out of college I went into the corporate world. I was 25. The money was great, but it didn't make it tick. It was not resonating with me.
In 1991, I shifted to finding a career within sport, to reaching and helping people through sport. It was a full-blown career change.
It was my proudest "moment," because had I not had the courage to get uncomfortable with change, had I given in to the "status quo," I would not have been happy. I took a calculated risk and it paid off. That one choice set me on a different trajectory for the second 24 years of my life.
We get lost in things and forget to be present.
What do we really need? We need family, friends and good health. When you realize this and pursue your passion, everything changes.
What one thing do you want people to remember you for? What is your "parting advice?"
I want people to say: "Eric was somebody who took the time to listen." Sometimes all people want is to be heard. That is very important as a coach. But also for humanity. Take the time to listen to people. Many people say: "Eric, you're the most patient person I have ever met."
My parting advice to people is this: be the best version of yourself.
You can't be anyone else. Just be the best version of yourself.


Olympic Training Center Visit

Next week, I will be going down to Colorado Springs to meet with National team coach Jack Fabian and swimmer Eva Fabian as she prepares for the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Australia this August.  We will be sharing training ideas and concepts using the Vasa Ergometer and the Ant +  technology to help swimmers and triathletes perform at the highest levels.

New Site Coming Soon

The shinny new website is under construction. Tune in soon, possibly Friday the 22nd for great information about running, swimming, and triathlon training.

Coach Neilsen is an expert and has vast training experience. Hope to hear from you all soon! Yay