Ironman swimming in the pool

Swim Start Ironman World Championship view from Kona Inn on Ali'i Drive


If you are preparing for an early season Ironman, this is a great 4000yard/meter workout you can insert into your training plan.  Also, good for swimmers preparing for open water swims and/or the time crunched athlete. Ironman swimming requires the ability to build into swims making early pacing critical to maximizing your performance.

The workout
1 x 600 Free Warm
3 x 400 Faster pace per 100 than 500 this should be easy since 500 was warm up
4 x 300 Faster pace per 100 than 400's
5 x 200 Faster pace per 100 than 300's
2 x 100 Cool down
Total 4000

600 on 1:00 rest
400's 300's and 200's on your normal base example 1:30/100M
so 400's on 6:00, 300's on 4:30, 200's on 3:00
100's on :10 sec rest mix strokes as you like

You could repeat this set every 3-4 weeks to measure your improvement as the season progresses and it works well before a bike session as the first part of a swim/bike brick.  You could incorporate the use of paddles and/or swim buoy depending on level of swim experience.  Generally speaking, ironman swimming requires good upper body endurance and mixing various forms of pulling into your training can be very helpful.

Please email me at with topics you are interested in learning more about.

Coach Eric

Stay Focussed and train the mind!

The first month of 2024 has zoomed on by and February is already here.  Hopefully any new years resolutions you set in motion have had some staying power and you are starting to see some benefits to a process focused commitment to achieving your goals.

At times, mantras and quotes are helpful to reset, refocus and recommit to the process.  Below are some from various authors that helped me navigate the ups and downs of 2023.   2024 is a leap year! so we get 1 extra day to keep nailing the basics, details, little things, etc... I hope 1 or 2 of these resonate with you and be just what you needed at this moment in time.

Heading into my 34th year of coaching, my plan is simple: continue being a life long student of sport, questioning and challenging how we I can help YOU Train Smart and Race Fast!  I truly appreciate all my mentors, coaches and athletes I have worked with over the years.

Please reach out if you would like to schedule a FREE 20 minute consultation.

"Your attitude determines your altitude.  The better the attitude, the higher you will soar in all things you choose to pursue with a passion" - Coach Eric Neilsen

Masters Swimming – The workout and lane flow!


United States Masters Swimming (USMS) got started in May of 1970.  Read more HERE on the history of USMS.  I started my masters swimming career in the mid 80's and started coaching in 1991.  Over the past 35 years I have been fortunate to have some great mentors and have learned many things from the athletes I coach.  Writing a good workout takes a bit of planning by the coach and combined with managing the lane flow leads to a great workout for the swimmers.  Here are some thoughts I have on doing just that.

  • How to write the workout
    • Identify the goal of session
      • Free - Sprint, Mid, Distance, Tri/Open water 
      • Stroke/IM
      • Technique
      • Combo 
      • Repeat distances 25’s, 50’s, etc...
      • Aerobic, Anaerobic, both
      • What the pool dictates 
    • Warm up
      • With a 60 minute session, I give them 10 minutes of easy swim, kick, drill on their own.  Masters bodies have many different warm up needs.  Some swim, some talk on the deck but whatever works for them in those 10 minutes.  Speed days I like to give them 15 minutes of general warm up.  Some dryland exercises are also good prior to getting into the pool.
    • Transition set
      • Can really be anything that helps them transition the heart rate up and a technique focus component as well.
    • Main set 1 or 2
      • Depending on the workout goals 1 or 2 main sets is more than enough
    • Cool down
      • I always encourage it but generally leave that to the individual
  • How to explain
    • Written
      • White board - Write legible, write BIG, Use black or blue pen that shows up best for those aging eyes
      • Printed for each lane - Print a copy of the workout that each lane can have.  Helps for those that can not see the white board and those that process by reading what they are doing
      • Pre workout email
      • Find what works best and it might be a combination of all
    • Verbal
      • Group - Talking to the whole group at the beginning of practice to go over goals for the day.  Need a big voice for this!
      • Individual lane - Giving each lane their instructions.  Usually intervals to swim on, number or reps and lane order suggestions.  Make sure FOB knows what to do. More on this later.
      • Individual - Individual instruction, short cues to help swimmers with technique or questions about the set.
    • Visual Demonstration
      • Swimmer - Often very helpful for experienced swimmers in the workout to demonstrate technique or a specific drill.
      • Video - Having swimmers see the correct way to do something is very helpful.  Also, having them see themselves swim so they can make the needed adjustments.
  • How to execute
    • Lane Dynamics
      • Set the lane up for success… managing the flow.  This is one of the things IMO that separates good coaches from great coaches.  A great coach will monitor this and make micro adjustments to swimmers, rest intervals and set objectives to fine tune the session.  I sometimes like to describe lane positions much like riding a bus: Front Of the Bus (FOB), Middle Of the Bus (MOB), Back Of the Bus (BOB).
      • Front Of the Bus (FOB) - This is your lane leader and critical for the lane functioning and flowing well.  Must be reasonably good with the clock, pacing and counting laps.  When giving instructions to the lane/group, make sure FOB is onboard.  If FOB is not good then MOB and BOB have the potential to go astray and lane chaos quite possible.  One thing that helps the whole lane is a set of 25’s or 50’s where everyone in the lane gets to be a FOB, MOB and BOB.  This helps the swimmers appreciate all the work a FOB must do to keep the lane flowing and also gives confidence to the MOB and BOB that if put into a FOB position, they can lead the lane with confidence.
      • Middle Of the Bus (MOB) - The majority of the lane falls here with order TBD based on type of set and who is wearing what. Often swimmers that could lead but would rather follow due to pacing or clock skills. Lots of the MOB and BOB also like to draft as that is easier 2-4 seconds per 100.  Along those lines the MOB can really have some speed variances if you combine the draft + using gear; it is not uncommon for swimmers to have 7-10 second per 100 differences in sustainable speed.  
      • Back Of the Bus (BOB) - Usually the slowest swimmer in the lane, does not want to be in anybody’s way, has no desire to lead, just wants to follow/draft. Having an off day but wants to be a part of the lane.  BOB shares many of the characteristics of MOB but generally just a slower pace that can still function in the lane. Depending on pool dynamics, BOB could be asked to move down a lane and lead if the current lane has too many bodies.  Same goes for a FOB that could be moved up a lane and be a BOB or MOB
      • What are you wearing?  
        • Paddles, Fins, Snorkel, Buoy - Can change flow of lane and swimmer speed 7-10 seconds per 100 and interval capacity 5-10 seconds per 100.  As noted above this has big impacts in the MOB.

There are endless combinations of swimming sets to create workouts.  Combining that with good lane management will help give the swimmers you coach the best possible experience.  

Have fun with it all, Coach Eric

Cruisin’ into 2022

As we ease into 2022 I thought I would repost some quotes from an earlier blog in 2016.  Everyday is a gift!

I find myself reading more and seeking out quite time to just think... or not.  A good friend of mine had forwarded along some quotes he liked and I thought, why keep those to myself.

Below are some that have been around and others you may find new to you along with an original from yours truly.  I hope 1 or 2 of these resonate with you and be just what you needed at this moment in time.

"We all need empty hours in our lives or we will have no time to create our dream" - Robert Coles

"The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison." - Ann Wigmore

"Your attitude determines your altitude.  The better the attitude, the higher you will soar in all things you choose to pursue with a passion" - Coach Eric Neilsen

"Simplicity and harmony are the ultimate conditions to be attained in all things". - Horace Fletcher


"Draw a circle around yourself - invite people in or keep them out. We are the creators of our social geometry.  Calculate your volume". - Rachel Wolchin

"Don't limit your challenges, challenge your limits". - unknown

"A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others". - Ayn Rand

"The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence". - Confucius

"Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it". ~André Gide
"The obscure we see eventually. The completely obvious, it seems, takes longer". ~Edward R. Murrow
"Just as the old, looking back, idealize the past, so the young, looking forward, idealize the future. Illusion is the stuff of memory — and is at the heart of hope". ~Dr. Idel Dreimer

"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it". - Charles R. Swindoll

Articles, blogs, books and videos

Winter time is certainly a time to let our body and mind recharge a bit.  Slowing down is a good thing and often times this leads to an increase in reading more.  Here are some links to blogs, instructional videos, articles, books, etc... that you may find helpful as you continue to build your knowledge base.  Some may just be reminders, others new information that may trigger further exploration. Enjoy : )
Peak Performance, The Well Built Triathlete, Think Again, The Passion Paradox, Essentialism, The Culture Code, The Circadian Code, A Reenchanted World, Enlightenment Now, How Bad Do You Want It
Videos and Blogs:

How competitive swimmers can maximize their time in the pool

Running Biomechanics with Bobby McGee (video)



A New Kind of 1/2 Ironman

This year I completed my 55th year around the sun and I am grateful for that.  Many times in the past, I have had some fun, fitness challenges on or near my birthday.  This year I decided to try a new kind of 1/2 Ironman.  I looked at my last 1/2 IM in 2016 at the Boulder 70.3 and the times for each event: Swim 29+, Bike 2:13 and run 1:44.  The challenge this year was to see what distance I could cover, or power I could sustain in the same amount of time, while having very relaxed transition times to enjoy some yummy food and conversation with my wife, Sharon.

The day started off with some warm up exercises using  Crossover Symmetry bands to prep for my swim. December in Colorado = no open water swimming but I planned to hop on my Vasa Ergometer and knockout 30 minutes.

I set the SwimErg resistance at damper door level 1 (out of 7 settings) to start out easier and swam Freestyle for 30 minutes. Note that I used a low arm recovery instead of a higher arm recovery that I would use in the water.  This helps prevent shoulder impingement.  My plan was to gently progress the Freestyle effort every 10 minutes.  Here is a snapshot of the SwimErg's Power Meter at the end of the 30 minutes:
• Distance:1682M
• Pace: 1:47/100M
• Stroke Rate: 43 Strokes Per Minute (SPM)
• Average Power: 62 Watts
Swim training on the Vasa Swim Erg is wonderful, especially with the Ant+ Power Meter.  I can monitor my current power and it is always challenging to keep the Left/Right power balance as close as possible.  I can adjust the Damper Door settings for more resistance when needed and I play with different SPM to dial in my optimal, sustainable power.
I was very pleased with that outcome, especially since the previous month I'd only been in the water 3 times, did some maintenance work on the Vasa, plus core and crossover symmetry bands for strength and injury prevention.

A good start to the morning and now it was time for some coffee and birthday cake.  Sharon makes my favorite cake every birthday...carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.  A couple cups of coffee and yummy cake as we chatted away the morning until I was ready to ride.

The roads and air temperature were not ideal so it was time for the trainer.  2 hours and 14 minutes was the goal.  Since I could not measure distance on my resistance trainer, I looked at my average and normalized power in watts (W) from 2016: 181 and 187 respectively.  So the goal would be a short 5 minute ramp up then try to dial in a solid zone 3 power effort in the 80-85% of current Functional Threshold Power (FTP).  Current FTP is 246W so that would have me targeting between 187-223W.  I quickly found myself hovering around 195-200W and decided this would be a good attempt to hold for the duration.  Fueled by the earlier coffee and carrot cake the time just flew by.  I did have some music piped in through my AirPods (thanks mom for the birthday present).  Given this was a new way to approach a 1/2 IM along with my leisurely transitions, what better fuel than water and a few more little pieces guessed it, carrot cake!

Bike stats for those interested in the details: 2 hours 14 minutes, average power 201W, normalized power 202W, 91% of ride in zone 3  with IF at .82 Some HR data as well avg. HR 123, Max 136

With the bike done and feeling really great about the effort it was time for a shower!  Yes, another benefit to this new kind of 1/2 IM, you get to shower after the ride, have a light brunch, stretch and take a short nap before the run.

Run GO time and I am heading outside to one of my favorite local running spots at Rivers Edge Natural Area which was restored after the Big Thompson Flood in 2013.  The gray morning turned to mostly sunny skies so if I timed it right, 1 hour and 44 minutes of running would finish up as the sun was setting behind the Rocky Mountains.  I took off from the house and the first mile or so was on city streets until I made it to Rivers Edge; from there, I ran on frozen dirt and snowpack on twisting paths around the ponds.

I found a good rhythm and used a run/walk strategy similar to when I race.  I have found that short walk breaks at aid stations allow me to get more of what I need in my body than on my body.  Plus the short walk break is a nice reset.  I took short walk breaks at 3, 6, 8.5 and 11 mile mark and topped off the brunch fuel tank with some water and a caffeinated gel.  Don't get too caught up in the numbers.  My heart rate monitor took 6 minutes to sort itself out hence the 187 HR reading.  I don't think I ever saw my heart rate that high even in my 20's.

I really enjoyed my birthday workout, I needed a new kind of challenge during a challenging year.  But to tell you the truth, I believe that just moving everyday is what's most important!

Some days it might be a walk and light stretching.  Other days like today might focus on mental and physical endurance.  Our bodies respond well to daily movement and in Colorado we have so many beautiful places to move while enjoying nature.  It's never too late to start moving and sometimes the hardest part can quite often be getting started.  To borrow a quote from Cris Dobrosielski at Monumental Results: "Small consistent change, over a significant period of time, leads to Monumental Results."  The consistency in movement and daily choices are the most important pieces to long term physical and mental health.

As I head into my 31st year of coaching, I truly appreciate my mentors, coaches and athletes.  In 2021, I hope to continue learning, questioning and challenging how we I can help YOU Train Smart and Race Fast!

Please reach out if you would like to schedule a FREE 20 minute consultation.

Coach Eric


The time is now to Plan

Training for triathlon or any sport for that matter requires an athlete to balance training with work, family, social, etc… At times this can be overwhelming trying to fit in the necessary training to reach your goals.  For starters, one of the first things to do is make a plan for you.  Those that fail to plan, plan to fail. This is where self coached athletes often get in trouble as they end up doing whatever workout suits them for the day or other peoples workouts that are not specific to address their strengths and weaknesses. Whether you are self coached athlete or have a coach, make sure you have a plan!

Articles, Blogs, Podcasts, Books, etc…

Photo credit: Josh Brewer
Here are some links to blogs, instructional videos, articles, books, etc... that you may find helpful as you continue to build your knowledge base.  Some may just be reminders, others new knowledge to consider giving a try.  Enjoy : )

How competitive swimmers can maximize their time in the pool

Running Biomechanics with Bobby McGee (video)


The Talent Code

How Bad do you Want it

Primal Endurance

Advanced Marathoning

Daniels Running Formula



Spring = Time to Ride Outside


With some great Spring weather this past weekend the roads were full of cyclists getting off the trainers and outside again.

Here are some things that may help you stay a bit safer:

1. Ride even more defensively.  Motorists have been used to not seeing a lot of bike traffic during winter and need to adjust to you again.

2. Make yourself visible!!! Flashing lights on the back of bike are helpful along with your awesome cycling kit.

3. Take it easy in the corners.  There is still quite a bit of sand and other debris on the road from winter.

4. Ride with Aloha and use some common sense.  When overtaking a cyclist or group of cyclists say hello, on your left, good morning/afternoon, etc... It can be startling when getting passed and may help prevent the cyclist(s) your are passing from crashing into you.

5. Staying as far to the right side of the road as you feel comfortable and conditions allow for. When 2 abreast, please make frequent checks behind and single up when in doubt.  While it is legal to ride 2 abreast, doing so when conditions are not safe (lots of traffic, no bike lane, narrow to no shoulder) puts you at more risk!

6. Make sure to check your bike for any loose bolts, working breaks, lube up the chain and good tires before hitting the roads.

7. In addition to #3 above, when turning or changing lanes, use hand signals so those behind and traffic ahead understands the path you are going to take.

There are plenty more things to add, but this is a good start to getting you rolling on the roads again.  16 days until Spring is officially here!

Train Smart Race Fast - Coach Eric