Bash Zagangori’s build to Ironman Waco 2021
Updated: Nov 10, 2021
At Ironman Waco 2021 a few weeks ago, Bash put together a strong performance and he finally achieved his goal of qualifying for the Ironman World Championship in Kona Hawaii for 2022 finishing 2nd AG in the very competitive 35-39 group
Below I share how we use Metabolic Performance testing to pinpoint Bash’s fitness metabolic fitness limiters. In other words, with the testing, we were able to look at his “engine’s capacity” and determine if his fitness limitation for Ironman were one of sustainable power fueled primarily by the glycolic system, fatigue resistance for efforts fueled primarily by the aerobic system, delivery capacity to fulfill energy demands (VO2max) or fuel utilization to sustain said energy demands. (fat vs carbs utilization).
In the past, we used a traditional FTP-focused approach in which FTP would be at the center of the program helping determine training zones and with the intent to increase it over time. Though, we did field testing using the critical power approach (5 min, 10 min, and 20 min efforts) to learn his fitness limiters beyond just FTP and modulated his training around that.
Said approach allowed him to complete Ironman Lake Placid 2017 with 20nd AG, Ironman Wisconsin 2018 with a 22nd AG, Ironman Louisville 2019 13th AG
However, after doing the metabolic testing, it showed the biggest limitation of the single marker FTP approach as we learned while Bash has done a great job increasing his power for efforts ranging from 20-60 min and energy delivery capacity (VO2max), his limitation was more at the “muscle level”. He had a solid Lactate Threshold turning point (LT1) taking place at 225w/2mmol/L, and fuel utilization was decent (~45% fat/55% carbs) but he was less efficient at intensities <LT1 (FatMax) as at 190w he was only <4.8 kcal/min
Therefore, his limiters were not based on delivery capacity (VO2max) or sustainable power (near FTP) but on fatigue resistance and fuel utilization under primarily aerobic conditions. In other words, he had a strong VLamax, VO2max, and FTP but not so strong LT1/FatMax
Below are Bash’s bike tests from late 2020:
Based on that information we got to work, more so knowing that:
Competitive Ironman AGer tend to utilize ~5-6Kcal/m of fat
Competitive male Ironman 35-39AG tend to ride ~ 2.9-3.3 w/kg
Based on past performances, he needed a strong bike performance to supplement his strong run given his swimming potential
For most Ironman races in the 35-39AG, you need to be Top 5 to get a Kona spot
That plan was simple – reduce VLmax, sustain VO2max/FTP, and improve significantly LT1/FatMax
Below is his training distribution from Jan to Sept 2021 and it’s compared to the distribution for the same period in 2019
As you can see on the 1st graph for 2021, he spent ~ 90% of his training load below LT1 (as a percentage of his VO2max). Compared to 76% of the time below LT1 in 2019.
The 1st graph is the training distribution as a percentage of his FTP (LT2) for 2021 where he trained 54% of the time under 75% of LT2, 38% between 75-100% of FTP, and only 8% of the time above FTP. Compared to 2019 when he trained 40% under 75% of FTP, 43% between 75-100% of FTP and 16% above FTP.
Above is the total cycling volume comparison 2021 vs 2019 – as you can see one of the benefits of “less” intensity was that he was able to average 2 more hours of cycling per week.
For running, we didn’t test until midyear though his results were stronger (vs the bike ones) as you can see below.
We had a simple focus for his running as in the past, he has had some hamstring flareups when adding intensity so we kept the running in check doing mostly <LT1 running (68% of total load) and at times, some LT1/LT2 (29% of total load) and very little LT2> (3% of total load)
Due to different reasons, we couldn’t do a metabolic test follow up for either bike/run but based on the data, I estimated he improve his cycling FatMax to ~5.4Kcal/mi (~10% increase), his LT1 improved ~10 watts and his VO2max improved ~3% all while LT2 (FTP) stayed roughly the same! The improvements were rather similar for running so with that info, we set his racing plan (pacing and energy demand carbs in grams/h). We knew heat could be a negative factor as he trains in MA and it happened that race day was rather humid/hot. Throughout the day he moved forward going from 11th out of the water to 3rd after the bike and finishing 2nd. His power was lower than planned but I noticed the same with various athletes’ files which tells me those cheap seal roads impacted their performance quite a bit.
In the end, Bash raced to perform given the day conditions. That is, when you are chasing a specific goal like qualifying for a World Championship, it’s about the final placing, not the time split. Sure, knowing you have the fitness to complete an even in a rough time provides insight as to how close or not you may be to that goal. But coming race day, it isn’t about posting a personal best, it was about posting the fastest sustainable performance under race conditions and focusing on finishing in the Kona spots, and that is what he did!
The work he has done in the past certainly played a role in his performance this season as he has improved his fitness consistently over the years.
While in the past, focusing on markers like FTP and VO2max power helped to improve aspects of his physiology, that traditional approach doesn’t provide the full picture as to what areas may require more emphasis to fully develop your physiological profile.
His metabolic testing allowed us to pinpoint even rather accurately what was the most important pressing given his profile and goals.
Once you know what do you need to address, your program doesn’t need to be complicated or need ‘fancy’ workouts. It just needs proper load management so you can be consistent
Consistency with training, taking care of your body, and balancing training with life pays off!