Best Use of Off Season - Training and/or Upgrades

I am a short course triathlete, 55 year old female, current w/kg is 2.3. I ride a 2011 Kestrel Talon TT bike which fits me great and I LOVE it. I have upgraded the cockpit, I have carbon race wheels. My goal for the next few years (because I know this is not an overnight project) is to qualify for World Champs in Sprint Age Group Nats. This year with about a month’s worth of running I was 38th in the aged-up results. Most years the top 18 go to Worlds. About 10 minutes separates me from that top 18.
As the off season is now here I am taking the following actions:

    • I went for a BodPod analysis so i now have a finite goal as to how much fat (about 15 pounds) i want to lose vs. how much muscle I can build with resistance training.
    • I am swimming at least 2-3 times a week in the pool, which will be increased to 3-4 during open water swim season.
    • I am starting next year’s training with solid Base training via TrainerRoad. I am using the triathlon base training as I am just starting to incorporate running back into my life after about 2 years off running due to injury and focusing on aquabike races. Previously I would just jump into a TR training program mid-build and then wonder why I couldn’t manage the load.

As for my Kestrel: I am wondering if i need to upgrade my bike’s drivetrain. Would upgrading to an 11-speed make a noticeable difference? I’ve been riding the bike since 2013 so I know the components probably need a good upgrade, but does 11 speed vs. 10 speed really make that much difference? Would upgrading to components other than the Shimano 105 make a measurable difference? Is there something else I should focus on in addition to getting me (the MOTOR) stronger? I seem to consistently average 19.5-20 mph in triathlons but just can’t break that 21-22 mph ceiling that the women my age are putting out at the top tier.

Any suggestions are welcome!

IMO your limiter is the motor, not the chassis. Assuming your bike is in good mechanical working condition, the added gear and newer components will likely net you bling more than anything else. Upgrading to say an aero frame and aero wheelset would seem like it would bring more gains than say upgrading a perfectly working drive-train, but IMO I am talking about max 1km/hr faster. You are already on a solid TT bike and assuming you are in a decent position, you are not gaining much on aero wheels and an aero frame (think minutes in an ironman/70.3); you are not losing to your competitors because of your components, its the motor you need to upgrade.

Consider revisiting you bike fit. Perhaps getting into a more aero/comfortable position would increase your watts and lower your CdA. For reference, I am a 5’8" athlete with around a 4.0 w/kg. I am able to hold my own against much higher wattage athletes in 70.3 distance races because I think I have quite an aero position. When I compare power files to other racers, I am noticing I output a lower w/kg than them, so I think the power+aero=advantage for me.

TBH we would need to see your splits for each discipline to determine which one would be best to save time. Try to gain as much time with lower hanging fruit. Seems to me your bike could use work if the other girls are out-biking you; are you doing enough high threshold/vo2 max stuff? Sprint triathlons are basically redlining the entire race. You need to have a very sustainable high power output to compete at that distance, and be able to pull off a fast run to boot.

Work on your speed. Consider to try focusing on speed work on your runs, high intensity work on your bike and obviously get as fast as you can with the swim. If upgrading your bike will get you on it more, then perhaps its worthwhile, but IMO you are better off with focused training.

Also, make sure your base fitness is good before you try to jump into any plan “midway”. There was lots of explanations on why; always focus on base, then build and lastly specialty. If you have to cut anything, cut specialty. You cant build a house with no foundation, and you cant decorate the house without it being built up. I’m sure with focused training you could hit your goals. There are no shortcuts when it comes to this stuff. You have to put in the work. You can only buy so much speed (and its not much speed, and its expensive at that)

1 Like

Assuming you don’t have components that are worn out and causing drag, moving from 10 to 11 speed will have no effect on performance except in the extremely rare circumstance where you’re using all 11 cogs in a race and the increased range is being put to good use. Upgrading your whole bike might get you a small aero benefit but one more cog in the back, no.

That being said, if you’re going to be replacing a bunch of stuff because of wear, price out the difference and it might be worth getting on the current spec (11 sp) for future ease in finding parts. (make sure your wheels are 11 speed compatible).

But also price new bikes. Individual group sets or parts are often way more expensive purchased as an upgrade versus as part of a new bike. Sounds like you bought your current bike used. If you’re comfortable with that, a 2 year old bike with 11 speed may be a way better way to go than just an 11 speed group set.

1 Like

Thank you both so much for your replies. Achin, I think you totally nailed it. My bike in the triathlon is actually on par with the top girls, it’s when I race them in aquabikes they tend to be able to outswim and outbike me.

So I ran the averages of the top 18 women (55-59) at AGNC this year in Cleveland and this was their avg. pace per sport:
Swim 1:48 per 100m
Bike: 19.8 mph
Run: 8:17 per mile

My race went like this:
Swim: 2:08 per 100m
Bike: 19.4 mph
Run: 10:43 per mile

So, when I look at it by the cold, hard numbers, yes, the bike is really not my problem. The run is the low-hanging fruit, so I am slowly building up my run base as part of the TR low-volume sprint program and working on my swim and being CONSISTENT which I have never done before - usually i swim about 5 times and month and race off that.

Body composition for me is also rather low-hanging fruit. I have easily 15-20 pounds that can probably be taken off, the only caveat being not to lose my strength.

Thank you again for your food for thought! I am going to keep the Kestrel, make sure she gets a good tune up (but she is also my trainer bike) and get some good work done this off season!

I will post my progress here.

1 Like