Specialized spent a few days documenting Craig Alexander’s triathlon training in Boulder, Colorado.
Alexander, better known as ‘Crowie’ said:
“My love is training and racing. But you can’t do it forever. I’m just happy to still be doing it at 42 at a high level. I think not having to do an Ironman has allowed me to race more. You don’t have the long build up and the recovery and the second long build up to Kona.”
“I’ve always just trained on feel. For me, when I come up this high, 9000ft to over 9500ft at the turn, it’s got to be comfortable. The purpose of this session was not to stress you or get you in any heart rate zone as such two hours on your legs, building some leg durability and strength and subjecting your body on the higher altitude for the adaptation.”
Crowie proceeded to Boulder, for an easy swim and then a second run.
“Try and get some race pace work on tired legs. See how the old 42y old body pulls up! I might need an extended warm up!,” said the multiple Ironman World Champion.
“I’ve noticed particularly the last two years, the heart and lungs are better than ever. This summer back in Australia I was doing a lot swimming because I can’t do as run as much anymore and I’m swimming better than ever. I’m swimming at least two sessions a week more than I have for ten years,”
“When the engine gets wound up its as good as ever. It’s just the body. The body doesn’t recover. That’s why I can’t do the volume running, but the pool being non-weight bearing its different.”
Life has certainly taken a different turn for Crowie, with family priorities ahead of triathlon of late.
“With other things gong on, three young children – it’s not triathlon 24hours a day. It’s just an indication of where life’s at for the moment.”
“I’m just not prepared to sacrifice the family anymore. I’ve got some really patient business partners. And slowly my focus is shifting.”
“When I come up high, I never go hard”
Crowie cautioned against pushing your body too hard and too fast at high altitude. The human body will adjust eventually, but only if you give it a chance to.
“My body obviously has been working hard and now my oxygen sats are low. Tomorrow I’ll ride up high too and keep repeating the message. Eventually the brain will send the message that these are the conditions were operating under and we need to enhance and get some extra blood cell proliferation started,” cautioned Crowie.
The 4 x 8 minuter’s were good. Holding 45-55rpm in the 55×11 gear – felt really good by the fourth one actually, and finally made it to the car park – I got bit further each one. 4 x 4minuter’s are good too, more race pace and cadence.
“I do enjoy working with the young guys a lot. I was fortunate early in my career I had a lot of really good athletes took me under their wing. I think its important.”
Pulse oximeter – to measure pulse and oxygen saturation
Crowie was seen using a pulse oximeter – to measure his pulse and also oxygen saturation, to see the impact of the altitude on his training.
“When we started, obviously I slept at 5000ft, drove up here and my oxygen sats were 99%. So that’s like sea level, which tends to happen even in Boulder when your body adapts and you get that red blood cell proliferation,”
“For progress, to get the extra adaptation you come up a little higher and stretch your body a little more. Which has obviously was done because my sats are now mid 80’s . So hopefully if you do that enough, the brain sends the message for more red blood cells. And that’s the whole premise of altitude training,”
“For the longest time I just used to come up here because I’d heard that’s what runners do, that’s what the Kenyans did. But the pulse oximeter actually shows what is happening. You just feel terrible up here and this explains why. Every session has a purpose and to see how it plays out is good,”
Before running a session like this, I don’t do much track any more but I still do speed-work on the trail, I like to do a little core, engage the core, so that I can run as efficiently as possible.
Recover with an ice bath
“For recovery I’m on supplements, branch chain amino acids, protein shakes. You need to put back in the building,”
“I know the science these days says they are not as good but it was all about ice baths’ five years ago. I still like them, they make me feel good, probably because the legs go numb and I can’t feel anything!”
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