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The Pico Plan | Coach Andy Leuterio

The man of the hour. If there’s one athlete who’s currently blitzing the AG scene, it’s none other than Coach Andy Leuterio. The guy is simply on fire. Racking up wins by winning his AG and setting the fastest AG overall time at the 2012 Pico de Loro. Then just recently, Coach Andy also won his AG at Tri United 1 and got second fastest AG overall.

We just love it when we  get to see the story that goes behind every great performance. We love it even more that that Coach Andy is a techie when it comes to training and racing.

Read on as the champ speaks with SWIMBIKERUN.ph about his race at the 2012 Pico de Loro Triathlon.

Good stuff. Enjoy!


The Pico Effect

By Coach Andy Leuterio
Photos courtesy of Bike King and Pico Tri Invitational

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I joined this race last year and fell in love with it. Fantastic venue, awesome crowd support, beach party vibe… it reminded me of the original allure of triathlon where you could race your brains out for a few hours somewhere scenic then have beers after. With a total distance somewhere in between a Sprint and an Olympic, it’s a balance between being fast and steady as there are a few steep climbs that can really take a lot out of you if you go too hard.

The best part about this race? The afternoon start! With a 2:30PM gun start, this meant my family could wake up at around 6am, load up the car and take our time getting to the resort. All races should start like this!

We had a big brunch at Pancake House in Tagaytay, too. Since I believe that “A happy triathlete is a fast triathlete”, I ordered a taco salad, tocilog, pancakes, sausages, orange juice, then got a tall brewed at the Starbucks all for myself. For insurance I kept a Clif Bar in my pocket.

We got to Pico de Loro around 1PM and I set to work on my transition gear. Pump up the tires, check the gear shifts and brakes, tape the gels, clip the shoes, wipe the sunglasses, etcetera. By 2PM I was good to go and warming up on the swim course. I went to the first Next Step Tri Camp last February and got a nasty surprise with the jellyfish, so I was wary of getting in the water, but sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. The water was nice and clear, lots of my friends and athletes were at the beach… it was the perfect day to do some smashing!

Not so fast, bro…

One of the athletes I coach, Z Villarin, asked me, “Where do I put my  chip? The left ankle or the right?”

“What chip?”, I asked.

“The TIMING chip!,” she said. She looked at my ankles and whispered, “Oh my God…”.

I never sprinted so fast from the beach to transition in my life. With 5 minutes till race start I frantically searched my transition bags for the chip and called my wife, Sheryll, in a state of panic to search the car. Yes, the car that was parked all the way back at Pico Sands Hotel. Good Lord…

I was just about to give up, run back to the start and hope I wouldn’t be DQ’d for racing without a chip (I was also preparing a list of plausible excuses, too. That’s when I remembered I had stuffed it in my shorts along with the Clif Bar. I got the chip, strapped it around my ankle, and went to the start line with a few minutes to spare.

Call it the Pico Effect. Last year I also panicked a few minutes before the start looking for my official swim cap.

There are probably worse ways to wake myself up to the racing season!

From the gun, with lightning in the foreground and rain drenching everyone, we sprinted into the sea and fought for position. The first few hundred meters are always critical for a middle-of-the-pack swimmer like me. A good start lets me get in the draft of some stronger swimmers. A bad start gets me stuck behind slower ones.  I pretty much couldn’t see anything but foam, legs, and arms for the first five minutes until I realized we were already turning right back to shore. I couldn’t tell if I had a good start or a bad one until I got out from the first lap to check the time: 11 minutes and counting. Not great, but not terrible!

By the second lap, I’d pretty much calmed down and focused on smooth, steady strokes as I realized I’d be out in around 22-23 minutes… it was about my projected time based on my tests the past few weeks.

Thanks to my timing chip fiasco I had no problems running out of the water a second time back to transition. I got my bike, my helmet, my shades, and I was out of there in a minute (I think).

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On the bike course, I was happy I’d decided to use my Specialized S-Works Shiv instead of my Venge. I’d computed that the total length of the climbs was relatively short compared to all the flat sections, so I decided to use a proper TT bike to get the full benefit of the aero position. To deal with the climbs I put an 11-28 cassette on my back wheel. The slippery roads meant I had to ride conservatively downhill,  but I surmised it was the same for everyone and I could gain the most time by going flat-out on the straights.

During training in the weeks beforehand I’d computed that my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) was around 255-265 watts on flat terrain and at a Functional Threshold Heart Rate range of 160-165bpm. Unfortunately, I only have a power meter on my training wheels. Racing on a Zipp 404-1080 combo with standard hubs I made do with my Suunto T6C Heart Rate Monitor to gauge my effort. The rain had also messed with my cyclocomputer, so my only working instrument was the T6C.

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Pegging my HR at 160-165bpm I thoroughly enjoyed the bike leg while concentrating on staying upright on the wet roads. On the last climb I said “What the hell…” and decided to attack it out of the saddle. Not that there was anyone in front who needed attacking, but I wanted to make it a memorable bike leg! On the last descent I probably went slower than my kid on his trike, though, as my brakes had a tough time slowing me down in time for the hairpin turns.

I got into T2 at around 1:01 and change and felt great as I donned my racing flats for the final leg. “Go, Andy! You’re killing them!”, yelled my Fitness First Cycling Teammate Maiqui Dayrit as he watched from the sidewalk.

Naturally, I felt like shit as soon as I was out of sight of the spectators. I peeked at my T6C and it read “180bpm”. I took it down a notch and felt a lot better. Averaging low 9 minutes per lap, I was actually 30 seconds per km slower than my target pace, but I guess that’s the price I had to pay for going hard on the bike. By the last lap I was fully enjoying myself and able to cheer on other athletes out on the course. Sheryll and my son Max were all smiles for me at the finish line!

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Ricky Ledesma sent me a text message after the race saying I was the fastest overall male Age-Grouper and I couldn’t’ believe it at first. Then I got a copy of the results and said to myself, “wow… the training is FINALLY paying off!” There actually wasn’t a prize for the overall AG division, but I’m okay with having the honor of winning my 30-34 AG bracket a second time.

Thank you to all my family, friends, sponsors, and coaching clients for all the support and trust, and to swimbikerun.ph for inviting me to tell this story.

It’s going to be a very good year, I promise you that!

Congratulations to all the winners and finishers of this beautiful race! Hats off to the organizers for a simple yet beautiful finish line chute on the beach where they make every participant – whether the first or the last – feel like a champion. If the Phuket Tri has a baby elephant at the finish line, maybe next time Pico de Loro should have… a giant parrot? They did give all winners a stuffed parrot during awarding; just another simple, yet elegant touch to the best opening tri of my season!

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Details, details…

I normally don’t volunteer workout details as these are very personal and may not be applicable to readers, but since SWIMBIKERUN.ph asked, here are some of the critical elements I did leading up to the race, and will continue (with some revisions) long into the racing season.

  1. Weekly Bricks: As early as January I was already doing overdistance bricks like 50-10 and 60-12 bike-run at aerobic pace. Aside from saving on time instead of having to do two separate workouts, I found these were great at burning more calories than with standalone sessions. By March I could already do these sessions at race-pace intensity and wattage.
  2. Quality Runs: I don’t do too many track workouts as it takes a long time for my body to recover. Instead, I run hills any day that I can for 10-24 kilometers. As I burned off my Christmas season fat, I found I could run faster and longer on my hilly routes with only a small increase in Heart Rate. I did do a handful of V02max interval sessions, from 6-10 x 1km with 90 seconds rest, mainly to “open up” the lungs for the coming races and get the leg turnover going. A week before the race, I joined the 1st leg of the Powerade Duathlon. Nothing like a training race to kick my ass.
  3. Power- and HR-focused rides:  On aerobic long rides, I set a ceiling of 150-155bpm while climbing at a low cadence in a heavy gear. I also did periodic Time Trials on certain climbs to assess my improvement and re-adjust my power level and HR training zones based on those results. Training with my Fitness First Cycling team, I also got in a few threshold-V02max sessions preparing for a March team time trial. On time-crunched days I would ride indoors for a few hours on a Computrainer with specific wattage goals. Essentially, as long as it was a Key Workout, I made sure to Ride Until Muscle Failure (RUMF). I got on my bike, rode hard or long (or both), then stopped or rode easy when I couldn’t meet the target wattage anymore.
  4. Swim a lot: With the swim being my weakest leg, I made a point to swim at least 4 times a week. This is a drag because the nearest 50-meter pool is an hour drive away, but that’s life. For 2,000-3,000m sessions I would do around 1,000 of technique-focused drills, then a main set of 200s, 300s, 400s, 500s, and 1000s free and most of those at an aerobic pace. Twice a week I would have main sets at threshold and sprint pace. The week before the race I was lucky to swim with my Fitness First Tri teammate JJ Cosculluela. JJ is a fast swimmer, so we did 100s and 50s at race pace with me hanging on for dear life in his wake. He would recover when I took a pull, while I basically alternated between sprint and threshold pace!
  5. Nutrition: A short race like Pico Tri doesn’t really need much in terms of nutrition, but I still made sure to start the race with a full tank. For the race, I had two Gu’s taped to my bike and one in my hand during the run. I lost one gel in the rainy bike, which is why it’s always good to have an extra for insurance. I took the last gel during the 3rd lap of the run, although it was tough to swallow when you’re going a bloc!  I’ve also been using Athlete Octane every day now and I must say that its effect is terrific!
  6. Recovery: My recovery program is simple. Sleep a lot, and get regular massages. Whenever possible I get a lunchtime nap to recover from the stress of the morning session, to stimulate HGH development, and to recharge me for the afternoon workout. Sometimes I’ll even taken a nap in my car, in between meetings and workouts, so I wouldn’t be useless during either! I also have a light meal with carbs and protein immediately after a workout, then a heavier meal after the nap when my core temperature has gone down and my appetite has gone back up.
  7. Gear: I rode my Specialized S-Works Shiv for this race, outfitted with Zipp 404-1080 wheels, and an 11-28t cogset. I also made sure I was properly fitted on it thanks to a productive Retul session at Primo Cycles. Run gear consisted of a Newton sunvisor and MV2 racing flats with Thorlos socks. I love the support of these socks as they add more cushion to the wafer thin soles of the MV2, especially on hard concrete.  No blisters this time! The entire time I relied on my Suunto T6C Heart Rate Monitor to record the data for post-race analysis on www.movescount.com.

Coach Andy Leuterio can be reached at [email protected]

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A triathlete making a comeback and a true blue Scorpio. That sums it up quite nicely :)

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