Along with the likes of Dave Scott and Scott Molina, one of those out there during triathlon’s earliest days was Higher Gear customer Geoff Chandler. Chandler’s name may not be one you’re familiar with. While Chandler was out there competing on courses with the pros, he was, and is, an age-grouper, like you and me. Unlike us, however, Chandler was one of the first to embrace triathlon as a sport.
Growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana, Chandler spent time riding his bike. “When I was younger, like thirteen to fifteen, me and my best friend were on our bikes a lot.” For kids, a bicycle represents a freedom lacking elsewhere in their worlds. Chandler tested the boundaries that freedom offered. “When I was fifteen,” he tells us, “I was out on a ride by myself. I looked on a map and saw that I was half way to Muncie, so I rode to Muncie.” (A one-way trip from Indianapolis to Muncie is a metric century.)
In his first year of teaching, Chandler picked up The Complete Book of Running, by Jim Fixx, who is credited with popularizing running/jogging and igniting America’s fitness revolution. “I got interested in running and entered my first race.” Chandler ran in the 500 Festival, the largest half-marathon in the U.S., which finishes on the Indy 500 track. “It was a neat introduction to road racing.”
During the early 80’s, triathlon caught his eye. “Triathlon was pretty new at the time. I’d see articles about it and I would pick up a triathlon magazine occasionally.” In 1985, he decided he was going to do one, so he started putting time in the pool.
Years later, in 2000, Chandler competed at the first Ironman California triathlon (now Ironman 70.3 California Oceanside). There, at Camp Pembleton, Chandler won a coveted Ironman World Championship slot.
So, what was Chandler’s training routine that got him to the World Championships in Kona? Anyone who has read biographies from athletes competing in endurance events back in the 70’s and 80’s knows that no one really knew what they were doing. They were all just winging it back then – and the philosophy was just to put in the miles.
Chandler tells us: “Training was different. In the early 80’s, the thought was to run long, run easy. The thought was that, ‘Speed kills.’” He cuts to the chase: “I really didn’t do a lot of quality training.”
For running, Chandler continued to put in the miles he started in the late 70’s, but triathlon rekindled his love of cycling. “Running was my strongest suit at first. It didn’t take long for my cycling to surpass my running. I started getting some of the fastest splits in the cycling legs.”
Along with all this training, came the gear. Cyclists are known for their gadgets and gear, but they are typically following the lead of triathletes who are known to be the “early adapters” when it comes to technology. Aero bars? Deep disc wheels? Aero bikes? Aero helmets? Now we’re used to seeing cyclists getting all aero, but the technology was borrowed from triathletes who first blazed the trail.
Once he did his first triathlon, Chandler knew he needed to invest in a decent bike, but that was only the start. He witnessed how wetsuits allowed poor swimmers to stay in the game so they could go on to knock out a solid run. And he recalls the introduction of aero bars. “One pro showed up to a race with them. The next race, every pro showed up with them. All of a sudden, they were hard to come by because every age-grouper wanted them.”
“On top of that, I was a pretty early adapter to power meters,” says Chandler. He purchased a bottom bracket-based meter by German company ERGOMO and devoured information about training with power. “I wanted to know what to do with it.” To learn, he read Hunter Allen’s work and even got to film Allen doing a clinic.
Fortunately for Chandler – and all of us – there have been significant advancements in the theory and equipment for training and racing. Chandler has taken advantage of these advancements and has continued to improve as a result. Once thing he has taken advantage of is utilizing a coach for his own performance.
In all, Chandler has competed in six World Championship events, in several sports (duathlon, triathlon and cycling) and in varying distances. For 2012, he made it his goal to tackle the time trial. With the help of his coach, he managed to pull off a solid PR (a 58 minute 40k Time Trial) and win his age group at the Indiana State Time Trial Championship.
“I can attest from first hand experience, utilizing a coach can make a big difference in your racing performance… After 28 years participating in triathlons, it’s pretty difficult to come up with a personal best, however, after hiring a coach for the first time, I not only had some of my best placings ever, but had several solid PRs.”
Chandler’s performance is even more impressive, as it came at the tail end of back-to-back-to-back competitions of the Indianapolis Triathlon, Chicago Triathlon and then the State TT Championship. “Then, boom! Right into Cyclocross season.”
When Chandler hired his coach, he had two targets in mind: those State TT Championships and then cyclocross performance. Chandler had one season of cyclocross under his belt. “I was racing Cat 4. Each race, I was getting better, better and better.” Chandler finished his first cyclocross season as the Indiana Cyclocross Series Cat 4 Masters champion. But that wasn’t enough. “I really wanted to see what I could do, but I was already in my 50’s and I was less secure in what I needed to do for cyclocross.”
After his State TT Championship win, Chandler went on to have a solid cyclocross season under the direction of his coach. In his second year of racing cx, he placed second in the Indiana Cyclocross Series Cat 1/2 Masters 50+. Within a year, Chandler made a major leap in competition – from Cat 4 to Cat 1/2 – and pulled off stellar results.
Chandler shares, “After doing cyclocross, it makes triathlon seem kind of boring,” but that doesn’t stop him from continuing with triathlon. In fact, he finds that the combination of the sports allows for a perfect year-long cycle of training. “What a great template: using triathlon to train for time-trialing all summer and then cyclocross training in early fall and early winter. It’s a perfect cycle.”
Chandler adds: “Cyclocross is really short and intense. It’s great training. Then, it’s back into threshold training for the spring and summer. It provides a nice balance. It’s like rotating crops to get the best performance all year.”
Chandler’s experience as an athlete plus his success under the direction of a coach helped him make up his mind to become a coach himself. “I had it in my mind a long time, for years. I think I just saw me doing it somewhere down the road.” For Chandler, “Coaching is really a great fit.”
Chandler describes his style as “data-driven coaching.” Through coaching software, he is able to track the training-stress-balance, or “how stressed you are on any given load and how fit you are on any given day.” To explain, he asks us to consider the men racing the Tour de France: those men are fit, but by the end of the Tour they are no longer fresh or at their peak performance. On the flip side, you can ride your bike easily for two months and be “fresh,” but you might not be very fit. You need a proper ratio of stress and recovery to be at your best.
“With coaching software, I track both of those perimeters [stress and recovery] and we track them into the future. We can estimate a Training Stress Score, so there is no guessing.” How long does an individual need to taper? “I get training stress down to exactly where we want it and plan for it.” Chandler adds, “I can plan people’s performances.”
Chandler goes on to explain that his role as a coach is to impose a “planned increase in stress.” He likens it to anyone planning a vacation in the middle of winter when you want to get the best tan as fast as possible. “You’re given an amount of sun to get every day – not too much, not too little. Too much and you get burned.” The software Chandler uses allows him to plan a gradual increase in stress over time. “We can track it on a daily basis and on a long-term basis” to get the best possible outcome over time.
While winter here in Chicago may not be the best time to start working on your tan, it is a great time to start preparing for a great spring and summer season of riding. Chandler tells us that “the middle of the winter is a great time to test and re-test.” Without a power meter of your own, Higher Gear’s CompuTrainer Studio gives you – and Coach Chandler – the numbers you need to be race-ready for summer. We offer FTP testing twice a month on Thursday evenings.
Come in to Higher Gear for your FTP test and find out how Coach Chandler can help you reach your goals for 2015.
- Are you riding with power? You should be.
- Learn more about training with power at Higher Gear’s CompuTrainer Studio.
- Learn more about opportunities to train under Geoff Chandler’s guidance.
- Meet two of Geoff’s clients: Josh Kline and Joe Sullivan.
Interested in triathlon?
- Meet Higher Gear customers who have raced the Ironman World Championship in Kona: Claire Geiger and Patty Carrel.
- Higher Gear customer Aaron Sherrick tells us to give tri a try.
“A power meter is more than just a training tool, it’s a tool to help you achieve the best performance you can on your day.” – Hunter Allen
Learn more about training smart:
- Why Train With Power?
- How to use a Power Meter to your Advantage in a Triathlon by Hunter Allen.
- Training Stress Balance by Hunter Allen.
- Check out the power meters available at Higher Gear.
- Shop Higher Gear online now for power meters >>