O2 Session with Sarah Haskins

There’s no arguing: Sarah Haskins is one of the most successful female triathletes of all time. With countless wins to her name and a very consistent record, we sometimes just assume that it is easy for her. Call it the “Champion’s Curse”. As we witnessed on one July day, however, it takes an incredible amount of consistent planning, organization, and hard work. That kind of success doesn’t happen on its own.

While Sarah is a very dedicated athlete, she’s the first to tell you that it wouldn’t be possible without her husband, Nathan Kortuem. He acts as her coach, mechanic, manager, travel Sherpa, power-file-analyzer, and much more. Known by his friends as simply “Nate”, he is a former professional triathlete, student of the sport, and all-around nice guy.

This specific workout session took place on Tuesday, July 31st, 2012, at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. Sarah and Nate spend their winters in Clermont, FL for the warm weather, and the summers in Colorado for the altitude training. They’ve come to find over time, however, that Sarah still benefits from some sea-level training throughout the year. That’s not possible in Colorado Springs, so they use supplemental oxygen for these key sessions.

While other Colorado Springs-based athletes use supplemental oxygen, they are often at the mercy of their ITU points standing (which determines their eligibility for O2, massage, monthly stipends, and other various forms of support). Sarah and Nate are no longer residents at the OTC, so they’ve essentially gone fully independent. In order to have consistent access to O2, they purchase their own tanks, which get stored at the OTC.

Sarah’s session this day was about an hour, with a main set of five minute intervals and two-and-a-half minutes rest. The ride was followed by a ten mile trail run, with Nate on his mountain bike. This is all part of her late-season peaking phase, for big races such as the Chicago triathlon and Hy-Vee. She rode her Fuji D6 bike equipped with Shimano Di2, a Rotor-Quarq crankset (172.5mm), Zipp 303 clincher wheels, Oval Concepts bars, ISM saddle, and Sampson pedals. Resistance was provided by a Computrainer, but they use the Quarq system for power measurement. Output was measured on three devices:

1. Garmin headunit on Sarah’s stem for basic power metrics (power, lap power, cadence, lap time)

2. An iPhone with Wahoo Fitness ANT+ receiver, placed on a table in front of Sarah (for heart rate metrics)

3. A second Garmin for Nate to track the data and record output on a clip board

You can follow Sarah at her website www.sarahhaskins.com and on twitter @sarahhaskinstri.

What does it take to be a champion? This.

These balloon-like bags will fill with oxygen from the tanks. Sarah breathes from the bags, at a concentration that equates to slightly below sea level.

Sarah purchased this tank herself… and the note attempts to thwart would-be O2 thieves.

Here is the oxygen mask. Look comfortable?

Nate helps Sarah don the mask…

…while Jacob from USAT begins to fill the bags with oxygen.

Velcro straps hold the mask on.

Now the real work begins.

Nate takes note of all the data, including lap wattage, cadence, heart rate, and rate of perceived exertion (RPE).

Sarah coasts briefly as she begins a recovery interval. One down, several more to go…

Heart rate starts to rise as Sarah continues her intervals.

It’s hammer time! If Sarah trains well, this is the view that the competition will see.

Sarah gives everything she has… can you say “pain cave”?

The first tank started only 1/6th full. Sarah made short work of it, and required a tank change during the session.

Finally done.

Hard training doesn’t get you much of anything in the short-term, except fatigue and a lot of this dripping off the bike.

There is an identical oxygen rig set up nearby on a treadmill. No O2 running for Sarah today, however.

The OTC has a lot of new equipment… and even some relics.

Two Alter G treadmills are here to help injured runners stay in shape.

The day’s output. Yes guys – those intervals were at 270+ watts.