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Training

Get-Faster Tips From A Top Age-Grouper

Kirsten Sass, the 2014 USAT Amateur Athlete of the Year, shares her typical training week and her favorite swim, bike and run workouts.

Use these get-faster tips from a top age-grouper.

Name
Kirsten Sass

Age group
35-39

Location
McKenzie, Tenn.

Occupation
Physician’s assistant, mom to two young children

Standout results
Five national titles in 2015, including wins at Olympic-distance nationals in August, Aquabike Nationals in September, sprint and Olympic-distance titles at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Chicago and the USA Triathlon Long Course Triathlon National Championships; 2014 USAT Amateur Athlete of the Year

Backstory
Her dad is the reason Sass did her first race, and he has served as her coach, training partner, supporter and co-worker (he is a family practice physician). To what else does she credit her success? For one, her coach Suzanne Atkinson understands life balance, and, she says, “I have an amazing husband and supportive family and workplace. And I get up really early.”

RELATED: USAT Names Age Groupers Of The Year

Typical training week

“I try to get in a good quality speed/interval session and medium-distance, lower-intensity session in each sport, a skills-focused workout for swimming and running, and every other week or so I do a brick,” Sass says. “Last season I raced a lot, so my cycling was a group ride on Tuesday nights, a crit or TT on Wednesday nights, then generally either a triathlon, duathlon or bike race on the weekend all summer.”

Goals for 2016

Nationals for duathlon and triathlon as well as worlds for those events, ITU worlds for the half-Ironman distance

Big-picture goals

“I feel like my swim still has a lot of room for improvement and I am a sucker for a challenge,” Sass says. “Every race and every day is different, and it is the tough races that I learn the most from. I don’t do a lot of post-race analyzing—it is more like, ‘What went well, what could have gone better, was it in my control (mental/physical) or not (wind/weather)? Did I do the best I could under the given circumstances?’ And if I did, then I consider it a successful race.”

Favorite workouts

Swim
500 freestyle / 100 backstroke / 400 freestyle / 100 breast stroke/ 300 freestyle/ 100 backstroke / 200 freestyle / 100 breast stroke / 100 freestyle / 100 backstroke

“I use the first 500 to go through a head-to-toe form checklist (balanced, streamlined, wide elbows, smooth entry, core engaged, streamlined kick, etc.), and then gradually descend on the shorter repeats just by working on my efficiency. This is my favorite recovery swim.”

Bike
After biking solo for so long, my favorite “workouts” are the group rides. There is a group of guys I ride with on Tuesday nights. I ride an easy hour before, and then the group ride is about an hour and invariably includes some hill attacks, or we will include some interval efforts, and it is always a challenge to hang with the faster riders. And then there is a sprint for the finish of course!

Run
Track session:
10–20 min warm-up jog plus running drills
6×800 at 10K pace, 400 easy jog recovery
4×400 at 5K pace, 400 easy jog recovery
4×200 at 3K pace, 200 easy jog recovery
3×100 at 1K pace, 200 easy jog recovery
10–20 min easy jog cool-down

RELATED VIDEO: Sebastian Kienle’s Top Tips For Age Groupers