It’s only September and I have plans to do plenty of training and possibly some running races in the fall, but this time of year always feels like it’s time to start anew. The combination of Nationals being over, going back to work and most triathlons being done makes this a good time to reflect on the past year and set some new goals. So here we go…
Last year, after reading Good to Great and the story of a high school cross-country team’s motto, I adopted “Best at the End”. I went through all of the reason for adopting it here.
One of the weaknesses I thought it addressed was that I always felt like I was fading at the end of Olympic distance races. I would get to the last 5k of a run and feel like my legs were done. My heart rate would slowly drop as my legs just couldn’t do anymore and it would just be a slog to the finish line.
I wanted to be able to mimic the feeling of finishing a sprint distance race where in the last portion of the run I could push my pace and heart rate right to the limit. I wanted to be able to run best at the end. So I took a very endurance based approach to my training. I concerned myself more with training time and mileage over intensity. I worried more about sticking to my pace over what other might be doing even if it meant falling behind. It meant relishing in big swim sets, long runs and epic bike rides.
And it worked. I remember being on the run in my first Olympic distance race this year in Penticton and thinking how different it felt. It no longer felt like a death march to the finish line. I had some jump in my legs, I was able to hold a strong pace and I even managed to slowly increase my heart rate over the last couple of kilometers.
The endurance focus also had an interesting impact on my post race recovery this year. In the past I would be tight and sore for days after an Olympic distance race (what Martina and I used to jokingly describe as ‘being hit by a bus’). This season, my legs were ready to get back at it the day after a race. Sure, I wasn’t going to be able to throw down anything too fast but the ability to go out for an easy run or bike the day after a race was there.
There was also taking my first step towards elite level racing. Standing on that pontoon in Sooke with 20 other elite triathletes changed my mindset and how I saw myself as a triathlete. I didn’t have my best race and was well out of contention but it confirmed to me that it was where I wanted to be.
There were also a number of smaller things that went well that I want to continue next season:
- Consistency in my training throughout the winter
- Successfully increasing my swimming and running mileage
- Improving my cycling to be able to win the EV Spring Series stage race
- Tracking my diet and finding a balance in my carb intake
- Frequent short runs focused on technique with things like strides and stretching
The Not So Good
My motto “Best at the End” wasn’t perfect. Such an intent focus on endurance meant that my top speed suffered a bit. Not that I wasn’t faster this year but I rarely felt like I was in top gear at any point. The only time of the year I felt in top gear was on the bike in the Spring which not surprisingly came at a time when I was spinning 2-3 times a week.
My lack of a top gear was never more evident than at the start of races this year. I didn’t have the speed/sprint ability to go hard off the gun to stay with the top swimmers. No matter how hard I tried, I would fall back early and lose touch (and my frustration on a couple of occasions at practices). It meant that I would just have a build into my own pace but ended up 30 s to a minute behind swimmers I knew I could swim with if I had just stayed on their feet. Not where I need to be.
Some other things that also didn’t go quite as well this season:
- Strength training was virtually non-existent
- A lack of sufficient sleep derailed swim workouts on a number of occasions
- Sometimes having panic attacks/hyperventilating in the early part of swims/when re-entering swims
- Not enough TT-type efforts to work on race pace and gauge progress
- Poor run planning/tracking meant a late season hip problem
Racing and being competitive in elite races.
That’s it. Full stop. It’s what really matters next season and everything I do needs to be with that goal in mind.
To do that I want to hit the following goals next season:
- Swim – RTC Training standard (5:10 400m, 10:54 800m, 20:59 1500m)
- Bike – Upgrade to Cat 3
- Run – RTC Development standard (9:24 3k, 16:29 5k, 34:23 10k)
If I’m going to hit those and be competitive in elite racing, I need to do the following (warning this ended up being an extensive list and yet is still by no means exhaustive):
- Give up some control of my training program to a coach with expertise (hopefully Alan and the RTC)
- Get continual feedback and focus intently on improving my technique especially in swimming and running
- Key off others (specifically those who are faster than I am) in workouts more often instead of focusing on my pace
- More TT’s as a way of tracking progress throughout the year
- Develop my sprint abilities, specifically an ability in water to push hard for 100-200 m and then settle into pace instead of building into a pace
- Improve my distance per stroke in the water through improving the force I can apply underwater, ensuring I finish my stroke, and solid body position
- Investigate what is causing my panic attacks/hyperventilating at the start of swims and find strategies to fix it
- Never do a touch turn in the pool again
- Improve my power output on the bike over shorter distances to allow myself to catch groups after the swim or respond to accelerations
- Take leadership in a bike pack to organize the group to chase down riders ahead
- Race a number of Spring Series races to earn upgrade points and practice pack riding
- Investigate and fix feeling of imbalance between right and left legs on bike
- Improve my running stride by ensuring full extension, keeping my upper body relaxed and improving my hip/glute/core strength and flexibility to ensure I stay tall and pushing foward
- Continue to work towards the ability to run with proper technique on “easy” runs
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep every night
- Continue to track and tweak my nutrition with an emphasis on finding ways to eat well while at work
- Strength training which focuses on my hip instability (and possibly improve my power in the water)
- Stretching program which improves my hip flexor and hamstring flexibility
- Standing more, sitting less as a means of helping those inflexibilities but not to the detriment of recovery
With all that in mind, it’s time to throw out “Best at the End”. It’s served me well and allowed me to lay the groundwork to really push in the coming season. If I want to take it to the next level though, it needs to be left behind and a new motto, that reflects my goals for next season, is needed. So I introduce “To Suffer is to Learn”:
A little tip of the hat to Red Kite Prayer (an inspired company name in itself) for the motto.
“To Suffer is to Learn” contains the elements of what next season is going to be about for me. I am going to have to be willing to suffer in workouts to really develop my top speed. I am going to have to be willing to suffer in races and ignore my natural tendency to pace myself. I am going to have to let my ego suffer by giving up the comfort and ease of competing at the front of age-group races and take a beating at the hands of the best.
But the year will also be about learning. So much of what I want to do will be new to me and I will be learning every step of the way. I will be learning to push myself. I will be learning how to be accountable in my training to more than myself. I will be learning what it takes to compete with the best. I will be learning what I am truly capable of achieving.
So here’s to suffering, learning and a successful 2012 season.