Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mid season/early season Update

On one hand, the season seems to be flying by.  On the other hand it's just getting started.  For most triathletes who have been racing since June or earlier it's the middle of the season and I'm starting to prepare many of my personal athletes for their "A" races and the end of the season.  For me, I just had my first triathlon of the year a couple days ago.  

It's been great to see my athletes in action so far this year.  Lots of hard work has been paying off on their part.  One athlete was selected to represent her home county of Brazil at the Pan American Junior championships and qualified for Junior Nationals.  Another is currently ranked #1 in the state in his age group.  Another just finished her first half Ironman triathlon, making huge progress from one year ago.  Another just won her age group in a 5 mile open water swim!  I could keep going, but long story short my athletes are a constant source of motivation and excitement for me and it's an honor to help them work toward their goals.
It was a proud coaching moment when Robbie won the overall at Rev3 Dells

I love coaching and it keeps me busy, and for most of this year I've done a good job of making sure that my own training was balanced in well.  By that I don't just mean getting in the workouts.  I often tell my athletes that the best way to get the most out of your training, if you had to sum it up in three points, would be this:

1. Do your sessions as written, when they're written*
2. Eat well
3. Sleep enough

*Given constant communication/feedback with your coach, not blindly following a plan written far in advance

In my experience coaching, the athletes who do these three things consistently are, practically without exception, the ones who see the biggest and quickest improvements.  In my experience as an athlete, I have improved most when doing these things, and have stagnated when I have neglected one or more of them.

Fairly simple concept, but I also realize and tell my athletes that life happens while you're going through a training plan.  Everyone needs to decide where their training falls in their list of priorities.  That's something I can't decide for someone. What is going on outside of training effects what goes on with training.  Sometimes we control those things and sometimes we don't.  I just had an athlete have an unexpected two weeks off leading into a half iron this past week.  Was it ideal for her race prep?  No.  But it was for more important things than triathlon so I don't fault her at all.  My job is then to work to try to make any adjustments as smooth as possible and re-adjust race plans if necessary.  That's what we did and she had a great race day.

That's kind of how my recent chunk of the season has gone.  As of my last post things were looking good.  My threshold power was at an all time high and climbing.  I finally felt good in the water again.  Running legs were almost back.  Then mid June rolled around and from that time till now, one thing after another pulled me away from my well-oiled system.  First sleep went, and when that went I wasn't recovering enough to handle the workouts I was doing so they had to be cut back.  The past month has actually seen very minimal work on my part and I was feeling it.  In the past this would've bothered me a lot.  Especially having taken my elite card with the intent of opening up the season better than ever.  I think a big difference the past two years that is a big part of why I was able to have a good season last year and start my training off so well this year is that I put triathlon into a little bit different perspective.  I feel more secure about what I'm doing and why.  I want to be the best I can be.  I'm just not willing to sacrifice the rest of my life for it and it doesn't define me personally so if I have a bad race I don't feel bad about myself.  I put my training above all trivial things and have learned to say no when I feel pulled in too many directions at once.  At the same time when truly important things are going on in life I no longer have qualms about dropping workouts or sacrificing my own training.

So knowing that my fitness was substantially down going into this past weekend's half iron race, instead of being flustered by it I changed my race plan and was ok with not contending for the top 5 spots.  I knew my original time goals I set earlier in the season were out the window, but with a different approach I thought I might still be able to PR.  Going hard for over 4 hours was not going to work this time without a self destruct on the run, so instead I decided to swim easy, bike somewhat conservatively and then run hard.  I felt I could at least work hard for an hour and a half.  

Basically it seemed like things were going to plan up until mile 45 or so on the bike.  The swim was easy and although I was pushing a higher power than I have before for this distance it felt in control and smooth.  Then the road quality changed and regular jarring bumps for the next 10 miles had my lower back absolutely killing me by the time I rolled into transition.  I felt like I couldn't run and my back didn't let up until I was 10 miles in.  At that point I didn't really care any more and jogged it in.  Now I do realize that everyone rode the same course and not everyone had this problem.  I think my lack of fitness was a part of it, that and I have traditionally struggled with that on flat courses of that length when I'm trying to hold aero for so long.  I was actually doing better with it this time until the road changed, probably due to improved strength from my work at FIT this year.  Unfortunately it just meant that I finished the race never breathing hard and 10 min off of my PR.  Legs were shot though. 

So I'm not going to sit here and pretend that it's the race I wanted to have, but there were some good takeaways from the race.  I rode better for that distance than I have before and did it at below my usual half IM heart rate.  That tells me that the strength gains I've worked hard for this year have paid off despite a lower current fitness level.  It's different for everyone, but for me it takes a lot of work to gain strength and speed but relatively less work to develop endurance.  I think it's partly just how my body is made up and partly due to almost 10 years of aerobic training which has built an enormous base.  It will take much less time to get my fitness back than it would to get stronger or faster so I feel that bouncing back, while it will take significant work, is something that is definitely possible this season.  And for me at least, the season is just starting.