I spent the last post forward focused, but I would be a little remiss if I didn’t comment a little about wrapping up tri season. I often go back to key points and re-read posts for what was in my brain at the time, so even if it’s not of interest to anyone else, here we go.
Looking back: I’m really happy with 2014 and triathlons. It got off to a rough start with some mismanaged expectations and a bit of burnout, but my last 3 of the year have nothing but warm fuzzies attached to them. Kerrville 70.3 is really my yardstick each year and taking 23 minutes off my time (under tougher conditions), and more importantly, achieving a lot of process goals during the race showed that I really have upped my game this year.
Going beyond: The goal is to really focus on the longer stuff. I’ve got two marathons and THREE 70.3s planned next year, with a nice long offseason in the middle of the summer like this year. I plan to keep up with both process goals and time goals, so even if conditions force my performance off the rails, I can continue to hold to something.
Getting access to that sweet pool and lake has helped my swim IMMENSELY. Swimming brings me 100% joy in my current situation and no frustration at the conditions. Check with me when I’m tuning up for my early races on how I feel about an outdoor (sheltered/heated) pool, but it was all smiles in August and September.
Also, pushing the pace more often helped, especially in open water. Obtaining the Garmin 910 that does both pool and lake swim tracking gave me metrics, and made me really aware of how I tend to space out mid-swim in open water, and slow down A LOT unless I’m super focused.
Onward + 2015:
Before December, my only goal is to make my swim miles not be a complete goose egg each month (so far so good for October). I give up gains in swimming during marathon season and that’s fine, because I always comes back stronger. It’s ok. While early in the year I’m going to need to do an easy build because I’ll be out of swim shape, it comes back swiftly and I hope to graduate quickly to sets and speedwork and see if I can crack that elusive 2:00/100m in a race next year.
I do think it will be a lot of “more of the same” from my last training block. I swam more, I swam more intensely, and unless I found myself out of a job or in a position to have more time to train overall, I discovered some pretty good gains in concentrating on:
1. Having a focus in swim sets. Once my base is up, I should have two options in the water: a) recovery or b) hurting myself. Sometimes I had to bail on a hard set because the week caught up with me, but the only way to swim hard in races is to swim hard in practice.
2. Making sure I stay mentally focused. I conquered my race space outs in Kerrville, but it was by really overworking myself the first few 100 meters, and I’m not sure that’s the greatest strategy in the world. More open water sets with race pace loops in the middle and having a mantra to come back to if I find I’m wandering (just repeating focus every stroke is simple but it helps) is key.
I’d like to try for at least 1-2 swim heavy weeks before my first triathlon next year. I really find the breakthroughs when I can swim A LOT, but being that it’s 40 minutes out of my 6 hours and 30, and it’s generally my highest ranked sport compared to my age group, it’s really hard to devote a LOT of time to it.
This cycle is where I started to put on my big girl cycle shorts and realized that I needed to approach my bike training differently.
1. One long ride outside every other week. On hills. In traffic. In the heat. Suffering through the first one was rough, but the second wasn’t so bad and the third was downright pleasant. I’d love to be the kind of cyclist who rides outside all the time but let’s be real. I don’t have a great route to commute that doesn’t involve a bunch of stop and go to get 3-4 miles to work. It’s not useful training. I have a decent 10 mile loop near my house, but even that involves close to 10 stoplights. What is necessary is to get out and ride for a few hours on hills in the weather (cold/hot/whatever).
2. Endurance cycling class. I credit so much of my 7 minute bike PR this cycle on my Tuesday dates with wattage_cottage. 6:15 on a Tuesday is not the most convenient time to make a class, but I was there most every week because it was worth it. In a class setting, having someone tell you to do long painful intervals and having everyone around you suffering is the bomb. Trying to put yourself through those at home on the trainer is harder.
3. Trainer is for recovery or hurting myself. While it’s not second nature yet to go fast on the trainer, I’ve found by monitoring my cadence and HR, and with the help of videos, I can push myself into working instead of staying in the lollygagging zone. I took at least 1 hour/week as a recovery spin, but the rest of the week was dedicated to bike work after I got a decent base.
4. Focused on kicking my ass with hard work over mindless hours. Every ride had a purpose. I was a little worried going in – my long outdoor rides were 51, 39, 35, 34 and I pulled a 66 miler on the trainer. However, I had a lot of 1-2.5 hour rides with lots of intensity, and honestly? I’ve never felt so fresh off a bike as when I rode that 56 miles in Kerrville. Win.
5. In the same vein, I also like the way I handled brick runs. Base building in August – I never ran more than 1-2 miles off bikes. In September, almost every bike had at least a baby brick run off it. I replaced the long brick slog (easy 56 bike/easy 10+ run) with an intense brick (1.5 hour bike shred/1 hour race pace run) and did that twice. I think it worked out better to simulate race day with easier recovery.
Onward + 2015:
Cycling will take a backseat to running for the rest of 2014 to ramp myself up to marathon shape, but I plan to cycle on the trainer or in a class at least once a week to make sure I don’t forget how. It always takes a little ramp up after slacking on cycling for months, but I’ve got the time to get back to being a fit cyclist before any racing.
2015 will be shaped around this cycle – more of the same. I enjoyed the cycle of weekend 1: long outdoor bike (with usually a very short run off), weekend 2: long run (with more cycling during the week for balance). My long runs will be a little longer since I’ll be maintaining marathon form for a while, but I think the execution will be the same.
I loved cycling in G-town and it was convenient with visiting my parents, and it was generally hillier and windier than any of the courses I’m targeting next year so it’s a good workshop for me to continue using.
I’ll handle the bricks the same way. Very few at the beginning, work in baby bricks to test the waters in the middle, and then once I’m past marathon #2 and recovered, it will be brickie brick brick all day!
I have a few new goals to push beyond this though…
1. I keep saying it, but maybe THIS will be the year I get brave enough to mount and dismount with my cycle shoes on the bike.
2. This also may be the year I decide on getting some new WHEELS. It’s not a complete faux pas to have wheels that cost more than your bike, is it? Also, maybe tying #1 to #2 might be a motivating factor (learn to mount and dismount like a big girl, get big girl wheels…)
3. There are so many group rides in Austin, I’d like to figure out how to work that into my life. I’m sure it would be nothing but good for me, but it’s just so much *easier* to ride inside or solo (with Zliten) and not have to conform to set days and times. However, it’s hard to make legit excuses when we just found one that starts from a bike shop just a few miles away weekly. Maybe make a goal of one a month?
This was the year of making friends with the run leg of a triathlon again. While Kerrville’s unseasonably hot conditions made me wilt a little more than expected, I was able to meet the goal of finally conquering the run leg during a half ironman in a time I wouldn’t mutter under my breath for a standalone 13 mile run. 2:30 is an easy, but respectable jog for a half marathon for me, and I beat that, even starting at noon, in the mid 80s, in full sun, after a tiny little matter of 4 hours of biking and swimming.
For my running, number one factor in improving was just simply doing more of it, and maintaining just a wee bitty little base over offseason to maintain fitness instead of starting the second half of the year from zero. Secondary factors of awesomeness were lots of brick runs and really knowing how to work through that, and making sure to keep on with some speedwork each week to remind the legs how to turn over, even if it was just a few miles.
Honestly, I made most of my large gains during fall 2013-spring 2014, and I knew the summer would just be a matter of maintaining this, because summer running in Austin sucks. You get better when it’s not eleventy billion degrees outside and all you want to do is run. Running a BIT in that weather is necessary, but I also made liberal use of the treadmill when needed so I didn’t completely dread and slog through every run mile like 2013.
Where I upped my game this year, I think, is the ability to run OFF THE BIKE. I had a 2:08 half marathon PR that I got close to but have yet to crack, but my PR off the bike was 2:42. That’s a huge difference in pace. While 2:29 is still a good 2 mins per mile different, that’s a 2:08 in perfect temps on a flat course vs a 2:29 about 40+ degrees hotter and wayyyy hillier.
I did that, I believe, in 3 ways:
1. More volume overall. I’m not a high volume runner in the slightest, but I tried to keep my run training around an average of 20 miles a week, higher on run focused weeks. Huge improvement over last year.
2. Lots of little brick runs off the bike. Really, the difference is most notable at first when you’re legs are literally changing gears, the rest of the run, you really just feel like you’re kind of having an off day at a standalone race.
3. Practicing race pace off hard cycling efforts. Running off an easy bike? I just feel warmed up. Easy jog off a bike? Once the weird legs go away, it’s a nice cooldown. It’s helpful in overall training volume, but what prepared me for racing better was smashing my legs for an hour on the bike and then trying to run 10 minute miles after.
Onward + 2015:
I finally feel like I’m back to where I was as a runner about 5 years ago, before I started triathlon. Now, I’m ready to move beyond.
Periods of high volume with a dash of speedwork, I fully believe, is the recipe for run improvements (with adequate rest – I can’t do that week after week year round). I had planned on continuing with some higher volume run weeks after the 2013 marathon, but it’s really hard to fit that in while trying to even maintain a base of swimming and cycling and strength, and without a marathon goal, I’m just not motivated to run that much. So, I think I crested 25-30 as my max weekly mileage (and 15-20 on a more average week so far this year and oddly enough), the speed gains slowed. Shocker.
This year, I’m signed up for a marathon at the end of November AND another at the end of February. I’ve never dedicated more than 8 weeks to marathon training, and I’ve never run more than one marathon a year. I love the distance, I actually love the training, but I’ve always rested and did shorter stuff after.
I plan to do my normal abbreviated cycle for Space Coast in November, take a few weeks to recover and maintain a small base, and then alternate weeks of being a triathlete and being a marathoner until March, and then do an abbreviated cycle like I did for Kerrville for my 70.3 opener for the year.
First Draft of 2015 Race Plan:
Space Coast Marathon – Nov 30 (signed up)
3M Half Marathon – Jan 25 (good crack at a PR, good marathon tuneup race)
The Woodlands Marathon – Feb 28 (signed up)
Rosedale Ride (62 mile bike ride) – March 21 (nice supported long ride and a good cause)
Austin 10/20 (10 mile run) – Mar 29 (signed up)
Galveston 70.3 – April 26
Probably some shorter stuff for fun and games here, definitely Pflugerville, possibly gatorbait, who knows. Whether I continue training with any level of seriousness or just fart around and show up to have fun will depend on my level of motivation post Galveston.
Jack’s Generic Tri – Aug 1? (same as this year, just a fun re-entry into tri world again after spending the early summer at the water park)
Kerrville 70.3 – Sept 27? (my happy race)
Austin 70.3 – Oct 24? (I’ve never done my hometown 70.3 – for shame)
Space Coast… marathon? half? (we’ll do the race almost certainly, but it will depend on how we structure the goals between this and Austin 70.3 since I can only really train train for one or the other)
Fun stuff. I’m currently in that period of marathon training where my legs are just exhausted and I have no idea how I’m going to come out of this a better runner, but this is NOT my first rodeo and I know things will come around eventually.
Let’s keep this train-a-movin’!