While I seem to continually analyse and fret about my training and, to some extent, worry about improving my performance, now that we're more than half way through 2011 (scary isn't it!) I thought that it would be worth writing down my thoughts on the journey so far and plans for the remainder of the year and into 2012.
I sometimes forget that I only did my first sprint triathlon (Outer Banks) less than 12 months ago in September of last year (and have only completed four sprint events to date). Somehow it seems as if I have been "doing triathlon" for a lot longer than that. My first month "getting serious" and working with The Puppeteer was last December. I'm sometimes a bit hard on myself when I look for improvements in performance, but when I use some perspective and realise that I have only been "serious" for about six months I guess that I am quite pleased with myself! One thing is for absolute certain - this is a lot of fun and I'm very highly motivated to keep at it for a long time to come.
At the very highest level I think that I will make two observations based on my experience to date:
1. It takes longer than I anticipated to establish a good "base fitness". I was certainly overly optimistic about "what it would take" but, perhaps more importantly, I have realised what real base fitness is! Spending time with some of the very cool (and fast!) experienced guys has been an eye opener!
2. Somewhat related to the above I have definitely already learned to "relish the journey". I have a much longer term view of things now. It's not "a race to race" - most of the fun and the accomplishment comes from the training. I'm not going to get impatient and I'm going to have fun with this over the long term. I was very encouraged to read Joe Friel (a very well known triathlon coach/guru) say that no matter what age you start at (within reason of course!) you can expect to see improvements in performance for at least the first seven years if you train properly.
So.... what are my observations on the specific triathlon disciplines and some of the other variables and intangibles?
Very obviously my weak point. While I never expected to be in any particular danger of drowning, I did expect my freestyle to "gel" a little quicker than it has. I still don't have great stamina, but I think that the reason for this is primarily technique rather than any problem with strangth, VO2 max. etc. Things are definitely starting to improve and I have learned a lot both from books/videos and, of course, from working with The Puppeteer.
Another swim related issue that cropped up in the first half of the year was my minor panic attack after having been kicked and developing a nose bleed during the swim at the White Lake II tri. I really think that this was an anomoly though, and I've been fine in the open water swims that I've done since then.
Objectives and actions for the rest of the year: basically "keep working". I will do pool sessions with The Pupeteer about once a month to help with technique. I'm also signed-up to do an open water clinic with Bri and Marty Gaal of One Step Beyond Coaching in a few weeks. I also need to just toughen up and force myself to do longer pool sessions over time.
I'm really enjoying the bike and am getting noticably faster; better able to climb etc. I think this basically comes down to "TITS' (time in the saddle). Have been building a better base and now do a local 30 mile plus hilly loop solo at an average speed of well over 18 mph, when it was 16 mph six months ago. Confident that I can get this to 20 mph in another six months! Have been doing some technique work and working on (a) riding in the aero position and (b) maintaining a higher cadence. Both seem to be doing well but I can do better on the former (too easy to blame hills and traffic for riding on the hoods!).
One big positive was getting a professional fitting from Matt Loder (the Cary Cycle Surgeon) earlier in the year - money well spent!
For the rest of the year it's "more of the same" - get out there and ride!
What do you know? I'm getting faster! Things are definitely "getting there". When I look back at my trining logs from 12 months ago I was definitely significantly slower! I did the American Tobacco Trail Half Marathon back in March in just a little over 2 hours and am confident that I can do much better now. Have been working a lot on faster run cadence and a little on technique. Recent drills have been largely focused on increasing speed over the 5k distance for sprint races, but I suspect that I will revert to more distance work again soon as I prepare for the OBX Half Marathon in November (see below). Basically just blind faith in The Pupeteer here and will do as I'm told! Would like to get a comprehensive run gait analysis at some point - have been reading a lot on the subject recently (including the recent barefoot running craze) and would like to get a better idea of how I actually run currently before thinking about making any changes.
The recent arrival of a decent treadmill will definitely help in the winter months.
I now have all of the major equipment that I need and have been pleased with my purchases. Most expensive, of course, is the bike (Cannondale CAAD 9-5 roadie) which I love. Wetsuit is good and I have upgraded my running shoes to include a lightweight pair of Brooks for races and shorter distances. My Garmin 310xt suits me well and gives me the info. I need.
So there's nothing that I really "need", but the cool gear is part of the fun! If I happened to have some money burning a hole in my pocket at the end of the season I'm not sure how I would spend it. In common with all beginner triathletes, of course, I would love a swanky new tri bike to go with my roadie, but would that be the best use of my money? Perhaps new race wheels? A computrainer? Powermeter for the bike? Aerohelmet? Hmmm.... Looking for input on that one!
Nutrition & Weight:
I have made some definite improvements in nutrition and have lost about 8 lbs since the start of the year (and about 14 lbs over the past 12 months). Hopefully there has also been some "redistribution"! If the need to put extra holes in my belts is anything to go by, I'm doing OK. Would still like to lose another 8-10 lbs though - I'll never be a "skinny triathlete" because of my bone structure/build/age (and I'm fine with that!), but I see my "race weight" as being somewhere in the 182-185 lb range.
I will continue to take things slowly on this - certainly no crash diets for me! I am cutting more carbs from my diet and trying to reduce "empty calories" from alcohol. I'm eating breakfast regularly now (skipping it was a bad habit that I had previously) and have had no problem adapting to smaller portions. Trying also to spread calorific intake better over the day and, especially, to shift proteins earlier.
Core and Flexibility:
The key attributes of core strength and flexibility are important in all three triathlon disciplines and I'm lacking in both! This is where it's time to really HTFU and have some self discipline - washboard abs by Christmas! (I can dream!). I now have a TRX system at home so for the rest of the year on a roughly every-other-day basis I will work on core strength and flexibility on top of my scheduled work outs. The Dominatrix is working on some TRX exercises for flexibility as well as strength and I will re-visit the core workouts in Verstagen's book. No excuses here - just "get 'er done!"
I need to sign-up for a VO2 max. and lactate threshold test at the University of North Carolina. This basically entails having face mask and all sorts of electrodes attached to you like some sort of lab rat and running to virtual exhaustion on a treadmill. The data generated will serve as a baseline against which to measure future progress and also allow more accurate setting of "heart rate zones" for training. Hopefully I can get this scheduled during August.
|It's going to hurt!|
Race plans for the rest of the year are changing, primarily because of my poor swim. Both Lake Logan (August) and Outer Banks (Sept.) have been converted from Olympic to Sprint distance and I have dropped the Beach-to-Battleship half ironman distance in favor of the OBX half marathon - no pride here - I'm going to do this thing properly and if that means waiting to move up to the longer distances, then so be it!
Still a long way from setting next years race calendar, but I certainly want to train hard over the winter so that I'm ready for some longer distance races and I have also chatted to The Puppeteer about doing a full marathon in the Fall - watch this space! There won't be a change in focus to one of the three disciplines over the winter months - it will continue to be working on all three.
By the way, for those of you not familiar with "HTFU", it stands for "Harden The F*ck Up" and is also now a brand of sports clothing and accessories.