We just wrapped up our series of posts on the Preparation & Conditioning Period. Now we’re going to step back and talk about planning the big picture of our season. This process starts by looking looking back on the past season and building on success and learning from mistakes.
Most northern hemisphere long course athletes have finished their 2011 season and are plotting and scheming how they are going to improve their race results for next season. At some point they will likely ask themselves or their coaches something like, “If I trained 13 hours per week and did an 11 hour ironman, how many hours would I have to train to break 10 hours?”
I have an education background, so I am trained to say that there are no such thing as stupid questions, so I won’t. But I will suggest some better questions that might give and athlete a much better chance at improving his or her results next year:
1. How well did I execute my training program last year? Did you push too hard during sessions that were designed to be moderate sessions or recovery sessions and find yourself tired for your key sessions? If so, your training might have been a blur of mediocre sessions. Did you fail to take your recovery blocks so that you carried your fatigue from one block to the next, without giving your body the ability to consolidate your fitness? Did you have the discipline to stay in your steady zone early season to develop the foundation of lower aerobic power necessary for the Ironman?
2. Was I consistent? Travel, stress, being busy for work, illness, the winter blues and injury are common reasons why people miss workouts. Think about preventing or handling these sorts of problems ahead of time. A handful of skipped workouts over the course of a season isn’t such a big problem, especially if you were tired when you skipped your workouts. But if you missed several workouts, especially consecutive workouts, then this is something that you need to work on for next season with prevention or planning. Remember that consistency is the number one key to success and that even doing small workouts can keep the ball rolling.
3. Did I overreach? When you overreach you’ve pushed your body to the point where it needs extended recovery before you can regain your previous fitness. (Hint– if you trained consistently, but got noticeably slower for awhile at some point during the year, chances are that you were overreached.) It’s natural to have some periods where you plateau or where you feel tired at end of a training block, but if you feel “off” for over a week or two and you have lost power or speed, you have likely overreached. Look at your training logs to find if you were overreached and identify the session or series of sessions that put you over the top. If you are like me, then there is a good chance that you fried yourself when you were feeling amazing or when you had just broken through to a new level and were “flexing your new muscles.” Don’t make the same mistakes next season.
4. Did I execute on race day? Did you follow your pacing and nutrition plans? Did you exercise impulse control? Did you react intelligently under the whatever circumstances or adversity you faced? Or, did you fail to plan adequately (see #5).
5. Was I 100% prepared for my race? I’m not talking about being fit enough to race. What I mean is- did you leave anything to chance? Did you have your correct swim pace dialed in? Did you have your nutrition and pacing 100% dialed in? Did you know exactly what wattage you could hold on the flats and hills and still feel ready to run a strong marathon? Did you know what sort of foods you’d be able to absorb if your race was unusually hot? If not, then you need to take your race rehearsals much more seriously next year.
Before asking yourself how you can train longer or harder, ask yourself the above questions to see if you can get faster by training smarter. In other words, get faster using your noggin, before adding more swimmin’, bikin’ and joggin’. Likewise, before you decide how much more to train, pause for a second and use your brain.
I originally published this article on www.endurancecorner.com a year ago. I highly encourage you to check out endurance corner for a wealth of triathlon resources or to find out about their legendary training camps.