Sometimes it’s a great exercise to take a step back and take a look at things from “a long view” or as I say all the time in business from 30,000 feet. Oftentimes you are so close to a situation, constantly monitoring the day-to-day activities that you don’t have a chance to take a breath, survey the big picture and make the necessary course adjustments to stay on track.
I feel like I had fallen into that trap as Last Summer’s training for my first triathlon segued to “New York” in November, then almost immediately to “Boston” in April. Now we are firmly in another training cycle for our first summer as a full-time triathlete working towards Iron Man 70.3 in Austin on October 21st.
In the 365 days prior to Longhorn 70.3 we will have run two major international marathons, 4 or 5 half-marathons depending on if I choose to run the Rock N’ Roll San Antonio Half as a preparation race for the Houston Marathon in January, 6 triathlons and more 10K and 5K events than I can count.
All the while focusing on the things that I think will push us over that final running goal we have before us, a sub 3-hour marathon. Preparing for New York and Boston I felt like hill work, strength and stamina were the areas where I needed to focus my energies.
As I enjoy some downtime this week on vacation, just logging some easy miles at “elephant” pace – meaning whatever pace I feel like running – I’ve spent that time analyzing where we are and where we want to go. Where I see the opportunities for improvement and where “maintenance” is really the primary focus.
Last week while traveling in Galena, IL for a retreat at the Eagle Ridge Resort I ran 10, 8 and 10 mile workouts on some amazingly hilly terrain. Steep rolling hills, both up and down that would have really taken a bite out of me in previous years.
Each morning I hit the hills with great enthusiasm and focus. Ticked off runs in the 7:11 to 7:30 range with very little in the way of “real effort”. All of the hill work we did preparing for Boston which did not necessarily come into play on that race day due to the high temperatures and lack of “racing” – has put us in a great position entering triathlon season.
The goal there will be to maintain our ability to tackle hills, which also translates to strength and endurance for the triathlon and speed on a flat marathon course such as Houston.
As we return to Austin and resume training, hill repeat Thursday will be back and a part of our training regime through the end of the calendar year. It is simply a workout that pays dividends in so many areas – it will remain a key part of what we do as an athlete preparing to race.
Triathlon specific – although my swim is improving, I know that I still need to focus in that area. More laps, quicker intervals, more swimming at “race effort” and not holding back so much in the open water as I “conserve myself in an effort to stay calm”. If I cannot reach a new level of effort when I am racing during the swim portion of the triathlon I am going to continue to find myself in the middle of the pack or worse trying to dig myself out of that hole on the bike and the run.
I simply have to gain more confidence in my swim to push harder and not get “nervous” as my heart rate increases and my breathing asks for more and more oxygen. I can reach that level in both the bike and the run with no fear of reprisals. I know I have that in me, I just have to unlock it in the water.
The goal will be that by the time we hit the water at Jack’s Generic Tri the first Sunday in August, we are at that level. Ready to lay it all out there in the water and race the full triathlon with bad intentions. From the horn of the swim to the tape at the end of the run, I want to attack, attack, attack.
I will give myself the next two events at Lake Pflugerville and the Couples Triathlon in June and July to start tapping into that part of me. But by August, no more excuses. Swim with bad intentions.
Transitions – another area where I am firmly in the “O.K.” category as I transition from the swim to the bike. I am in the “above average” area going from the bike to the run. This is an area where I can improve my triathlon race time without a single improvement in my stamina, strength, speed or endurance.
It is a matter of setting up a transition area at home and practicing, practicing, practicing.
Practice running up, going from a barefoot, helmetless athlete to a fully shod, dressed cyclist as quickly as possible.
Then further refine my transformation from cyclist to runner.
I missed out on 1st place Masters overall in the rookie division last Sunday by :07 seconds. Of course not dropping my chain on the bike would have more than made up for that deficit as I had to stop, dismount, fix the chain, remount and start riding again. But unexpected things are going to happen in the triathlon.
I could have easily picked up :08 in transition had I practiced before the event. That is something I am going to do every weekend from now until Ironman 70.3.
The Bike. Right now I am relying on raw strength and endurance to power my bike leg. Even with my dropped chain I was able to post the 5th fastest bike in my division on Sunday. I can make that strength even stronger by logging more miles in the saddle and working on my approach to gearing on the climbs and descents.
In the simplest terms I have a good engine but lack technique and experience. By the time summer draws to a close and we are in the final preparations for our Half Iron Man I will have ridden over 1,900 miles. I need to make every one of them count to make that strength of ours even stronger.
Lastly, the run. I need to keep my eye on the prize which is to be able to lock in and execute 26 miles at 6:50-6:52 pace in January. That kind of performance is going to require me to continue to run long, keep mileage on my legs and most importantly stay healthy.
No nagging injuries, no downtime, no corners cut. I am going to focus on health and recovery from our triathlon training to make sure that when the weather cools in the fall and we shift focus from Ironman 70.3 to the Houston Marathon we are 100% ready to go.
Those 11 weeks will require a great deal of focus, drive and determination to build on our fitness level and bring it to a peak on January 13th.
That is what the next 7 months are going to be all about. We are going to try to peak twice.
Every other day during that period will be geared toward preparation(s) for those two events.
Right now though it is time to continue to relax and enjoy a little downtime. Hang out with my girls, build sand castles, get my feet buried in the sand and enjoy the ride.
Pretty good gig if you can get it.