by Dave Latourette
Over the past month I’ve spent time planning for athletes’ 2013 seasons, but while looking forward I have had to spend time reflecting back over the past year or two to help in getting the future correct. Simply, I’d like to share some lessons I’ve learned or confirmed with my athletes (or myself) over the past year.
Solve Technical Problems Early
This one sits close to home right now as we (me and local bike fitter) just spent time with an athlete who had some lower leg conditions across the year that only allowed him to manage the race season but not perform as well as we know he can. We were able to isolate a small bike fit issue and running shoe choices that were leading to his problems.It appears now that we may be on the road to 100% health which will allow a focus on a training progression as opposed to rehab/pre-hab and only maintenance training. The lesson here is get healthy and strong by addressing technical issues before you start proper training.
Training Like a Triathlete
This may sound awfully silly but I brought a couple athletes on this year who didn’t train "like triathletes" throughout a year. For example, one athlete with a running background was barely riding and swimming almost three months after his peak race (an ironman) when I took him on. Because of the big lag in swim/bike training, we spent so much time re-establishing a foundation in those two sports that it stunted the training for his peak race in 2012. Needless to say, the focus is on swimming, cycling and running currently as we look to 2013 with plans on improving next season. Of course how much you do and how intense you do it this time of year in the northern hemisphere is dependent on strengths and weakness and when peak races are in 2013.
Shorter Build Periods
Over the past few years and especially this year I’ve seen athletes respond much better (long and short term) to shorter training blocks consequently followed by shorter unloading blocks. In general, my less experienced athletes and those with younger athletic age have responded incredibly well to blocks of 11-14 days of loading up the training followed by three days of unloading. More experienced athletes or those with better depth range more in the 14-17 days of loading followed by three to four days of unloading. For many of these athletes it’s kept them fresher mentally across the season, while for others it’s allowed them to handle a bigger load in that short period with positive response.
Basic Weeks versus Peak Weeks
Over the year I had many athletes who rolled through the same basic week or 14 day blocks with only changes in training load because it helps them balance personal and professional life with predictability. This works incredibly well for them. But, I also have some athletes -- typically high performers or those with more flexibility -- who can tolerate more sessions across their final seven to 10 weeks before a peak race. With these athletes we decide how many “peak weeks” they can handle and switch from their basic weeks when the time is right and their bodies and minds are willing. The key here is dropping the peak weeks into the schedule when it really matters in terms of “one day” race performance. If this is timed right it works very well.
Related to the lesson above and mentioned in a prevoius column, the ability to be able to shut down all but the necessary elements in your life is important leading into a peak performance race. This isn’t for everyone but If you get it right, it works. When I wrote about this earlier in the year I had an athlete going into “the bubble” for six weeks in preparation for Ironman Hawaii because he needed a focused block to put himself in the position for a life best performance there. When the door to the bubble opened it resulted in a podium finish… and he was unscathed in the rest of his life. Remember, the bubble is the place you can go to for a short period (six weeks in this case) and know you can come out of it unscathed because of how you have taken care of your non tri life before entering. While in the bubble we minimize life to the necessities: work, family, train, eat, sleep and keeping a close social network.
Finally, I should make a personal note on what I learned with my training from 2012. When I hit my key race of the year last June, I arrived very fit but I was flat on race day. As I look back I realized needed more of the 14/3 loading and unloading blocks that worked so well for many of my squad. Therefore I’ll limit the amount of longer loading blocks I have to the final eight weeks before a key race.
Since this is my last article for Endurance Corner in 2012, I wish you all the best heading into 2013!
Dave Latourette is a full time triathlon coach living in Santa Rosa, California, who works with athletes from newcomer to elite. His top athletes have won USAT Age Group National Championships and raced in World Championship events that include the ITU World Championship and the Ironman World Championship. You can learn more about Dave and follow him at: TrainToEndure.com, his blog, or on twitter @dklatourette