I had a conversation with a training partner last year about mental toughness during which my friend suggested that we can always become tougher, and should seek to do so. I was reluctant to agree with that outlook, but it sure got me thinking. Like any athlete, I have experienced both sides of the mental barriers to performance; situations in which I gave 100% of what my body was capable of, and others in which I know in my heart that I did not. Sometimes I have experienced both of these states in the same race! So what was the difference?
I have always loved road trips. Pack the car, grab a map (or not), and hit the open road. In the years since the endurance sports bug infected me for good, most of these trips have involved training, racing, or both. Although more time-consuming than flying to a training destination or race, driving can be less expensive, less gear restrictive, more spontaneous and much more fun. However, it can also be much more tiring and the unwary road-tripping triathlete can find him or herself more exhausted from the travel than the actual training.
So how can we enjoy the benefits of the road trip without compromising training volume, quality and recovery?
Last season I had the richest and most rewarding experience in my 10 years in endurance sports. That in itself is no surprise since I took a sabbatical to “live the dream” for four months, lived and trained at altitude near the training hotspots of Boulder and Tucson, got in the best shape of my life, and used my fitness to contend for the win at the Ultraman World Championships in Hawaii. What was a surprise, however, was that this all paled in comparison to the 13-day period that preceded the Ultraman swim start. I have written the following account to both share what I learned during that time and record the details of a true personal triumph for posterity.
One thing I love about the triathlon lifestyle is the atmosphere and energy of the races. For the reasons outlined in my Race Satisfaction Strategy, participating in challenging, social endurance events is one of my favorite things to do. However I also like performing to my potential at certain events, typically at a rate of one true “A” race per year.
The above begs the question of how to best manage “B” and “C” priority races during a specific training block without avoiding them altogether or enjoying them at the expense of training efficacy. In other words, how do you best execute the so-called “training race”?
How many times have we heard phrases such as, “if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything”? Health is a primary consideration in both longevity and quality of life, and is one of those things which we often don’t miss until it’s gone. But it is also difficult to quantify. How much health is enough?
This month EC is examining the workload requirements of the sharp end of the age group field. It should come as no surprise that doing well in an endurance sport takes a lot of work (or shall I say, “focused play”), over a long period of time. However when you look at the training habits of the best age group athletes, it is clear that both consistency and variability of training workload play a role in their success.“
But aren’t consistency and variability the opposite of one another?” you might ask. Allow me to explain.
Earlier this month I had the privilege of attending the EC Colorado Climbing Camp. In addition to the big training, camaraderie, lack of non-training stressors, and other well-known benefits of a training camp, we had the opportunity to train in the Rocky Mountains.
If you are a long-time cyclist, chances are you have more than one bicycle in your garage. These days, there are many high quality bikes built for specific purposes and with different strengths and weaknesses. However, if you could only own one bike, what would it be? For me the answer is an easy one: my cyclocross bike.
Race strategy is a term that usually describes tactics and contingency plans aimed at achieving the fastest and/or most competitive result. However one can also apply a strategy towards making the race experience as enjoyable and satisfying as possible. I was recently reminded of this fact while racing what is perhaps the best triathlon event ever conceived -- the American Triple-T Ohio.
Short-term consistency is my personal Achilles heel when it comes to training. While long-term improvement in endurance sport is a function of consistent training over months and years, the degree of this improvement depends as much (or more) on day-to-day training habits than big weeks or breakthrough workouts. As a coach I do an excellent job of teaching and reinforcing this concept. As an athlete, however, I often struggle with its application.
Winter is an interesting season for endurance athletes. At no point in the year is there a greater variation in motivational energy.
Some of us have trouble getting out the door, while others are chomping at the bit fuelled by visions of a breakthrough season. The most driven among us may even be facing symptoms of burnout! When motivation drops and we seek to adjust our approach, one common piece of advice is to “keep it fun.”