The prime North American race season is starting to ramp up, with many big races already on the books in the South. Now seems like a great time to revisit an earlier article from Justin Daerr on training warm-ups and developing your pre-race routine.
The triathlon season is starting to get underway here in North America and the weekends are filling up with events. If you live somewhere with a warm climate, you might be well on your way to peak fitness, while others are just starting to get their feet wet with competition. Assuming you did have a break in winter and you are only a few months into the new season, your approach to racing might be different than it will be later in the year.
Our course profile for Ironman 70.3 Texas in Galveston, as provided by Justin Daerr.
Over the years, I have found that the most effective teachers and coaches avoid making too many changes with their students/athletes at once. They value the execution of one simple change at a time as opposed to changing everything in one quick go. One of the best examples of this is watching a swim coach make one suggestion about an athlete’s stroke instead of pointing out every flaw. If the coach can get the athlete to habituate one change, they can move on to the next. If they think about too many things at once, nothing changes.
I am sure I heard the phrase that is the title of this column somewhere in the past, but the first time I acknowledged it is when it popped in my head during a Masters swim session in Boulder. Time and time again, I have watched people show up, blow up (in the main set), then linger on the walls as others finish the workout. I am not criticizing the process of blowing up, as I think its part of learning your limits, but repetitively training to failure is not productive. One reason is it inhibits a training plan’s volume/load/consistency/etc. The other problem is that the athlete no longer understands what it is to really blow up. By continually failing in training, the athlete already has that plan in his or her head and will probably pull the pin simply when things get difficult as opposed to “impossible.”
As an athlete, I frequently get asked a variation of two questions:
When I see reruns from most 1990s sitcoms I wonder how I ever enjoyed watching any of them. Of course, there are exceptions, most notably: Seinfeld. I always loved how Seinfeld managed to pull multiple story lines together in the final scenes of a show, no matter how seemingly unrelated they all appeared to be. My assumption, whether right or wrong, was that the writers of this show must have written their scripts by starting with the conclusion. Putting the entire show together began by knowing where they wanted to end.
Establishing major goals in triathlon is not much different in my eyes. In this case, the final scene lies in the key race. Knowing where you want to be on that day should determine how you build your training as you work backwards to present day.
I started doing triathlons after my freshman year in college and over the next three years I began to train more and more. Nevertheless, I always kept one off day which was also called “game day”. Attending a school with a large football program tends to make Saturdays a bit more of a holiday/party atmosphere than you might find in some other towns across the nation. With these kind of distractions each fall, it was easy to take a day away from studying and training.
The final days leading into a race are not a time to build fitness, but it is still a time where your decisions can maximize -- or hinder -- your upcoming performance. We all respond differently to things like travel, stress and training, so learning your individual right balance of everything in the days preceding a key race is critical to successful racing.
Here are five tips to help you establish race week routines.
With the triathlon season in full swing, many of you will be putting down some of the most intense training of the year in pursuit of personal bests, age group victories, qualifications and other goals. The push for performance is an admirable pursuit, but it often leads you teetering on the edge of what’s possible. When you find yourself on this edge, you may end up tipping over it and landing yourself with a midseason injury.
After a failed attempt at a first draft of this article, I went back to the drawing board. In other words, I logged on to Google. When I entered the word “complacency” I got a page full of websites listing official definitions. I read through a number of them and even ventured to Urban Dictionary to see if someone had a clever offbeat definition (they did not; though it was in there). The online dictionaries all had nearly the same definitions and two words seemed to be the most common: “self-satisfaction” and “unaware(ness)” What this tells me is that complacency is essentially always an afterthought. It is not something felt in the present, but something that a person likely identified in themselves when trying to find out what went wrong.
So what exactly is it?
It gets hot for almost everyone at least some part of the year. With my background training and racing in hot conditions, I’ve come to develop a number of strategies for maintaining quality, consistent training without getting wiped out by the heat.
In the spring of 2002, I was a junior at Texas A&M. As I was closing in on the tail end of my time there, I figured that I had better try and find something to do after graduation. One day I was flipping through the back of Inside Triathlon magazine (the Internet wasn’t as awesome then) and I came across a tiny little ad for internships at the Inside Communications office (now part of Competitor Group). The fact that the internship was in Boulder meant little to me at the time, but its nearly 10 years later and I’m still here.
A number of years ago I was sitting around after a race chatting with a few people. The conversation trended towards upcoming events and someone asked my buddy what he needed to work on before the next race.
“Everything. I need to get better at everything.”
Everyone chuckled, but I always appreciated that answer.
It’s currently dumping snow in Boulder while I'm writing this, so it’s an opportune time to start daydreaming about next season. Even if it’s not snowing in your neck of the woods, you are probably getting antsy sitting on your hands waiting for next season to come around.
Ideally, this might be a time to start giving some thoughts to what races you want on your calendar, but with the popularity of Ironman races, your key races of the season might have already been decided. Nevertheless, whenever you decide on adding a (key) race to your calendar, you should use the following suggestions to narrow your choices down.
The number one cause of a failed race plan for the age group (or pro) athlete comes from underperforming on the run. The longer the race -- and run leg -- the more you start to see athletes falling apart. I am sure this is no surprise to many of you reading this. The question is: Why does this happen?
“If I could just...”
This phrase often accompanies some sort of comment about trying to fit more into one’s day, week, month, lifetime (I know, because I’ve used it too). Most people visiting the EC site most likely find themselves concerned with the topic of trying to finding more time to train.
For most age groupers, training more likely means racing faster. I do not want to contradict that statement, but for many of us, training more may not be our reality. When folks ask me about improving their diet, I usually tell them to focus on “eating better, before eating less.” A similar concept can apply to training: “train better before training more.”
A couple weeks ago I raced Ironman Texas. They chose to host this race near Houston on the third weekend of May. Given the fact that Houston has a nine-month summer (I know, I’m from there) I knew it would be a warm one! While I was in town, I must have had the same conversation about training more than a dozen times with the people that live there. Whether they were racing or not, they wanted to know how I could prepare to race in such hot, humid conditions when I was coming from a still-cold Boulder.
I never went to the doctor. This was not a principle-based decision (in other words, I think they’re pretty smart people), but more of a tendency to be reactionary instead of progressive and because of the cost.
Last August I was asked who my doctor was. I did not have an answer.
This weekend starts off the training camp season for Endurance Corner. Over the course of the year we will be hosting various training camps in Arizona and Colorado. The early season camps probably provide one of the biggest fitness and confidence boosts to the campers that attend them. The camps give folks a reason to train in the dark months of the year (need to “train to train”) and often times people realize their fitness is in much better shape than they might have expected.
Whether you are attending one of our camps or any of the other camps popping up in Tucson and Southern California, I’ll offer up some advice:
I had a little debate with myself (in my head, not out loud) on what I wanted to cover that might help EC readers have their best racing season. I never really came to any one conclusion, so the following is a synopsis of the top three topics that seemed to win out amongst all the random ideas floating around in my head.
When I first started triathlon, I was living in College Station, Texas. We typically experienced a handful of days each winter that really embodied that season; and even then, those days rarely occurred in succession. In reality, the winter months were the best months of the year to train in that part of the country. Our challenges came in the summer months (which is about eight months of the year in that part of Texas), but even that was a little more manageable than long periods of cold, dark, snowy days.
How do you determine a season’s success or lack thereof? It probably involves going faster or placing better at one or more races throughout the past year. I’m sure there can be much more to it than that, but let’s assume that we all want to be a better athlete by season’s end and race results will be the deciding factor.
by Justin Daerr
When I was about 12-13 years old, my father started reading “The Zone” books. He was at a point in his life where his health started to become a priority and numerous health books started to appear in our house. Out of curiosity, I started to read through some of these books and eventually I became more and more interested in improving my health. Considering the fact that I was entering adolescence, my motivation was probably not the same as my father’s, but my interest never really waned from then until now. My cynicism for the “next big thing” might be greater, but prioritizing my health continues to exist.
by Justin Daerr
A few nights ago I was at a dinner party outside of the triathlon bubble and naturally the conversations trended towards… triathlon. This often tends to be the case when people ask what I do for a living; or at least how I tend to spend all my time. Quite often, as was the case the other night, people will look at what my peers and I do and suggest that we must have a lot of "discipline."
This is an interesting statement that commonly comes about. In some ways the people that think I am disciplined are correct, but in other ways they are entirely wrong.
by Justin Daerr
Now that races are appearing all over the world, at all times of the year, it becomes more difficult to signify the "end" of the season. Having said that, many of us in the Northern Hemisphere are working towards our final season peak (between the months of September and November). This is a tricky time for many of us. On the one hand, we want to be our fastest of the year. On the flipside, we do not want our fastest day of the year to be on our local training roads.
by Justin Daerr
I started triathlon when I lived in south Texas in 2000 and I did not even know what it was like to race in cool temperate conditions until I did my first race outside the state a couple years down the road. I thought it was perfectly normal to expect bathtub water at the start and sauna-like conditions at the end.
Here are some tips I've learned.
by Justin Daerr
It’s starting to get a little warm outside.
I left Boulder the last couple weekends and traveled to Memphis, Tennessee and Austin. In those particular locations, it’s starting to get hot and that is not going to change until Halloween candy starts making the rotation again (right alongside Christmas decorations). Almost all of us (minus my Norwegian triathlete buddies) are going to have to cope with some warm weather training and racing this summer.
by Justin Daerr
Racing. It is starting again. You worked diligently over the winter (right?) and now the first races of the season are starting to pop up. Many of you will be kicking off your racing season in the next 4-12 weeks. This means that your training should step away from general conditioning and move towards meeting the specific demands of your race(s). What are the specific demands?
In May of 2001 I finished my first Ironman (California) in 12:55:03. I swam 1:20:34, biked 6:25:24, and barely broke five hours on the marathon running 4:59:58. In November of 2007 I finished Ironman Florida in 8:40:25. I swam 55:27, biked 4:41:12, and broke three hours on the marathon running 2:59:51. As I look back on the past seven years, I essentially think of my progression occurring in two separate blocks: the jump from 12:55 to 9:20 and the jump from 9:20 to 8:40. Both were considerably challenging, but the approaches were different. In this first installment I will cover what it took for me to make the first move.