Instead of the usual race report and because 2017 was very much a build year I thought I'd just share some learnings. These are in no particular order.
After 7 months off and a few failed starts due to lack of interest and health, I finally committed to putting a 12 week block together for Dublin 70.3. Lucie and I had planned to give serious racing a miss in 2017 but at the same time make sure we qualified for the 2 championships so that we could focus 2018 solely on Kona.
The first 3 weeks were hard but it wasn’t long before the body started to remember the routine. Consistency up to Dublin and then for another 5 weeks up to Italy was great. Averaging just under 15 hours and just over 10 sessions per week. Shortest week 8 hours after 70.3 Dublin, longest week 20 hours the week after that.
As normal quality over quantity and just to add quality does not mean hard, fast sessions. Quality is focusing on the session, focusing on the form and making sure the benefits of the shorter sessions were optimal.
I was amazed how the body responded to the training, yes it wasn’t easy at first but after about 5 weeks I believe I was starting to build again on a base. At the end of the day I wasn’t in the same form at the end of the season as I was at the end of 2016 but I certainly wasn’t far off. The biggest factor is that I wasn’t mentally wrecked. So much so that I’m actually enjoying the start of the off season by playing around with a few things.
Why did nobody tell me? Why didn’t I listen.?
Everything in the last few months has been around recovery. After Kona last year I was mentally and physically drained. There had to be something I could change. I started working with sessions, moving them around, changing the start times, especially before long sessions. Weekends changed from starting at 7 to starting at around 10. It’s amazing what 3 hours more sleep can do for the body after a long week.
I tried to remove stresses, not always possible but adjusted sessions accordingly.
I see so many people doing sessions back to back. How does the body recover, how do you have enough time to replace glycogen for the second session. My question is why stress the body unnecessarily.
I ate, more than I usually would have during sessions and I believe this gave me a head start on the recovery process. I’m not planning to run across a desert with little or no access to food for a day. I’m not trying to lose weight. I don’t need to “Fat Adapt”**, there will always be enough food on course or in my race bag. Just another stress I’m eliminating.
With social media, the web, coaches and competitors we are inundated with advice on a daily basis. I’ve never been one to chop and change, I think you need to give anything you decide to try at least 6 months before you know that it will benefit you. James Cunnama said it correctly, Triathlon is a relatively new sport and we are ALL still learning what actually works. 6 months with something new means slow progress but incremental gains nonetheless.
One of the pieces of advice that resonated with me this year was that of learning to pedal in a circle. Having not come from a cycling background and not delving too deep into the science for my first few years I certainly skipped a few fundamentals. Last year I purposely increased my cadence and although I’ve worked on a push / pull I never really understood it. So back to drawing board. In the end, it’s not pedaling in circles or squares but more pedaling in better circles or squares. Its total focus during a period or a session to maximise the smoothness of each. It’s to identify which works best on the surface and gradient. Up or down. Working with power on a trainer gives you an ideal environment to gauge power, heart rate and efficiency. One more piece of advice here is the feeling of the run off the bike. If you’ve distributed the workload evenly you should feel a lot fresher in the initial first few kilometers. Just be mindful of the feelings and note the session.
At the awards lunch in Italy, I sat opposite a finisher and we exchanged the fact that we’d both had good days. His next question was if it was my first race, I very proudly said it was my 11th. I reversed the question, as you do, he smiled and said it was his 76th. Right back to earth again.
There are so many amazing stories, so many awesome achievements by everyone that I’ve met along the way and all these just keep me pushing harder to see what else is possible.
**As a side note to my comment on fat adaptation. Andrea made a comment around this to troubleshoot the myth of low carb diets and fat adaption. “A well trained (experienced) endurance athlete eating a well balanced diet is already highly fat adapted as a function of their training (and experience). In that they will already be fuelling a high proportion of their endurance training from endogenous fats. Don’t feel a need to force that further as there is no need to be more fat adapted than this to function and perform optimally as an athlete. If healthy, if performing optimally and if you do not have metabolic issues nor gastrointestinal issues to necessitate trying to fat adapt further when it will probably cost high end intensity performances and worse still stress the body and possibly harm recovery.”
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