Friday, October 30, 2009

The End of Season 1: A Look Back

Wow. It's October again. 1 year ago I remember laying on the floor in Santa Barbara of my bedroom thinking to myself, "I wonder how good I could be if I trained for this sport." So I decided to go for it, for 1 year, & was ridiculously motivated from last October thru about April. I didn't want to go 50%, not even 80% at it. I wanted to give it an honest effort. I probably missed or cut short only 1 or 2 workouts from my training schedule those first 5-6 months. I got fit pretty fast, aerobically at least. As I look back and analyze my first season, getting ready for season #2, there are definitely lessons I've learned. I'll outline a few of them below. Looking back, yes I've come a long ways and have gotten a lot better. I did my first Olympic distance race in about 2:12 I think, and now have a PR of 1:58. Am I pleased with the improvement? Yes, but I have a new mindset and goals. I don't plan on stopping until I'm a pro triathlete..and then I'm sure I won't plan on stopping either. I now know where I stand, and know that goal is well within reach. There's no reason I shouldn't earn the pro card this next season. Before this season I had no idea where I was at, or what this pursuit takes.. Would 1 year be enough? I honestly didn't know. Maybe you can get great at this sport in 1 year, I thought. If I ask myself that now, I'd say it does take more than a year, especially for the cycling muscles to come around. Oh yea, and the swim technique. I think that takes 25 or 30 years. I now know more about my potential, as well as what it will take to get where I want to be. I didn't plan on continuing for over a year necessarily, but deep down I think I knew I would. I'm now in Colorado and in a completely different surrounding than I was in Santa Barbara. My life has changed a ton. There are a lot of unknowns here...I moved and everything is kinda up in the air. The only thing I really know about this new life is I want to keep doing triathlon. I need make some decisions in the future, such as work, should I go to school, should I just train for a year unemployed? I have the Riptide team now to swim with daily and also do a few other weekly workouts with, which is awesome. I was used to biking & running out my front door to the hills, and driving a short way to the pool, instead of being in a real bigger city. There will be a bit more travel time here to get to the training spots, but that's just part of it. There are a lot of benefits to life here, or I wouldn't have moved,, like the team, much cheaper living, altitude (although still getting used to it), and more balance in my life with things like family, a 2 year old and a dog around, friends, etc.

Some lessons learned from season 1:

1. The season is long: It's important to have fun, have variety in training, and find people to train with. Last year I trained alone, every day at lunch and every night after work, either a night trainer ride in my room or a night run in the dark. Until I met up with the guys at the pool for lunch workouts. I was maybe too motivated if that's possible, and when I got to around May, June, and July, I was feeling the effects of the long season and was still only halfway through it. I would read or Triathlete Magazine before bed, which caused me to wake up half the nights thinking about swim technique or training methods. I struggled with sleep a lot for a while, tried some sleeping pills here & there, which I refused to take more than once in a while, and I think my lack of balance in life had something to do with that. I began to stress over sleep, knowing not sleeping would affect training, and thus couldn't sleep even more with my mind upset. All this to say.. the triathlon season is long, and maintaining some balance will help keep me motivated and healthy. There's no reason to think about the sport 24-7, which gets your life way out of balance, and be patient gaining fitness in the the off-season, as it needs different training intensities than mid-season workouts. Fitness will definitely come.

2. Cycling legs don't come overnight: With my running background, and my weak chicken legs I had, I thought I could just hammer bike workouts for a few months and be able to ride fast. I realized consistency and as a family- friend/former pro-cyclist Eddy Hilger told me in an email (I'd hassle him with training questions, such as those on how to get fit/fast on the bike in the off-season, nutrition, etc). He responded, "just keep riding." I wanted a 2 page email with the 'secret workouts', not a 3 line response. But in a sense he's right. It wasn't until about August or September, 10 months after I started real cycling training, where my legs began to feel a bit powerful. I have a ways to go, but am encouraged to have a year of cycling legs under me now. Year 2 is where I expect to really see the benefits.

3. Swimming speed doesn't come overnight: I thought if I just put in the time in the pool, I'd get fast, like running and cycling (eventually). Wrong. Well, and right I guess. This one is hard. I swam a lot, I thought, about 3500m - 5600m per workout, 4 days a week this season. I didn't see my 100m speed get much faster in a year, however, endurance is gained which helps you come out of the water less fatigued. What do I do then, if I don't have the swim speed I want? Keep swimming. And swim more. There's no other options. Lifting weights may help, and I'm starting to lift more. But what I've realized, especially through talking to people, is 1) I really wasn't swimming that much, 2) to get better, you gotta just swim tons! And 3) focus on technique!! That's more important than just putting in the yards. I am bringing my swims up from 4x/week to 6-8 sessions per week this off-season.

4. Cramping: Keep Trying Things: I would likely have my pro card right now if I could have figured out my cramping completely this season. I got 5th at the LA tri in the elite amateur race and needed top 5. Like often, I cramped on the run and ended up getting passed. It's the most frustrating thing, since I want to hammer, but the body doesn't let you. You literally start to hobble and can't keep running normally. I tried salt tablets, green nasty powder drinks, Calcium/Magnesium vitamins, salty drinks, etc.. everything. All but massage, until late August. I went in about 5 times to Kim Freetly in Ventura, who really helped me. My legs were soooo screwed up she said. I had a horribly painful first massage of 'muscle-stripping', was sore the next day, but my legs started to feel much better. I went in 2-3 times before my next race and had NO CRAMPING at Malibu, for the first time in a race! Massage is something I will NEED to do this next season, once a week. As a stingy and currently (semi-)unemployed person, I may need to bite the bullet on this one. It's the only thing that seems to be helping my cramping in races. When I run prior to swimming, I often cramp in the pool. In races on the run, I cramp. My body is different than anyone else's I've realized. I talked to Chris Lieto on the phone one day (2nd place at Ironman this year) about salt loss, etc, and talked to Terenzo and Faris when I trained with them. I've talked to doctors.. and everyone says electrolytes, salt, etc. But I've realized I know my body more than others I think. I know I cramp 15 min into a lake swim in a race, where I'm not sweating yet or losing salt. That's why I think it's purely muscular. I'm not losing salt 15 min into a swim! Anyways...massage hopefully is the answer. Now who wants to be my massage sponsor?!

5. The Pursuit Must be Fun: At the end of my life, how good of a triathlete I will have become will matter sooo sooo much. More than anything else I do in life. Right. Just kidding. Having fun in the pursuit whenever possible is important. Why? Because at the end of it all there are bigger and more important things in life, and if you chase a goal not enjoying it, and living in it selfishly, then it's pretty pointless. There are more important things we'll realize looking back on, like how we lived our lives to help others, etc. There's no need to stress over triathlon goals or achievements. Have fun with it. Pursue the goals, enjoy the journey, know it's not the most important thing in life (though yes it's still important to us, or we wouldn't do it), give it 100% since God's given the opportunity and talent, and use triathlon as an opportunity to meet, serve, and enjoy others.

6. Take More Pain in Races: Mental & physical toughness is the key to being fast. This sport, especially the run, hurts like crazy. There were races where I simply didn't want to hurt enough. I need to work on simply taking the pain, sucking it up, and hurting. It's a race, it's supposed to hurt. I know for a fact if I took more pain in several races this year, I would have run 30+ seconds faster. Period. I did hurt bad in some races, but not every single race. That needs to change. I hurt a ton in training, especially on bike intervals, and need to really get back to hurting and taking more pain on the run. Not that I don't hurt, I just know I can hurt more. A good article I saw on this is at :

7. Training: The term training is so broad, but I think there's a ton I've learned about training this year that I need to incorporate into next season.. we'll see if that happens :) I can't pinpoint just one area I need to change. There are many: higher swim volume, more track/speed work on the run (this is huge I think), more sleep, and massage are some. Did I say MASSAGE?!!! Oh yea and swim technique and kick. Oh yea, and 10 other things.. My bike workouts were pretty on target I think, thanks to Josh Merrick who would write up my workouts. Looking back, I did some crazy hard bike interval workouts and brick workouts with hard runs right after the bikes. I trained a ton last year, and was pretty consistent, yet in about July I hit a low point, lacked mental toughness and didn't feel well physically. I may have been a bit over-trained or mentally needing more variety in my life. All these things are things to think about and learn from for this next year. I can tell already with more balance in my life, some of these issues naturally go away.

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