I had made a point this year, now my second year back into triathlon after taking a 4 year hiatus to train for 100 mile run and mountain bike races, to participate in 4 triathlons that I have never done in Colorado. Yesterday was the completion of my second of the season: the Loveland Lake to Lake Triathlon. My hat goes off to Peggy the race director for a great race from start to finish, especially considering the fact that she had to change the bike course the week of the race due to the High Park Fire.
I went into this race with forced rest as I caught an illness the week of the race. I decided to shut it down the week of the race and just coach my age-group and youth/junior teams instead of doing any structured training. No matter how many times I teach it to athletes or coaches, I am always amazed at the healing process of recovery. I was able to have one of the best races of my career at Loveland and I am going to expound on some of my thoughts leading into and coming out of the race that I think will be educational for all of you reading this.
1. Looking back on my training in the past month, I have not done much volume at all. I would guess about 75% of my training is by commuting on my bike or coaching my adult age-group and youth/junior teams. No planned speed sessions except for a once a week masters swim practice.
2. I try to swim at least 3 times per week but weekly mileage is only around 7000-8000 yards. Two swims are done in open water with my TYR Freak wetsuit. I am putting 100% emphasis on my pull and the mechanics associated with catching the water. I don't care about hand or arm entry, balance or rotation now. Those are skills that I have already acquired. By focusing on my pull, I have been able to reduce my swim time significantly. Interestingly, I can hold my own in the pool but am definitely not a pool swimmer due to a poor kick. I prefer open water with a wetsuit!
3. Back to my training...I have not done any structured speed or interval training for the past month outside of coaching my teams. Much of my coaching will involve hanging back with a group then trying to catch a lead group to provide feedback/instructions so I am getting anaerobic work but no specific work to recovery sets. Low volume and decent intensity has been my unstructured plan the past month.
4. My nutrition has been pretty good. Metabolic efficiency agrees very well with my body. Of course, I have my misses and I embrace them but 90% of the time, I focus on combining protein with veggies and fruit. Admittedly, I am a smoothie-holic. I can't start my day without one of my whole food smoothie concoctions.
5. Race nutrition for the short Olympic distance tri that I did yesterday was typical: 2 packets of Generation UCAN chocolate with a pinch of cinnamon, consumed in the hour before the race. I also like to take about 4-5mg/caffeine/kg body weight through the First Endurance Pre-Race product 90 minutes before race start. Throughout the race, it is mostly water although I did put a vial of The Right Stuff in my bottle yesterday due to the heat and drank 1/2 bottle.
6. I have been experimenting more and more with race tactics since I coach them with my youth and junior team. Yesterday, I implemented flawless race tactics which gained me 2nd in my age-group and 11th overall. Let me discuss those a bit as I think there are some great lessons that can be taken from them.
After my neuromuscular and dynamic warm-up, I put on my TYR Freak wetsuit and hopped in the water for my typical 5 minute warm-up. I never felt my stroke and felt very heavy in my arms. I didn't let this get in my head. I simply shrugged it off, got out of the water and lined up to race. Upon the start of the race, I was fortunate to seed myself behind my teammate Paige, who I swim with in the pool. She was my barometer and I knew if I could stay close to her, I would have a good swim. Once the swim began, I felt unbelievable. My catch was strong, I was drafting behind Paige and my sighting was spot on. Upon exiting the water, I thought I had a good swim but it wasn't until after reached transition and I saw Paige at her bike that I knew that I had rocked the swim. I averaged a 1:26/100 yard, which is extremely good for me.
My transition was flawless. Shoes on my pedals, rubber bands holding my shoes for a lightning fast mount and away I went on the bike. I was a cyclist and I attacked the bike as fast as I could, not thinking about what impact it would have on my run. I believe this is a huge mistake most triathletes make as they try to "save" their legs for the run. I was playing cat and mouse with a 27 year-old pro and ended up averaging 23.4 miles per hour and had a normalized power of 220 watts. Solid ride.
I did not wear a watch or Garmin for the race as I have been experimenting with racing by feel to tap into my internal cues. Upon exiting T2, my legs felt heavy but I didn't let it get to me. I simply shortened my stride and increased my cadence for the first 1/2 mile until I found my running legs again. Ahead of me were 4 guys so they became my rabbits. My mantra for the run was very simple, "if you feel good, go harder". There were many uncomfortable times for me but I was able to dissociate my brain from my body to not feel the physical pain. I began picking off competitors right and left and luckily, most were in my age-group. I happened upon a gentleman in my age-group that was holding a great pace and high cadence so I decided to tuck in behind him and do a little assessment. As I caught my breath a bit, I was able to note that his upper body was getting fatigued. I also realized that we were getting a bit faster because he knew I was behind him. I ran with him for about a mile and then told myself that I would make my move at mile 3. I didn't pop it but gradually increased my cadence once we hit mile 3. I don't look back at my competitors but listen for their breathing and footsteps. I could hear myself slowly getting farther and farther away from him and while I was laboring more, the pace was sustainable. That is, until I happened to catch a glimpse of another person about 100 meters in front of me. I had no idea what age-group he was in but, being just a teensy weensy competitive, I knew that I had to do my best to catch him.
I was already running at threshold effort so catching him would be no easy task. I focused on my cadence, relaxed my upper body and breathing and slowly built my pace. He got closer and closer and when I finally came up to him, I was elated. Just catching him was my goal! Now, I had never done this race and did not have a chance to look at the run map so I did not really know where the finish line was. I could hear it but we took many turns and loops around the finish area. I had to be strategic with my pass because I didn't know his abilities but I was confident in my finish kick. I have a good anaerobically developed energy system and know that I can be competitive at the finish line if it comes down to a sprint. I made my pass on a corner, said "nice job" to him and hoped that my assessment of where the finish line was accurate. Upon passing him, I didn't accelerate too fast. I wanted to see if he countered. He did a bit so I accelerated more and it was this one that allowed me to get ahead of him for good. Once a few steps ahead, I put on the burners and approached the finish. Except what I thought was the finish wasn't! Oh boy, I had methodically planned my pass and my sprint to the wrong finish. It turned out to be the aquabike finish but my finish was luckily only about 25 meters beyond that! Thankfully, I had just enough left in me to finish strong and hold my spot.
After crossing the line, I made a point to congratulate my fellow competitors for a great race then cheered on the rest of the Elite Multisport Coaching and Kompetitive Edge team. Good sportsmanship is an important part of my race!
It was a great day and fantastic learning opportunity for me in many ways. I hope you were able to gleam a few tidbits that may help you with your future training and racing!
Interestingly, I had the 16th fastest swim in my age-group, 2nd fastest bike and 1st fastest run.
Until next time...