2014 is all about getting out of my comfort zone and trying new things. For me, this means taking my racing and training to the next level. I had a really great year in 2013 with a PR at pretty much every single race I did but I also got injured and then ran a marathon with that injury. I tried time off, I tried cross training and I tried physical therapy to alleviate my knee pain. Although my injury came towards the end of the year, my therapist and I both think that it was a culmination of a few things throughout the entire year. That and a somewhat major biomechanical issue. So while I enjoyed my training last year and saw a lot of success, I am making some changes this year to hopefully race stronger and faster, and stay healthy.
First, periodization. I took advantage of a trial period for the premium version of TrainingPeaks and put their annual training plan and virtual coach features to good use. I was really struggling with how to structure the year since my two A races are only two months apart and not even for 7.5 months. I am used to training for a race that is 12-16 weeks away and then switching to training for something else. With the annual training plan I have a rough schedule of when I should be prepping, base building, peaking and tapering. This is still something I am mentally struggling with as I won't be doing too hard of workouts for quite some time. Everything I've read about taking training to that next level talks about the importance of periodization so I'm going to trust that this will work out.
Focusing on triathlon. In the past I have trained for both running races and triathlons during one year without too much overlap. Yes I did some swimming and biking while training for the Nike Women's Half last spring but my focus was on running, and then almost half of my training for the NYC Marathon overlapped with triathlon training. This year I am putting all my eggs in the triathlon basket. Any running races that I do will be simply to see where I am with my training. I am taking a long term approach with triathlon and hoping that the more specialized training will pay off.
Strength training. I have been regularly strength training for about two months now and can see a noticeable difference in my body. Not only do I look stronger, but I feel stronger. I initially started lifting to help aid the recovery process for that nagging knee injury. Now strength training is something I look forward to each week. There have been periods of time in the past where I went to the gym regularly but this never lasted more than 2-3 months. My annual training plan has me lifting twice a week until the end of April, switching to once a week until the end of May, and then cutting out lifting until the middle of August before adding back in one day through the end of the season. I'm not sure I want to cut out lifting entirely so I may just do some exercises that are easier on the body to maintain some strength. And regular core work will be done all season.
Recovery. If you haven't noticed the theme of this post is don't get injured this year. While I certainly don't have everything in pointed down, I've noticed a trend of doing yoga every summer, stopping yoga, getting injured in the fall. My body feels so good after going to yoga and it doesn't hurt that my mind calms the eff down too. My local Lululemon store has free in-store yoga every Sunday morning that I'm going to do my best to go to, but when I can't I'm going to make doing yoga on my own a priority.
Regular foam rolling and stretching fall under this category too. For awhile I was doing both of these things daily but lately I've been slacking. I've been hearing more and more about the benefits of foam rolling before you run either in addition to or in place of after you run. My IT band has a history of getting pretty tight and wreaking havoc on my legs and hips so I'm going to do whatever I can to keep it happy and healthy.
Nutrition. It's no secret that nutrition is something that I have long struggled with. After reading The New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition I was able to make sense of this puzzle. After implementing some tips from the book into my both my daily life and my training I was able to notice a difference. I ate a few too many cookies this holiday season so right now my main focus in this department is getting rid of some extra weight.
I also recently picked up Racing Weight and if it is even half as valuable as his other book I know I will be making a lot of progress in this department. I'm learning what my ideal race weight is and how to best fuel my body. My biggest thing I want to have a healthy relationship with food.
Work on my weaknesses. Everybody, no matter how good an athlete, has weaknesses. I think most people try to ignore their weaknesses and work extra on their strengths because people tend to like their strengths. Of course it's hard to spend extra time on something you do not enjoy. But I really think that as much as you may hate staring at that black line on the bottom of the pool for hours on end, eventually you can turn your weakness into a strength and make it enjoyable.
So what are my weaknesses? My biggest overall weakness is the run. Even though I have less biking experience I seem to be able to hold my own on the bike better than on the run portion of triathlons. More specific weaknesses include terrible bike handling skills and a fear of descending quickly, my open water swim is not nearly as strong as my pool swim, partly because I am terrible at sighting, and anything that involves heat and humidity. I know hot and humid is not ideal conditions for a race but some people can handle these elements better than others. I am not one of them. Since triathlons are during the summer when the East coast is both hot and humid, I need to figure out a way to get better at both racing and training in these conditions.
Train to the course. Two of the triathlons I did last year were local, meaning that I was able to train on the course. I didn't realize how valuable this was until I went out of state for a race and was caught off guard by certain turns or potholes in the road. Four out of my five races this year will be on courses than I can train on, and if I could make an extra trip to Milwaukee to get in some training on the nationals course, I would. That's how important I think this is.
Aside from actually training on the course, I am going to train on similar courses. Most of my races are hillier, which is fine because I live in a hilly area and it's hard to ride without hills. The course for nationals is mostly flat, and while that should be easier, I am actually worse on flat courses compared to my competitors. I am a believer that training on hills will benefit you on any course so I am by no means going to be cutting out hills but I am going to do some earlier season long rides and tempo rides without hills.