Monday, September 29, 2014

Reflecting On the Good & What Needs Work

Last week I read a post by Emily about the three things she thought she did well at her first 100 miler and the three things to work on for her next one. When I was reading her post I kept thinking this type of reflection would be a good way to think about my race in a way that may help prepare me for Lake Placid next year. As Emily said in her post, I think it's important to recognize when you did well and what you could improve upon.

First up, what I did well:

1. Pacing.
During training I didn't do that many bricks and essentially no longer bricks. My long runs were also somewhat non-existent. I ended up taking more of a cumulative training approach but come race day was nervous about race execution. After two seasons of racing sprint and Olympic distance races I am still not sure how to pace even those distances. While I may look back on this day after several more 70.3's and realize I could have pushed harder here or there, I think I did a pretty good job at pacing my first attempt at this distance. When I saw what I was averaging on the bike I could have freaked out but instead I listened to how I was feeling and kept plugging away. I finished the run with probably a little more in the tank but definitely not much. I trusted myself and it payed off.

2. Staying mentally strong
As I mentioned in my race report, this was the first race this year where those annoying voices in my head didn't plague my race. I was truly happy the entire race and can honestly say I had no low points. From shivering in the 45 degree temp before the race to climbing the biggest hill on the course  at mile 12, I wanted to be out there. I did not want to the race to be over or to be onto the next leg like I have so many times this season. I credit some of this mental fortuitousness to not putting pressure on myself about this race. My A goal was to break six hours but I would have been okay with a slower time if that was all I had on that day. I realized I was okay with not breaking six hours and it honestly made it a lot easier to actually break the six hours. I was relaxed and focused on execution and enjoyment rather than the clock.

3. Nutrition
I will be the first to say that I struggled a little with my nutrition during training. I tried to mimic my race-day nutrition as much as possible during training but I would often come home from a long ride with almost an entire bottle of nutrition still on my bike. I pretty quickly discovered I don't like eating frequently while biking so instead I focused on taking in nutrient dense fuel. I wrote out a plan and followed it almost to a tee. The one exception would be on the bike. I didn't finish my last bottle because I was afraid to drink more given how much I had to pee. I knew I could potentially hurt my run by neglecting nutrition and hydration, which was part of the reason why I peed on the side of the road. I also took in more solid calories and drank extra after I peed.

Now what I have room for improvement on. To be honest, I'm not sure I would really change much with my execution of this race given my specific preparation. I know I want to try going harder on the bike in my next 70.3 but I wouldn't say I didn't go hard enough this time. So, for this portion I'm going to focus on what I can improve upon in training since that will have a greater effect on how I race.

1. More focused swim training
I'm the first to admit that swimming is my strength in this crazy sport. I have a history as a swimmer and more or less grew up in the pool. What this translates to is having a love-hate relationship with swimming. I go through periods where all I want to do is swim and I contemplate starting to compete again, mixed with periods of little to no swimming at all because I can't stand the thought of spending another minute following the black line. I am one of the lucky ones who can put in less than stellar swim training and still have a decent swim leg during races.

While I've heard that the swim at Rev3 Poconos was a little long, I'm really not all that pleased with my performance. I had some really solid workouts in the pool but when it comes down to it I only did the minimum and the results show that. Sometimes I find it hard to go to the pool when a ride or run would likely be more beneficial but it's almost impossible to do too much in the pool. Swimming will help my overall race and that is what's important. I also know I can push myself a hell of a lot harder in the pool and that is the plan for this off-season. A hard workout in the pool is not going to take me long to recover from and I need to take advantage of that.

This beauty will certainly help

2. Intensity on the bike
Hands down the bike was the part of triathlon I worked on the most this year. I logged more miles in the saddle and started to feel like I could hold my own out there on two wheels. I won't say I wasn't surprised when I found out my biking was still mid to bottom of the pack. I made a ton of improvement this year but when I look back on my training my main focus was solely on logging more miles. I did more rides and longer rides and I'll be doing more rides and longer rides again next year. But where I think I'll make the most improvement is by getting out there and riding hard. This fall I'm going to work on climbing while the weather is still nice before transitioning to shorter harder trainer workouts over the winter.

3. Consistency 
I know after two years of training for triathlons that consistency is going to lead to the greatest improvements. Consistency during the year and consistency year after year. Last year I really didn't start training until May and while that was fine given where I was last spring, I want to take advantage of all my hard earned fitness from this year. I have taken almost two full weeks off since the race and am easing back into light exercise now. Instead of taking the next few months off with little to no exercise I am going to simply dial things back. I don't need to be in peak training all year long but sticking with some training will help things go smoothly when it is time to officially begin ironman training.

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