It was all that and then some. It’s been awhile since I experienced something so new and so fulfilling in sport. Sunday I swam for the first time in a wetsuit. I took Christian up to Baraboo for the afternoon, we played in the water and on the beach and then I did a little swimming from buoy to buoy. What a great feeling to not worry about water temperature or floating – you just go! The only thing I can imagine that would be better is to have a snorkel so I don’t even have to lift my head to breathe! That’s a thing in the triathlon world. But for now I’m still in neoprene nirvana.
The first couple laps were actually pretty difficult. The compression was so significant on my chest that it was a challenge to breath comfortably. Within a new minutes I acclimated and from then on my workout was fantastic.
Training with a wetsuit was the final preparation I need for the Devil’s Lake triathlon in two weeks.
Yesterday I almost went on a little rant about my training objective and race strategy in regards to passing people. Of course I’m naturally competitive and sometimes that trait gets the best of me. Even in workouts I sometimes start with one workload in the plan and end up doing more. That’s not a humble brag, it’s actually a demonstration that I too struggle with discipline.
But the topic for the day is ‘staying in your lane, sticking with the plan, having the right mindset.’
As a coach trying to push people to their personal best, it’s easy for them to compare themselves to others. The gym is a great place to train and it’s a great place to start that comparison game. The first is good, the second is usually a vulnerability to your progress. Here is why: you are not competing against anyone in that gym and you’re not even in the same game! I know, easier said than done but it’s just a reality. My mindset here isn’t to resist comparing to others but rather develop laser focus on what your best version of you can be. That’s the goal.
And that’s what I’m trying to keep in perspective this triathlon season. The goal is not to beat others but at the same time the goal isn’t to “just finish.” Quite simply I’m after my personal best. My personal best.
Now I fully reserve the right to change that approach in later seasons. I love working with athletes who are trying to win their age group. I look forward to the season when I can keep track of a leaderboard for the Wisconsin Tri Series and finish at the top. Until then I’m working towards my personal best. I strongly encourage you to do the same.
As I work towards my second ever triathlon (first was in 2013) I’m still learning a lot of the basics. My last longer bike workout revealed how bad I am at hills. I made a comment to Matt, our fitness director, and his suggestion was to shift once. We talked about the mentality plus the execution: right after the hill begins you need to determine what final gear you need/want to get to, shift there and be done with it. Riders in lower gears may pass you at first but as they start shifting you’ll pass them eventually. I’m not so sure about that last part and frankly passing people isn’t even my objective (more on that tomorrow). What I’m after is learning the best strategy to finish as fast as I can finish, climb those hills with experience and skill.
Today’s training ride consisted of two laps around Lake Monona plus a 3.45-mile run around the State Capitol (starting from my parking spot on John Nolan). What a great brick! My first loop on the bike was rather conservative so I’m glad I was able to increase the pace on the second, finishing almost eight minutes faster than the first. On the run as I made my way around the Capitol Square I had fatigue start to sink in. I thought to myself that I am falling in love with the process of training. That’s the name of the game: process, progress. As a trainer I see this holding so many people back. So I put it on myself to help coach this mentality that the process is the name of the game.
Within that process we are constantly changing. We get better, challenge goes up, we get proficient, we get our butt kicked, we respond but we always keep going. Today’s learning to “shift once” was good on two levels. First tactically it’s an experienced technique that I worked on and felt challenged but also felt myself getting better right away. Second, the bigger picture of “assess the situation and plan accordingly and execute” is also very valuable. I think of this in terms of letting injuries heal and I think of this in terms of choosing the appropriate intensity for a given workout as example of “shift once and make it work.”
The pinnacle workout in triathlon training is the brick. A brick is a workout where you do two of the disciplines of swim/bike/run back-to-back. Usually this is the bike/run combo, but there’s certainly value in doing the swim-to-bike and even a full race simulation.
A triathlete client and another triathlete friend of mine told me that usually the run part of the brick is only 1-1.5 miles long, just enough to catch and train that transition part of the run. Still fairly new to triathlon I heard what they said and I think I understand the thinking but I also prefer to do as much of the run as I think my body can take. First of all of the three disciplines, running is my strongest. Secondly I know where my fitness level is and how much any given workout should be to get me ready for the two spring triathlons I’m doing this fall.
Who knows, maybe next year I see training completely differently. But right now I’m trying not to overthink the brick. Exercise science is a beautiful thing but exercise art is under appreciated. In fact just today I was talking with a client about deciding between a beginner plan and an intermediate plan. I suggested it’s better to decrease the intermediate plan (which is pretty advanced) rather than add to the beginner plan. But in reality he’s skilled enough to do either. The point is to know right were you’re at, where you’re going, and confirm with a team or a coach if your plan makes sense. Sometimes it isn’t the plan that you stick to, it’s whether or not you stuck to the plan.
Listen to your body and your mind and good things will happen. Coaches really help, too.
Don’t compare. You have no idea where that other person is at. You have no idea how far you can go. You and I have enough to worry about just dealing with our own stories. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
When I am coaching clients I often use this equation: your goals + my plan + your execution is our recipe for success. Don’t waste your time with anyone else’s goals. What do you want to accomplish? What will it take to get there? What will you do when you experience an injury or a set-back? Do you have an expert plan in place? And then can you execute that plan? That’s where a coach and/or a team come into play.
Before you retire for the day, get a notecard and a pen and write down your goal for the end of the year. Of course you know I preach long-term pursuit, but we need to start with a short term goal to build momentum. My goal is to finish two triathlons and finish the year with a new understanding, appreciation, and pursuit of nutrition and strength training. So far, so good.
At the finish of my workout today I was feeling very accomplished, challenged, and progressing nicely for my two triathlons coming up in a couple weeks. The brick was a 12.13 mile bike followed by a 2.5 mile run. The reason for the extra energy after the workout was that I was pushed by Phil, an experienced triathlete who just competed an Olympic distance triathlon so his cardio and power is pretty dialed in right now.
I’m still learning a lot about triathlon. I know how important the brick workout is (two disciples in one workouts, mostly the bike-run combo) but I’m still working through what distances to train at and how to manage the transition. So you can imagine it’s nice to have an experience athlete like Phil to train with.
Today we talked about how typical bricks include a long bike and only 1.25-2.0 on the run. I’m sure that might be a typical brick but as a beginner I want to feel as much of that run after a long bike as possible. Today’s bike was at race pace and even though it was a couple miles less that race distance, I want to feel the challenge of running at race pace after that push on the bike. And like I said, my accomplishment after the workout came because I was pushed and responded well.
I am much more efficient in the water than I’ve ever been. And yet in the middle of my workout yesterday I was reminded how much anxiety I have in one aspect of the swim: opposite side breathing.
Triathletes need to be able to breathe on both sides of their body in case there’s waves, sun, or competitors on the strong side. For me this is a challenge for two reasons. First my form is terrible when I breathe on my left. I’m actually kind of shocked at how hard it is to replicate the breathing on my right side. But more critical to my training is the fact that breathing on my left side is often filled with lots of anxiety; since my form is so bad, I always worry that my poor form will lead to me subluxing my shoulder. Both of my shoulders are loose and when I pull so much in the water, that’s a lot of stress on the joint. Additionally if I start pulling too soon (with my body rotated), I put myself at increased risk for subluxation. It’s a mind game. I’m winning the game but it’s a big battle.
Yesterday I rode another “longest ride ever” distance on the bike. I had a decent 60+ mile week last week and though this week wasn’t as full I went a single distance longer than I’d ever done before, so that’s training. And to be honest it was easy, only limited by time and poor hydration preparation. Starting a new discipline or a new event or workout always produces these kinds of firsts. It’s motivating, but then the question is how do you continue that progress. Not only do you need to continue with longer rides but you also need to continue the regular mid-week rides that support that longer ride on the weekend. This is training, this is the process, this is what I’m falling in love with all over again.
It’s been quite a few years since I’ve had races on my calendar. That’s means training has taken a toll on me. I’ve worked out just for the sake of working out, trying to stay healthy. It’s a battle that I can endure for a season, but I’d much rather be training for something. If I’m going to do a couple triathlons this year then I need to continue having weeks of lots of miles and rides with most miles ever. That’s how training works, that’s how life works.
Today I swam 1500 meters without any real problem. The purpose of this post is to demonstrate that with proper (progressive) training you can feel the benefits of all your hard work quicker than you may expect. Swimming is hard for me but once I committed to the workouts, I got better each time both physically and mentally. Yes, there’s a lot of mental training happening for me in the pool.
Last week Matt Hanson invited me out for a Burger ride with his cycling team. I know what you’re thinking: Is a burger ride what I think it is? Yes. We ride to a burger joint, have the American classic, and ride home. I opted for the grilled chicken sandwich because I’m smart like that. But not so fast… I still had the fries. And I had my first Blue Moon in forever. With the warm temps in Madison lately, that beer went down just fine.
The ride was very short – six miles one way. I wanted to go faster but I had enough learning to do with the hand signals. I didn’t put up the “brake” sign and a lady right behind me almost rear-ended me – oops. Plus the bike path is a little narrow so with oncoming bikers it gets a little thin out there. Nonetheless it was a nice introduction to group riding.