Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Learning From My Year

As I sit here and snack on some Pirate Booty and drink a Spaten Oktoberfest, I can't help but reflect on my season. (I wrapped up this year of racing at Ironman 70.3 Pocono Mountains this past weekend.) It is important for triathletes to look at what they did and learn from it. We can never be complacent or think that what we did last year was enough and we will continue to improve without looking at where we came from and what we did.

I ended my season with slight disappointment. I went to 70.3 Poconos with the hope of qualifying for next year's 70.3 World Championship in Vegas and I missed out. On top of that, I finished just off the podium in 4th for my age group (25-29). It was a late decision to race (I signed up on Monday for the race on Sunday), but I still had high expectations for myself. Not meeting either of my goals stung. Now, I have never placed on a podium at an Ironman event, but I believed I could and I went into the race thinking that. If you don't believe in yourself, you'll never be able to accomplish your goals. From my disappointment though, comes momentum and motivation for next year. The desire to earn a slot to Vegas is building inside me already and I will use that to prepare myself through the winter months after I take some needed rest for the next few weeks.

Each year of racing provides us an opportunity to learn about ourselves as people and as triathletes. I learned that I can fight through anything and I won't ever quit when faced with difficulty. I spent the last 18 miles of Ironman Louisville in agony. I threw up three times and couldn't keep anything in. My gas tank was completely tapped but I gutted it out and finished in 10 hours and 51 minutes. I was severely dehydrated but I wouldn't let that keep me from finishing what I set out to do. From all that I learned more about electrolyte use and my need for extra sodium. I know I need to reevaluate my nutrition plan for long races, especially in intense heat. If I overlooked that stuff, I would never improve for my next time. And continuous improvement should always be the goal. Never be complacent.

Despite my disappointment at 70.3 Poconos, I still set a PR for that distance, finishing in 4:29:22. That beat my previous PR by 12 seconds. I swam the best I ever have and I smashed the bike course before suffering on the run. From all of this I learned about planning a race season. It had been a month and four days since I raced Ironman Louisville. Running out of T2 I knew I was in for it. I hadn't given myself enough time to fully recover from Louisville before this race. Looking forward, I will seriously look at time between races next year and make sure that I am able to fully recover and get proper training blocks in throughout the season. This year I signed up for races because I wanted to do them; they looked fun. Next year I will be more selective and purposeful with my decisions.

Lastly, I will look at my training (volume, intensity, blocks, power building, lactate threshold, etc...) and see what changes I need to make next year. I know I still have a severe swimming deficiency and my running is not where it needs to be yet. I will continue to look for ways to work on these areas to become a more well rounded triathlete so I don't have to rely so heavily on hammering a top bike time every race.

What did you learn from this season? Take the time to reflect on how you did and what you want to be better at next year. Ask questions. Read. Find out as much as you can and piece together what works for you. So much of this sport is trial and error because our bodies are all different. What works for me might not work for you. But it also might work great. Now is the time to try something new, something different. I already can't wait for next season and I am going to push myself over the winter to come out strong right from the start.