The 2016 race season is getting an early start, with my first race in less than a week at Ironman 70.3 Panama. Starting so early will likely make for a long season, but I'm ready for it. I took a bit of a break after Chattanooga before starting to ramp things back up, and at this point I feel recharged and have been working hard for the past two months preparing for Panama. Training through the holidays was a bit of a challenge, not just for me but for Becky as well, but she was great and put up with my healthy food requests and time training. At the end of this season I'm going to plan for a nice break for all of December so I can really enjoy the holidays.
So how did I spend my winter training? I spent it working on my deficiencies - swimming and running. For the past seven to eight weeks my time spent swimming, biking, and running has been almost exactly evenly split. Generally triathletes spend the most amount of time riding because the biggest percentage of races is spent on the bike. My riding has always been my strength, so I am working to try to bring my swimming and running up to speed. I also spent quite a bit of time focusing on strength and flexibility. My coach had me doing a strength program twice a week and performing functional movement exercises five days a week in an attempt to correct some muscle imbalances. Hopefully that all translates to more power on the bike and run and increased muscular endurance.
I was in the water generally four days each week, swimming 4-5,500 yards each time and averaging between 18-21,000 yards. That was quite a substantial increase in volume for me, and I saw it pay some dividends. I dropped my 1000TT time by about 25 seconds over the course of the winter. That still leaves me with a long way to go, but seeing the improvement was motivating and kept me wanting to put in the yards each week. Mike was home from Boston for two weeks in December, so swimming with him and Joel for those two weeks were a great opportunity for me. They beat me up pretty good, but swimming with guys like that is only going to help me in the long run. I did finish up a few workouts with tears in my eyes I think though.
My running has been predominantly done on the treadmill, which honestly I don't mind. I like the controlled workouts and the consistency from session to session. I also like having the ability to push myself and not let myself slow down during intervals even when I feel fatigued. I averaged 45-50 miles per week, with a solid mix of intervals and tempo work included. I am feel good about my run right now and am confident I am going to see improvements on the course in that discipline this year.
Despite my "lack" of time on the bike, I am still really excited about how well I'm riding right now. The volume has been lower, but the intensity has been high. There has been a lot of riding at 85 percent or higher of my FTP, and I tested twice over the winter and saw that number increase each time. In my last 20 minute test I was able to maintain 396 watts, putting my FTP somewhere in the 375 watt range (see file here: http://tpks.ws/PErB). Again, riding the trainer and controlling the workouts as I have been doing appears to be paying off. There is no time wasted on the trainer and there is no coasting, so every minute you spend there is productive.
It is hard to say what to expect in Panama this week. There are some unknowns, like how I will fare in the heat and humidity since all of my training has been indoors due to the Rochester winter, but I've been doing a few things recommended by my coach to try to help prepare for the heat and I will be sure to keep on top of my nutrition and hydration during the race. Since this is the 70.3 Pan America Championship race there is a solid field of professionals on the start list. It will be a solid test for me to see how I stack up early in the season against some of the strongest guys in the sport.
I wouldn't quite consider 2016 to be a "make or break it" year, but it is definitely going to be a year where I want to see some solid growth in the professional field if I'm going to continue to race up there. Last year was a good starting point to see what racing in the pro field was like, and I was able to have a few decent results, with my best finish being a 10th place at 70.3 Raleigh. This year I feel like I need to some growth and improvement, breaking into some top 6-8 spots. If I can do that, I will definitely keep my license and race up there for a few more years. If not, I'll have to consider the idea of returning to age group racing. The biggest allure of that being the 70.3 World Championship returning to the USA in 2017 and I'd love to battle for AG World Champion. I would also love to race Kona some day, and making it to the top 50 in the world as a professional is pretty unlikely for me.
There is plenty to consider down the road, but for now the focus is 70.3 Panama and going as fast as I can. Being a championship race I would imagine there will be live GPS tracking like what we had in Chattanooga last year. If not, there will at least be the Athlete Tracker to give splits during the day. Follow along Sunday morning starting at 6:30am!