Training Slow to Race Fast and “Personal” Personal Records
Slow progress is long progress. Yes, an oxymoron that might drive any millennial up the wall, but in fitness if you want gains to last they have to be achieved incrementally. How do I know this? I pride myself on having made so many mistakes in my life that have forced me to learn (and fast!) how to avoid these and allow my clients and athletes to reach their potentials. Three years ago I tried the quick and dirty approach: a “sexy” reverse periodization, high intensity, fun and dynamic training program. That got me a 1-hour Half Ironman PR at Eagleman 2014 and the euphoric race of a lifetime. And then shortly after that….stage 2 adrenal fatigue. Ouch. Talk about highs and lows!
That approach clearly did not stick. After I recovered I was right back to where I had started. So from that moment on I changed course and opted for the slow, (not sexy!) base building, somewhat boring yet sustainable training philosophy. Albeit sometimes frustrating, challenging to train with others and requiring the patience of a saint. People are often shocked at how “slowly” I train, saving the ball busting for the very few best-effort opportunities I have each week. High volume=low intensity, low volume= high intensity. Basic science. Easier said than done.
Throw in this training style with the luck of the British and having been faced with quite a few uncontrollable challenges along the way, which have led to some great blog posts but not so great race performances! My training has sky rocketed and continued to improve but that has yet to be a reflection in my races. I might not have been born with the genetic potential of triathlete super stars, but I was born and raised to be an extremely hard worker. Hardships throughout my childhood taught me to never give up, and everytime I get knocked down, I stand up a little bit taller. Sometimes stupidly, I take chances and risks without thinking- this often leads to suffering but ultimately learning. And learning is living.
So far 2016 has been an incredible year for training. I am seeing numbers progressing gradually in a very reassuring fashion. I was very excited for this Rhode Island Warrior Triathlon after a recent training break through on all levels. I put together for myself (and my athletes) a race data sheet with complies race times/power/pace etc. The thing that is incredibly unique about triathlon was announced in the Olympics, every course varies by 10% due to the nature of the three sports so they are not interested in time but rather placement. Any of my athletes will tell you I never ever set time goals. Why? One variable changes and the plan is off course. Loosing handlebars, hypothermia, torrential hail storms, lost nutrition, insane headwinds, heat, terrain…..(I could go on, but you catch my “drift”-no pun intended!)
Even I was tempted to hedge bets on this race at what I could pull off. Thankfully, I’ve made that mistake before and allowed it to diminish my accomplishments so instead I was aware at what pace and wattage I should be able to put out. As soon as the gun went off I just gave it my all.
The swim was not to be compared to any other race (see what I mean about comparing split times) as half of the swim was a run- my idea of a perfect swim. I was also faced with a moral dilemma when on the second lap I found myself in the middle of the lap without having turned the first buoy. I immediately thought of my disgust at a particular Olympic athlete who was racing despite being caught for doping. I didn’t care what my time was I wouldn’t cross that finish line knowing I had cheated even if it were only 100 meters! My very first triathlon I unknowingly did 1 loop of the bike course and after learning this post finishing I got back on my bike to finish the race. I finished my swim in 35:14, which is 1-minute off my PR, nothing to really celebrate with based on the combination of body surfing and beach running.
I was super excited for the bike, having seen a lot of progress here this summer which is mostly a result of some serious low cadence trainer riding over the winter, thanks to beloved Wahoo Kickr. I was pushing some great watts and speed and was lazor focused on my pedal stroke (push, pull, smooth, high cadence) when I suddenly realized I seemed to be the only biker on course. Hmmmm…interesting….got to a T-junction and there were no signs to go left or right. I stopped for a second to turn around and asked some guys hanging out on their front porch casually sipping some Sunday morning coffee if they had seen any other crazy riders attempting the 70.3 mile jaunt around Rhode Island this morning. They said they hadn’t seen anything so I immediately high tailed it back knowing I had gone wrong. Found the turning and went about my business- I took the extra 4 miles as solid Ironman training ;)
The bike was a lot of fun with some rolling hills, which I have come to enjoy. Hills are my secret nemesis as I have avoided them the past 3-4 years doing triathlon since all my “A” races have been pancakes. I signed up for Lake Placid for 2017 and am looking forward to working on that weakness of mine. I finished the bike ride averaging 151 watts for 58 miles at about 18.4 mph.
The run is always bittersweet for me. Coming from a running background my run had to take a serious hit in order to allow my swim and bike to get where they needed to be in order to be competitive (and still do!) I run a fraction of the amount I used to and had to swallow the bitter pill that my run times would not look they way they did a few years ago. This is all ego and ties into the ability to train slow in order to race fast. It’s a huge life lesson that sometimes you can’t have it all and instant gratification is just that, instant, it certainly doesn’t last long! I would rather take the path less travelled, of most resistance, in order to achieve my goals.
I set out on the run in the same mental tunnel as the bike- I literally only thought about my run stride for 1:39:28. The whole race was a beautiful 5-hour blackout of no thoughts! Came in at a pace of 7:36/mile, which is 17 seconds per mile than my PR- the infamous euphoric race of Eagleman 2014. This was also 10 pounds heavier than 2014- considering 1 pound equates to roughly 3 seconds per mile that would mean that on the same fitness level in 2013 my run pace would have been 8:23! Quite a difference….This is a huge testament that being strong and healthy should be the primary focus, in just the past year alone I have put on 5 pounds of muscle and that certainly shows in both my bike and run numbers.
I came booking through the finish line somehow 9th overall, 2nd female, and 1st in age group despite literally “going the extra mile.” I was elated at achieving my own “personal” personal records of higher watts, lower race pace despite that not even showing in my overall time! It is reassurance that goals must be based on controllable factors: pacing, heart rate, nutrition etc. Do the right thing, work hard and good things will happen. Just remember, those good things just might take 3 years to show J