So now for part II of how to improve as an athlete, or specifically TRI athlete. This second part will focus on the actual 3 disciplines of the sport of triathlon.
I did my first marathon back in 2004, my first triathlon 2005, and my first full Ironman in 2006. I have read so many books, surfed so many websites and talked to so many people on so many subjects regarding swimming, biking and running I should be the fountain of all knowledge, but the truth is that so much has been forgotten due to it being too complicated, not appropriate or just “un” sexy.
What I am trying to do now is make a list of simple things I can do that will have noticeable effect on my quest to move from “completing” to “competing”, things that will improve my training results without necessarily causing over complications in my life..
Swim, bike, run. All need improvements, all can be easily improved. My swim is back of the pack, my bike is bottom half and my run suffers due to tiredness from the previous two legs.
Swim – more swimming
I came to swimming in my late 30s, and now think I’m too old to get much improvement from technique, although I have tried many times with many teachers. My last attempt to improve form did have some effect, but at the end of the day my swim strength was too weak to benefit over long distance.
I do have enough ability to put in 22 seconds for a 25m lap, which if I manage to maintain that pace over a race would give me 27:52 on the half IM and 55:44 in the full IM – which would be amazing! The problem is that I can only do one lap at that pace and after that it quickly drops to over 30 seconds. The obvious answer is to become physically strong enough at swimming to keep the 25m form and pace over the equivalent of 76 or 152 laps of 25m.
I remember talking to a new coach, proudly explaining to him I swam at least 3 times a week, with 30 mins every Monday and Wed, and an hour every Friday. He was distinctly unimpressed, replying that “those 30 minute swim sessions of yours will have to become a thing of the past”, and his point was correct, I’m not going to get strong enough to keep the same pace on a 1.9k or 3.8k swim by knocking out 30 minutes of laps at the pool.
What I need is a huge increase in swim volume to at least double or treble what I manage each week now. And an increase in the quality to include harder sessions rather than lap after lap at slowly decreasing pace.
I will expect to swim minimum 3-5 days a week, around 3000m each session. Will need to mix up between short intervals to focus on form and pace, to long hard endurance sessions to increase strength and cardiovascular.
Having s coach setting the sessions will probably give better results as it’ll stop me falling into the same patterns, but only as long as we can agree on level of complication.
Finally, I need to take advantage of living in Javea to get as much open water swimming as possible. It really is very different from lap swimming (which is still critical for intervals) but swimming in the sea will help with improving sighting, building confidence and keeping me mentally stimulated and involved. I see surfers and paddle boarders already out there, so hopefully not too long until I can join them
Bike – more biking
Lots and lots of TITS! That’s Time In The Saddle in case you were thinking something different.
I don’t know why but I seem to be naturally slow on the bike. I can grind on all day, but I don’t seem to have much speed. There has been some improvement over the years but I’m still very much off the pace.
I have asked around and I get the same answer. More time in the saddle, and more challenging rides! So the first thing I will do is increase my volume, my numbers are way below the average of even a slightly ambitious biker. But along with that volume needs to come intensity, trying to hold a faster pace for longer distances rather than going the same one pace the whole time – this is where I will benefit from group rides where I will need to keep up (even if the ride is based on he slowest rider, no one wants to be the one holding up the group). More climbing is the other obvious step, which I will have plenty of opportunity here (the whole area is a bike mecca, and I have observed many individual and also professional teams out training in the area)
I will aim to get in two outdoor rides a week, one by myself hitting the mountains for 1-2hrs weekday to increase cycling strength, the other a long weekend ride with a group to increase endurance. Will need to be at least 100k (rising week by week) of mixed terrain , while trying to keep up with the faster riders.
Finally I will add at least one turbo session to work on pace and form, with intervals over 90rpm, while keeping an eye on the power.
Run – more running
Consistently and quality.
Up until very recently I had been on a run streak of 5 years, not missing a day since 2013. I started this soon after I quit drink and smoking, and it was a fantastic tool to help me get over those issues and also worked wonders to improve both my consistency and my strength. I gave that streak up at the end of last year to enable me to improve across all the triathlon sports, however along with the travel and the sickness that side-lined me, not having the schedule to run every day has badly affected my motivation. I have been pretty lax and my run has dropped considerably. … which is stupid as I always enjoy it when I get out there. So I really need to just get back into the running, plug myself into the commitment and get it done.
One of the biggest benefits to giving up the run streak, has been my hip, knee and groin have all recovered a bit, and now that I am hopefully over my winter colds I can start to focus on regular quality runs. I wish to ensure that the reduced numbers of workouts results in a better quality of workout, meaning I will get two interval sessions of some sort every week that will focus on speed and strength, plus one long run focusing on endurance, starting at 90 minutes and reaching around about 2.5 hours as the season progresses. I will also endeavour to run a brick off each bike ride I do, although that isn’t always possible. The intervals need to be pre-planned in detail and I will go into that at a later date
So there we have it. My list of things to become a better triathlete. I need to decide if I get another coach or I do by myself, although from my experience I did find a coach helps in terms of the quality and diversity of training. Maybe I will spend a month getting myself back to good core fitness and recovered from all my travel and sickness, then give myself over to a coach again
Without doubt I have a huge advantage being in Javea. The weather has been at least “good” everyday, which means I can go out and run and bike freely. The scenery is amazing, the roads well looked after and quiet, with a huge array of terrain. I intend to get out with the local bike club to keep up the motivation and I will try to find some runners to train with – if I don’t find any suitable, I will attempt to start a group of my own.
Final note. From the end of last week I was down again with my 99th cold of the season which is why I wasn’t writing, nor was I training, so I have definitely gone backwards again since I started this blog. However I very much hope this was my last spate of sickness, especially as I have very little travel planned for a month or two, and I am raring to go.
Time to tri a little bit harder 😊