Thursday, November 18, 2010

Off-Season Training - Room for Improvement

Around here, the next triathlon on the calendar is months away.  Heck.  I haven't event picked the next tri on my schedule.  Sure, there will be the occasional running race, but for the most part, entering the winter month means more training for maintenance rather than a specific goal.

In order to pick what I want to focus on, I looked back on the last year to see what my strengths were and where I'd like to improve.  Granted, I'd like to get stronger in all three disciplines, but since I'm not exactly a pro triathlete, I don't have an unlimited amount of time over the winter to dedicate to training.  So far, I've been averaging between 6 and 8 hours per week.  Its a fraction of the 18-22 I was slugging through last summer.

I don't think that there's any question swimming is my strongest event.  In all of my races, I finished closest to the front of the pack in swimming.  I even pulled off a 2nd place age-group swim at the Chaska Tri.  So, I'm comfortable pulling back a little bit so I can focus more on the other disciplines. So far, I've limited my swim workouts to 1/2 hour sessions over lunch - I'm fortunate that my gym is literally across the street from my office.  I'll alternate between tempo sessions, form drills, speed work, and kicking drills.  Sure, I'll turn up the volume soon, probably in February and March, to build towards next summer's tri season.  But the shorter, more frequent workouts seem to be working well so far.

On the bike, I've been, well, average.  Race results usually have me right in the middle of the pack.  That's not to say that I'm happy being there.  I'd certainly like to improve my performance next year.  I'm not too worried about endurance.  Having trained for an Ironman, I know how to put on the mega-miles.  But, since I'm not doing an Ironman next year, it's time to learn how to bike faster.

When the weather doesn't want to cooperate - which is most of the time around here - I'll be on the trainer.  For those of you not familiar.  A trainer is a device that your bike 'plugs' into.  It usually holds your rear wheel off the ground and inch or two with a roller pressing against your rear tire to provide resistance.  It's like turning your ride into an exer-cycle at the gym, except you get to use your own shoes, saddle and other goodies.

Anyway, the plan is to do more tempo, speed and strength drills.  Basically, I'll be teaching my body to tolerate the pain of pushing harder.  In the end, this should increase the upper limits of how fast I can go.  To quote Greg LeMond regarding racing at a higher level, "It doesn't get easier, you just go faster".


Let's face it.  Running is my weakest event.  It's where I dropped six places during the Chaska Tri, and where my day fell apart during the Ironman.  I know, I know.  Nutrition had more to do with my difficulty on the run for the Ironman, but it's still the event I want to improve on the most.

Long runs of 10-15 miles are still do-able, even if some of them have to be on the dread-mill, but I really want to focus on getting faster.  Again, I'll be turning to tempo and speed training for this.  You know, to teach my body to deal with the stress of running faster until holding a wicked-tough pace doesn't hurt so bad anymore.  I guess a nice silver-lining about using the treadmill is that I can be very specific about executing these tempo and speed drills and generally freaking out all the other people in the gym.

Now, even though it IS my weakest event, it's still the one that I've improved with the most over the last couple of years.  For example, in my first ever tri, an Olympic-distance event called Trinona, I finished the 10K (6.2 mile) run leg with splits of 10:41/mile.  Exactly 1 year later, I finished the 1/2 marathon (13.1 mile) run at the Liberty Triathlon with splits averaging 9:25/mile.

This is where stuff gets fun.  Hours upon hours of training can really wear on your psyche.  So, mixing in some fun sports is on the agenda.  I've been taking Pilates classes since September, mostly because a stronger core and better flexibility are good things.  But, it's also a good change of pace.  I gave roller-blading a try a couple weeks ago.  Lesson: it's hard to stop on roller-blades, and the ground is not as soft as it looks.  I'll probably start some light weight-lifting, not to get big, but to firm things up a little.

So that's the picture from 50,000 feet.  Now, the challenge will be developing a workable plan and sticking to it.  I'll keep you posted.

Oh.  Speaking of keeping you posted.  Don't forget to check me out on Facebook.  Lately, I've been posting photos from the past year.  Don't forget to 'Like' me and stroke my fragile little ego.  Then you'll automatically get updates the next time I try to do something crazy, like this weekend.  Hint: it involves a metric-crap-ton of pork, tiny burgers and a deep fat fryer.

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