“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts”
We often talk about training metrics and how to use them to guide your training. They can help define training targets, gauge progress, and give you confidence heading into races. However, races are not competed on paper. There is no resume submission and it doesn’t matter what your functional threshold power is if you don’t deliver on race day.
Nothing more, nothing less
One thing that separates many top performers from the rest is both the ability to put in the quality work and the discipline to hold back on easier or shorter days. Time and time again the athletes I coach who make the most progress are those that follow the workouts to the “T.” This doesn’t mean blindly following the workouts, but also logging the training, giving feedback, and being engaged in the process. Key workouts are challenging and one way to tell if someone is overreaching is whether or not the workouts can be completed at the proper intensity. If you are always carrying around a hefty load of cumulative fatigue and the thought of a structured threshold makes you feel ill, then you might be overreaching with too much unnecessary volume.
The whole is greater than the sum of the parts
Triathlon is about more than simply swimming, biking, and running. They are not stand alone events, rather a series of consecutive tests of your speed, power, and endurance. Fatigue is cumulative and so is the brain strain. Staying in the moment and focused on the task at hand becomes increasingly difficult as the race progresses. It might help to compartmentalize each section of the race, but know that each leg of the race is not entirely independent.
Once the gun goes off the body will know what to do
We are what we repeatedly do. Key sessions around race intensity train the body and the mind. Despite all of the angst leading up to a race, know that once the gun goes off, the body will respond in the way it has been taught through repetition. I love the feeling of calm that comes over me once I hear that cannon sound.
Sometimes I hear people say, “I just didn’t have the legs today.” That drives me crazy. What happens when you don’t have legs in training, do you push on, do you battle back harder on the next interval? If you feel like you don’t have legs at the start of the bike, don’t throw in the towel. Dig deeper, narrow your focus, rise to the occasion.
Racing is about the intangibles
As a coach, I really like using field tests and lab tests for many reasons, but racing ability moves beyond the objective data. The ability to rise to the occasion on race day is hard to predict. I bet if you took field test data from top 5 performers overall and the same goes for the podium in each age group, you still would have a hard time predicting finish order. Many triathletes find initial success by out-training others. However, don’t leave your best performances in training, at the local track workout, or on a Strava segment. Be honest with yourself and don’t pad the training log with junk miles that are only serving up fatigue but not contributing to overall fitness. No pre-packaged excuses like “I’m training through this race” or “I put in 20 hours this week.” Fuel off others, thrive on competition. The evolution of a champion goes something like this:
- Train to train
- Train to compete
- Compete to win
Race to YOUR potential
A race decides who is the best on that one day. I used to think that I needed an extraordinary performance to reach my race goal, or I needed to go beyond my potential. If your expectations reside somewhere in reality, then you are actually just looking for a performance that you are already capable of. You want to get the most out of yourself on this one day. Nothing more, nothing less.