The fall is a wonderful time of year.. The temperatures cool and ambition grows. Athletes dream about the season to come. Now is the time to reach out to your coach to discuss your plans for next year.
It is tempting to get wrapped up in a season full of “peak bagging” where your schedule is just too full, too long, or is simply a mixed bag of races. This can result in disappointment in your development as an athlete, over commitment, and burn out.
It is not uncommon to see a triathlete career of only 3 years. The way I think about it is the year of wonder, the year of excitement, followed by the year of work which can result in frustration and burnout. After which, the bike can become a clothes horse in the corner of the apartment. This is very sad for your bike and you can see it weeping quietly if you look carefully.
In your first year, your fitness grows by leaps and bounds & there is so much new information. The sport changes your life and introduces you to new community of friends. You feel invincible.
In your second year, you pack your schedule with races and race race race… You still develop rapidly, and spend a ton of money on your bike. At the end of the season, you are tired but look forward to next season with high ambitions. You are also looking for new challenges, perhaps Ironman, a marathon or two, perhaps tough mudders…etc.
In your third year, your development needs are much more specific to your personal limiters and much more race specific. Your development curve flattens but your schedule is more complex with a mixed bag of races that often compete with each other for your time. Unless you are a extraordinary athlete, and few of us actually are, your racing is unlikely meet your expectations.
A good example is a marathon in the middle of your Ironman preparation. A well prepared marathoner will run far more, with much more specific run training than an Ironman athlete. I would estimate that a marathon blows a 1 month hole in your Ironman progression between taper & recovery not to mention the lack of focus on the bike & swim during the prior months of marathon training.
The key to getting faster is time & focus. The fast athletes in the field, excluding the genetically gifted, have been training for many years. Although they are older, in many instances they race faster than they ever have. The secret sauce is that they are still at it and they have seasons that are well structured and not beyond what their life & work can manage. Typically, these athletes will peak only a couple of times for key races, and interim races are about supporting their principal focus of the year. Their seasons are also have a transition period that is not too long, but is sufficient to come back into each year with a bounce in their step.
As you dream about your season ahead, be sure to check in with your coach for advice on your race schedule.
Race well and love your bike.