Not with a bang, but a whimper

So ends another season of triathlon.  I wish that I could say otherwise, I wish that I could be OK with my season because I had a number of good races.  The fact is I have a huge burden of disappointment right now.  I had a solid race at Racine, as well as a few solid sprint races – but the rest of my season was essentially a disaster.

So where do I go from here?  I see there as being 3 options:

1> Follow my instinct and do as Matt pondered in a comment, and plow forward convinced that my poor performance was due to weakness or a lack of fitness and proceed to stamp it out.

2> Take the other approach mentioned by Matt and back away from Triathlon as a whole for a while

3> Revisit my April 7th, 2009 post, mentioned by Jeff (in the same set of comments as linked above) – and remember that to focus on the journey of getting there – and let the result be the result.

Each approach has merit and I think would lead to a successful rebound next year.  However, I worry that each approach (alone) glosses over the real issues I am facing, leading to a successful 2010, but a potential repeat of 2009 in 2011.  The saying “those who don’t learn from the mistakes of the past are destined to repeat them” comes to mind.  The tail end of my swimming career seems to have been like this – a good year, followed by a bad year, followed by a good year.

Almost as if the success experienced caused me to lose an edge that lead to fast swimming, and the disappointment of a bad season fuels success.  Looking at my triathlon career I see myself beginning to experience a similar cycle: Rockstar IMAZ 2007, poor IMH 2007, Rockstar 2008, poor 2009.  Two steps forward, followed by one step backwards.  While that may lead to success in the long run, as we see with our economic situation – the steps backwards can be heart-wrenching.

How do I break this vicious cycle?  How do I move forard a step each year without having to suffer the fallback?  That is the mystery to me – I wish I had a clear cut answer but I don’t.  I have a thought of what I am going to attempt, but I have only hope that it will pan out.

Before going there, I think it’s wise to do a review of my triathlon journey thus far.

2005vs2006vs2007vs2008vs2009

 So what does this pretty chart tell us? A lot, and at the same time nothing at all.  2009 from a volume perspective was pretty consistent with previous seasons and actually #2 in overall volume.  Here are some things that stand out to me:

1> 2008 and 2009 saw a large decrease in the amount of time I spent on strength and flexibility.  While I have never lifted weights in the traditional sense, I have always had a strength routine that I have included.

2> My swimming fell off a lot in 2008, in fact the last few months of 2008 saw a major decrease in volume across all three sports.  This decrease carried over to 2009 for swimming and running

3> My volume in 2009 is surprising, perhaps I did to much?  Or simply wasn’t organized enough with it?

While 2009 is not technically complete, enough is done to see the trend.  And because of my foot – not much running will happen until the end of the year.

Year Swim Bike Run
2005 380,741 yds 4,795 miles 1,272 miles
2006 416,137 m 6,138 miles 1,278 miles
2007 451,144 m 7,224 miles 1,410 miles
2008 373,512 m 6,375 miles 1,279 miles
2009 414,125 m 6,626 miles 1,314 miles
Year Swim Bike Run Total
2005 116 hours 333 hours 171 hours 620 hours
2006 124 hours 351 hours 174 hours 649 hours
2007 140 hours 392 hours 183 hours 715 hours
2008 114 hours 348 hours 164 hours 626 hours
2009 128 hours 349 hours 169 hours 646 hours

If I look at my cycling of 2008 vs 2009 from a kJ perspective, 2009 was generally lower by a significant amount the the previous year at that time.  What is nice about kJ is that it is a raw indicator of work and not dependent upon me accurate estimating my FTP. Below is a table of kJ by month (really 28 day sample points beginning 12/31/2007 (the “beginning” of 2008 from a training perspective). As a result of the 28 day sample, the months start to drift, so I will call them Month 1, Month 2, etc.  Month 9 ends the week of IMWI in 2008, and the week before IMWI in 2009.  Month 5 represents the month just before the Triple T.

Months 10 and 11 are included to represent IMFL 2009, not provide a comparison between 2008 and 2009.

Month 2008 2009
Month 1 18,337 11,612
Month 2 22,699 16,586
Month 3 17,037 16,619
Month 4 21,628 19,265
Month 5 26,411 21,878
Month 6 28,965 24,716
Month 7 33,709 38,764
Month 8 29,446 26,446
Month 9 24,261 30,780
Month 10 0 18,829
Month 11 3,375 27,826

 What does this mean?  First a reference point, to help understand the relation of a kJ to a ride.  IMWI 2008 – was a 4,218 kJ ride.  I had a couple long rides in August 2009 around 4,400 kJ.  So this table more or less tells me, that with the exception of two months – I did significantly less work on the bike in any given period than as compared to 2008.  Overlaying the values on-top of each other looks like this:

kj-graph

The graph highlights pretty well the gap between this year and last year in terms of work on the bike.  It’s interesting in that the big spike of work on the bike really result in some good performance shortly after at the Half and Sprint and Olympic distance.  The next interesting thing to look at is total kJ for the year as it accumulates each month.

kj-cul

Looking at it this way, it become pretty evident that the work put in on the bike was signicantly lower this year.  It took until after Madison to “break-even”.  This second kJ perspective could be a perfect explanation for why Madison was subpar – I just did not have the bike fitness to ride effectively.

So why did Florida go so horribly?  I have no idea.  My kJ had crossed the line and was the equal of 2008, the few months leading up to Florida were pretty decent if you adjust for a week off the bike after Wisconsin.  Right now, it is an enigma and something that will probably bother me for a long time – much like how not knowing how much time my flat at IMAZ bugs the hell out of me.

I didn’t graph out run mileage by month, but if we look at it from a mileage to date graph – it looks sickeningly like the graph posted just above for kJ to date.

run-mi-td

When I look at my training this way, it seems pretty evident to me that while my overall volume/work for 2009 is pretty comparable to previous years, if I cut the year short at September it’s lacking pretty significantly – on the order of close to 10%.  With most of the shortfall coming in the first few months of the year, and while the numbers during the meat of the season were the same – the foundation was lacking when push came to shove (and it shoved pretty damn hard).


Drifting back to the 3 approaches above – how do I ensure a successful and consistant season next year, but also each year that follows.  After looking at the numbers, I don’t think that any of the approaches above are appropriate – at least not alone.

I think the answer lies in falling back to the basics by incorporating all of the approaches to lay down a solid, consistent foundation of work for future seasons.  That leads me to the plan for the next “season”.  Obviously, I am not signed up for an Ironman for 2010.  Will I do one – I have no idea.  I really want to, in order to prove to myself that I haven’t lost it, but I am pretty scared to do another one soon because of the fear of yet another disaster.

The plan as it stands now is to take a short unstructure break the remainder of this week and next, and then start swimming and biking again.  I’m going to take a few weeks off of running to allow my foot to heal, time to be determined based on the outcome of my Dr. appointment next week.

Beginning in December I’ll get into a regular Swim/Bike/Run? routine to prepare myself to yet again attempt the Endurance Nation Out-Season plan – modified a little bit to add some extra volume as the plan progresses (3rd times a charm – ?)  That will take 16 weeks, which I will cap off with a week of rest and then either St. Anthony’s or the Whitewater Early Bird.  Currently I’d say it’s 70/30 in favor of St. Anthony’s.

After that I’m going to do a typical 3 + 1 base/rest cycle going into the Triple-T.  The rest of next year will be 100% dependent upon the outcome of those races and how the training goes.  The results of the litmus test might be anything ranging from shifting to several months of fitness maintenance and minimal racing, and ramp up again in 2011, to doing something like the Rev 3 Irondistance or another IM distance race that I can get into – or something anywhere inbetween. 

Right now I’d say the deciding factor is less about “performance”, but more about perspective.  Can I do the training, enjoy it, and remember to focus on the process rather than letting myself be driven by the desired outcome?