If I had to sum 2010 up with a single sentence I think the only one that would be appropriate would be “Wow, what a ride.”
In 2010, I had periods of time in which I was both the least fit and most fit of any other time period over the last 6 or 7 years.
In 2010, I both rediscovered the true joy that I experience while training and racing for triathlon – and I experienced the raw hatred that I have for it.
In 2010, a mere week before my best athletic performance to date, I was almost ready to give it all up.
How’s that for a year? In the end, I guess pretty damn good.
The older I get and the more times I ride this rock around the sun I am continually amazed at how much more perspective I’ve gained on life as compared to just a few years prior. I sit and think – “Man, I’ve really figured it out.” Only to look back on that moment a few years down the road and think “Man – if I only knew then, what I know now.”
Ironically, while I was doing the check-in deal thing for IMWI on the Friday before the race – Mary found a great quote on a fridge magnet:
For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin ” real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.
In case you didn’t realize it, this is my annual Tri-Season is done, and it’s time to get all touchy feelie about it. Some of the things I like to cover are my overall feelings about the season, my volume totals, do some slice and dicing with volume and intensity metrics, look at my “action” plan as defined last annual review and see how I did, and finally lay out an action plan for the next year of triathlon. I’m doing it a little earlier than previous years “ because my competitive season for 2010 is done. Any race that I do the rest of the year will just be for fun and in support of my training objectives. Once the year is well and truly wrapped up I’ll do a follow-up dissecting overall volume totals, but I wanted to get my thoughts on the year down on paper and out there, particularly to solicit feedback on what I need to move to the next level.
So how did 2010 go? Incredible, I achieved more this year than I thought was possible, not only did I achieve a lot I learned an incredible amount of things about the human machine. I think some of the things I learned are more important than the things I achieved so I’ll talk about them first.
First, I learned that it’s OK to take a break from a sport, to focus on a different sport. This allows you to boost the focus sport significantly, and when you return to balanced training, the dropped sport will return quickly. Alright, so I didn’t learn this directly, but I had direct experience watching all three sports go from zero or very low fitness, to near normal levels of fitness faster than I thought possible. All of those advocates of taking a break from X to focus on Y – weren’t lying.
Second, I lot of things I know about race execution were reinforced and refreshed in my mind.
Third (really an extension of #2) – I learned that many of my bad races may have directly resulted from poor race day decisions and poor race week choices rather than some of the reasons I thought before such as allergies, season training load, etc – these probably had a role in some cases, but were not critical factors.
Finally – I realized that in 2009 – I was probably running much to fast on many of my runs.
So let’s get into the meat of this review. How’d the season go from a results and progress perspective?
After a series of subpar races last year, I adopted the catch phrase “It only takes one race to make the season worth it.” Fortunately in 2010 I’ve had four of them. Four races that by themselves are worthy of making 2010 a success – each race had its own reason: Saint Anthony’s – while my slowest Olympic in a long time – was a huge victory just by finishing. The Triple T – blowing away all expectations and finishing in 2nd. Door County “ not only was it a PR, but I discovered that I have some true mental toughness and competitiveness. IMWI “ Matt Amman said it best œI don’t think we’re ever going to get that grin off your face.
Unfortunately I did not do Pleasant Prairie this year, so I lost my year to year benchmark race. However, all the other repeat races I did were either an absolute improvement over previous years – or a relative improvement. IMWI = Absolute. Triple T – relative: While my overall race times were slower, it was primarily on the run. Power wise my RPE felt much more comfortable in all races despite averaging equal or higher power than previous years.
Another huge thumbs up that I must give myself is my nutrition. I actually was able to do the right things this year nutritionally and cross the mythic 180 pound barrier. I raced Door County at a super lean 171 pounds and Ironman Wisconsin at 173 (so I slipped a bit at the end). I have not been at this weight since 8th grade or so. I don’t recall my weight in 8th grade, but I know in 9th grade and most of high school I was around 177. My lightest in college was about 188. On my wedding day I was 225.
When I look back on my season and its results, I’m simply tickled pink.
How about training?
My training in 2010 was nearly perfect. It would have been nice to have started building my fitness a few months earlier, but the break was a key factor in how the season turned out.
Early in the season I focused a lot on rebuilding my FTP. I did this by including a lot of threshold efforts into 3 rides per week: Tuesday PM, Thursday PM, and my long ride. Once I was able to start running I changed the Tuesday PM ride into a run. If you don’t count race weeks – there are only a handful of weeks where I did not include the Thursday night threshold workout – and only a few long rides where I did not include some form of interval work (typically these were planned in advanced).
One thing I noticed on the bike is that as the season progressed and my training load increased it became more difficult to hit my power targets on rides. Some of that is probably a result of switching from an SRM to a Powertap mid-season, but it’s a trend I’ve seen in previous years. I don’t know if this is good or bad, it just is an observation. Perhaps it’s simply a result of not doing any sprint races in late July or August this year as opposed to previous years. Or is it something else?
I held off on the quality running into very late in the season and then only included a handful of sessions. I ran according to my Daniel’s paces almost religiously. As my paces would start drifting faster, a race would arrive and prove that it was time to adjust.
On the cycling front this year was nearly identical from a TSS/kJ YTD perspective to 2009 – incredible considering how low my TSS scores were for January and February. I was significantly behind 2008 though.
If you look at the montly TSS graph – one thing that is evident is that I may need to go back and adjust my FTP for the March/April timeframe…
A new view I made for my analysis this year was a CTL year-over-year graph. The graph is pretty simple, but interesting. On the cycling side, I started out much lower than ever before, climbed very steeply (need to double check my FTP for those months) – and then settled into a load similar to 2008, without the ginormous peak in July I had in 2008 and 2009. I held that peak off about a month hitting it mid-August, and then letting it taper off into IMWI.
Running CTL fell into pretty much the same pattern. Steep sharp rise at the beginning, and then it flattens out at around the same level as in 2008 and 2009.
It’s interesting that I have a “peak” in cycling all three years, but my running tends to rise to between 45 and 50 CTL stay there, taper vs. the rise to 85 to 90 and then a taper off – I get my cycling CTL up, but I let it fall off without holding it. Could that be important?
What about the rest views of running? The running is interesting. I was a strict adherant to Daniels Paces almost the entire season – only running faster in training after a race performance proved I was ready. Other than races, and a handful of workouts almost all of my running was at Daniel’s E-Pace. When I say almost all, I mean in the neighborhood of 90% including races, greater than 95% if you only count training.
As the following graphs show – from a YTD perspective my run training lagged pathetically, but once I was able to start running, it matched previous years month for month.
Volume is becoming more and more of a curiosity at this point. As my transition to a training load measurement of training becomes more and more complete – volume is becoming more of an indicator of time commitment to the sport rather than a benchmark of training load. However, it is still a good reference point to consider as a piece of the overall puzzle. Please note that the tables below are not final for 2010 – and the totals for 2009 are slightly different than in my 2009 wrap-up since I did a little bit of training after that post.
All in all, 2010 was a good year from training. While significantly less than previous years due to a loss of training time early in the year, it showed the power of past training and consistant training. On top of that, it was quite educational to see the power of recovery and what it can do for you.
Another question that must be examined is “ what was different between 2009 and 2010? Unfortunately “ I’m having a really hard time pinning it down. When you look at the break down of training above “ there are differences, but not a lot. Matt asked me this question recently – I said “ œI feel like I was a lot more deliberate this year. To that he chuckled and said œYou’re Scott Bowe “ you’re always deliberate.
Well he’s right and he’s a bit wrong. The only thing I did that was significantly different from a deliberate point of view was not jumping into races on a whim. Doing a few sprints here and there can definitely impact a few key sessions “ but I don’t think it has the power to derail an entire season. Does it?
Could it be drive or focus? Was I less focused or take it for granted last year “ and that led to slips in race day execution? Perhaps a bit “ but I trained for 4 months with a broken foot trying to make it happen. Dumb “ yep. Driven “ yep. Were my expectations higher in 2009 than 2010 “ oh yeah. Is that a bad thing?
What about my taper and rest cycles? In 2008, 2009, and 2010 “ I pretty much didn’t take any rest weeks “ except for a few races. My taper in 2008 and 2010 were essentially identical. In 2009 “ I pushed a little longer and did a bit more of a drop taper “ yet arrived at race day with similar TSBs all 3 years (4 A races).
Bingo “ sure until you consider that SORT was a huge success in 2008 and 2009 after a crushing week of training and a drop taper. This approach was a giant FAIL for Pigman in 2010 though.
How about pure Fitness? My CTL for cycling was significantly lower in 2009 than the other two years on record. That sounds good until you look at some of the good races and workouts I had. While perhaps it wasn’t at the level of 2008 and 2009 “ CTL is simply a number and performances are the true indicator of fitness “ not a number. They may not have occurred on the days I wanted them to, but 2009 was filled with loads of great performances.
The more I think about this and document my thoughts “ in reality I see more similarities than I see differences. Am I simply chasing ghosts trying to explain how I was able to turn a lackluster year into a blockbuster year?
I think all of the things I have just mentioned played some role in my low level of performance in 2009, but there are just too many things that don’t fit the patterns to nail it on any signal item “ even taken as a whole I’m not convinced. Heck “ I’m even willing to go back and clear the good name of Claritin “ I think that was just me looking for a scapegoat.
So we’ve come to the point that motivation, taper, fitness, and other things “ all contributed to a lack luster 2009. When you add them together it seems pretty weak.
Hopefully “ you’re sitting there on the edge of your seat “ thinking œThis is getting good, he’s got some key piece of the puzzle that explains it all.
I’m sorry to say I don’t “ what I do have is a theory. It’s surprisingly simple, and it’s something I have proclaimed loudly to everyone that will listen when I am allowed to preach on how to have a successful Ironman. I won’t claim that this is a reason unto itself, or that it’s even valid “ but after a confidence building activity I undertook race week while finalizing my race plan “ I stumbled on a single word.
Execution. In some ways that word is a cop out “ and in others it makes all the sense in the world. As I wrote out my race plan for IMWI “ I took a detour and made some notes about races over the last couple years where I had poor overall performances.
Previously, when I reviewed those races I focused on my bike effort “ which proved to be a dead end. IMWI 09 “ was literally an identical ride wattage wise to 2008 “ other than 2009 being a touch faster due to conditions “ if you overlay them on each other “ they are literally identical. IMFL 09 “ I averaged < 200 watts for the first hour or so. Several of the other races were the same way “ High Cliff 09, Pigman 10 “ all of them judging them by the bike alone “ great execution.
I don’t recall what it is, but something triggered me to look at the IMFL results closely. When I looked at the results memories and sensations from the race filled my mind. Initially “ I was struck by the fact that I had the 5th fastest non-pro swim split “ but realized that was a red herring as I looked at some other Ironman results. What struck me were sensations that came back from the end of the swim and T1. Feelings of being spent disorientated “ really struggling through transition with a foggy brain.
These quickly transitions to memories and sensations from Elkhart Lake where I remember exiting the swim and feeling like I was going to die as I ran to my bike “ which was a direct result of swimming the first 1/3 of the race trying for the swim prime “ and than just settling in to a slightly less aggressive pace.
Next High Cliff 2009 “ my swimming prowress crushed Craig Lanza “ who almost always exits the water +- 10 seconds of me regardless of the distance “ by almost 90 seconds.
Rockman 2008 “ feeling high off my race at the Triple-T, feeling like I’m hot shit “ with a stacked field “ race for first on the swim to redeem my wrong turn in 2007.
Pigman 2010 “ I didn’t feel like I pushed the swim “ but with about 500 meters to go I knew something was up. Exit the swim and my head is foggy and disorientated.
IMWI 2009 “ Ditto the feelings as Pigman.
Racine 2009 “ I do nothing on the swim “ I only lead the group because it’s convenient “ no effort whatsoever. Rockstar.
IMWI 2006 “ My race notes pre and post race “ describe a desire to swim @ 75% of the effort as 2005 “ œI was happy to get out of the water and see 54:xx on my watch and fell completely fresh and with it, and not out of whack last year.
By now I was starting to get excited “ I started reading past race reports and looking at results. Slowly a consistent trend emerged “ Rock the swim “ bomb the race. As I paged through reports and results “ I found a couple of exceptions that bothered me. As I examined those exceptions “ I discovered a secondary thread that was common “ Racing. Races where I attempted to race “ generally ended sub-optimally; not always badly, but not optimal.
So what do I mean by racing “ take Tri-ing for Childrens 2009 for example. I knew that Joe Kurian could easily put 5 minutes on me via the run. I swam and biked haunted by that knowledge “ focused on optimizing my place instead of my time. Camb Whitcomb Mason “ I didn’t think that I could out run Pete Metz if it came to a foot race “ so I instead expended my energy on the bike and swim “ trying to force him to keep up with me “ sure I ended up third, but I had a terrible run.
I continued to look through the results and race reports of the 50+ triathlons I’ve done “ I became a bit unsettled by the trend “ with only one real exception “ every race that I identified my objective as beating one or more specific people “ I performed poorly. Every race in which I identified my objective as doing my best, having fun, or a similar outcome “ I performed well.
Surprisingly there were almost no races where the result was average “ I either was a rock star or a disaster. Unfortunately “ I didn’t keep detailed notes about training, racing, and mental state while swimming in College or High School “ so I can only go back to 2003 when I did my first tri.
So is this a good diagnosis/analysis? I don’t know. Is it correct? I don’t know. What I do know is that it makes sense to me and seems to fit other trends in my life. I have my cards, others have theirs. My best game is to play the hand I’ve been dealt, not to play according to the hand my competitors have been dealt.
Finally – what about next year?
Next year I would like to continue the general trend of improvement – but I’d like to leave off the step backwards trend that I see emerging. Additionally, since I started in triathlon in 2005 I’ve spent many weeks logging 20+ hours of training – I don’t want to do that anymore. Realistically, I’m going to shoot to have the cap be 18 hours or so; this will realistically mean that will need to dial the intensity on many rides up and potentially reduce the frequency I train some sports.
I do not intend to share my season specific goals outside of my “inner circle” – but I will share my training objectives for 2011 – which surprisingly are a direct result of my specific goals. *gasp*
- Consistently execute threshold training for bike and run
- 350 watt FTP Target
- 1:14 Half Marathon
- Continue to focus on positive nutrition habits
- Maintain offseason weight below 175
- Experiment with body comp/weight to see if high performance is feasible @ 160 to 165
- Training cap @ ~18 hours vs. 23 hours
After IMWI this year – threshold training over the winter and early spring is a prime objective for me in both sports – perhaps even a little VO2 max work now and again. The targets I’ve thrown out there are not thrown out lightly. If you search my blog you will find a lot of references to shooting for a half marathon time of sub 1:20 – and I’ve never pulled it off. A search will also tell you about why I selected 350 watts.
To save you some time:
The volume goal is primarily stemming from a desire to reduce my time commitment to the sport, so that I have more time to do other stuff. The secondary reason for it is to try and find out if perhaps I’ve been limiting my performance by trying to do to much, and not allowing enough recovery.
I picked 350 watts for a couple of reasons – first it corresponds very well with an Ironman ride of a touch under 5 hours for me. A 5 hour +- IM ride for me is the last piece of the triangle for me to be truly competitive in the overall amateur scene at most Ironmans. Second – it’s a pretty good stretch goal for me.
A 1:14 half marathon is wickedly fast. That’s 13.1 miles at a pace just slightly faster than I’ve ever run a 5k! A bit of a stretch wouldn’t you say? There is some sound logic behind this though. If you accept that a well executed Ironman run is typically done around Daniels E-pace, my recent run at IMWI puts me in-between a VDOT of 61 and 62. When I look at those times and paces for those VDOTS, I say no way I can run that fast. However, my IMWI run tells me that maybe I can if I made a few changes. This objective is my way of motivating myself to train my run in such a way to make sure that my 3:09 IM marathon wasn’t a fluke, but simply a sign of something better in the future. In the end even if I’m unable to hit a 1:14 half (which is likely) “ even a result in the high 1:1xs or low 1:2x will be a significant improvement and confidence building “ especially since my running always tends to be skewed towards over-performance as the distance gets longer and the run is preceded by a bike ride.
To accomplish these objectives and set me up to be in a position to achieve my season goals for next year, I’ve got a lot of hard work to do. Back in 2008, I purchased the Endurance Nation Outseason plan. I bailed on it after about 8 weeks, and I didn’t even try in 2009 because of injury. I’m optimistic that following the EN plan will be the magic juice that lets me meet my training objectives – as I did see results on the plan before bailing – in fact my highest ever 60 minute average power is from a Computrainer time trial done at around week 7 of the plan!
I’m going to do everything in my power to enable myself to see the plan through – with the positive swim lay off experience of this past year, I’m planning to start the plan off with no swimming and ease swimming in as the plan successfully progresses and the additional training load doesn’t keep me from feeling motivated or progressing.
I’m still trying to formulate how to best execute my training for the timeframe after the out season plan ends, while maintaining the focus on growing/sustaining my FTP and VDOT, staying within my volume goals, and ensuring I have the required endurance for a successful Ironman.
If you have any thoughts or feedback – I’d really like to hear them via a comment; thanks!