I once had someone tell me that you have to do triathlons for 7 years before you are technically released from “rookie” status. It just takes that long to “get it” when it comes to experiencing the sport. I snorted at this at the time and while I admitted that it would take longer than a year to feel comfortable, seven seasons seemed a bit much. Yet as I enter my third season of multi sport events, I continue to learn lesson after lesson and it may just take another 4 years (or more) to get in all the important ones.
My latest lesson is controlling ambition. After the crappy year I slogged through last year I thought that changing things up a bit would be the best way to get me motivated. So I cut back to sprints and duathlons and (crucial conjunction) decided to do an offroad triathlon as well. The “lesson” became painfully clear over the last month when the weather went from bad, to worse, to just plain disgusting. Fifty inches of snow… in Missouri… really? But hey… at least the weeks on end of cold and rain helped to turn it into a nice, Slurpee consistency that made doing anything but treadmills, trainers and pools just plain dangerous.
While training in the early months of the season for triathlon season is usually full of these types of torture devices… it is expected. But the problem, for me, is that in order to do anything offroad, you need to BE offroad. And this is nearly impossible (on a mountain bike) when the trails are made of snot for months on end. In fact, the only close place that is big enough to get real training in is closed to mountain biking for much of the spring. While I respect this and appreciate the effort to keep the trails nice, it tends to cripple the training process.
As I sit back and look at this “lesson” (read:mistake) I can see the comedy of errors leading to my latest frustration. So lemme see if I can break it down.
- Doing ANYTHING in the first four months of the season that is not in California or Florida is a weather crap shoot. And what I failed to take into account was that even though the RACE was in a warmer spot… I wasn’t. Making big plans for great times or strong races is foolish and will lead to disappointment at the hands of Mother Nature more often than not.
- Triathlon and “offroad” triathlon are NOT THE SAME THING from a training standpoint. Yes, they (usually) have the same three sports, but while a good spin session or treadmill intervals is great early season training for roadies, the same cannot be said (again, this is all in my opinion) for offroad triathlons. There is no substitute for trail time. Balance, coordination, shift points, foot placement, pacing, nutrition, effort… are all different. Unless you have been offroad for years, these things are NOT second nature and have to be practiced so that they are more natural on race day. That way you can focus on all the other crap the race throws at you because it is just different. In short, I AM an OFFROAD rookie, even though I’m in my third season of “triathlons”. I can’t just jump on my mountain bike and race. I need practice.
- That being said, trying to train for regular triathlons AND offroad triathlons AT THE SAME TIME becomes a confusing mass of workouts that do nothing but wear you out. I made the mistake of signing up for trail runs, 5Ks, duathlons, triathlons, adventure races and offroad triathlons all in the same few months in my excitement about the season. While these have all been fun (goal number 1, below), now I don’t even know what to train for. While the variety of training keeps things fun, the trade off is a confusing schedule in which I am constantly frustrated at not being able to get the right workouts in for the weeks leading up to events.
- Setting early season races as goal races is a sketchy way to do business. It’s not that having a goal race like the Xterra in Arkansas at the end of April is unrealistic. It’s that I live 500 miles north of the race site and the 3 months of training would be far different IN Arkansas, but almost impossible where I am.
So… What to do…
Back off and re-focus. I need to look at my goals and put them in the right order.
- Have fun racing and training
- Lose 30 pounds
- Do all sprints and short duathlons
- Break 20mph avg on the bike
- Swim 500 yards in less than 10 min
- Break 22 minutes in the 5K
- Do an offroad triathlon
- Compete at club nationals
So my goals remain the same, just rearranged to meet what the season gives me as far as weather. I need to get in shape and get the speed into my training. The fastest way to do this is to simply lose weight. Goals 3 and 4 will come quickly if I can lose weight. Once I get the triathlon training under control then I can start looking for an offroad triathlon to do later, once the weather warms up and the trails dry out enough to get some quality time in on my mountain bike. I will, however, continue to run trails on Sundays as much as possible… just because it’s fun (see goal number 1)!
My next race is MaxTrax Duathlon this weekend. We were supposed to have a practice duathlon but, of course, it got SNOWED out. Not to curse it, but so far the weather looks good so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. But since I dropped out of the Xterra race I have a huge hole in my schedule now from April 2 to May 22. I am going to fill part of this with DouZou (yes the duathlon… I am slowly learning to HATE pool swim races) on May 1, but I would like another race or two (maybe a 5K) in April or another small triathlon. Dunno. I’m still looking.
Who knows… next year I may just go completely offroad. Trail races, MTB races, offroad triathlons, adventure races… the whole dirt lovers pizza. But if that’s what I want I need to focus on training this year and then go offroad as much as I can later in the year. Maybe even end the year with an offroad tri someplace. Right now I need to focus on getting in shape. I have only ridden my tri-bike on the road ONE time this year so far. But at least my rear wheel has a nice silver stripe on it from all the road to nowhere trainer miles… This could get out of control (again… like last year) fast if I’m not careful. I need to be in control of my training plan. Not let my training plan control me…
Remember Bob: Goal number 1