Monday, February 1, 2016

Evaluating Early Season Performances

by Justin Daerr

The triathlon season is starting to get underway here in North America and the weekends are filling up with events. If you live somewhere with a warm climate, you might be well on your way to peak fitness, while others are just starting to get their feet wet with competition. Assuming you did have a break in winter and you are only a few months into the new season, your approach to racing might be different than it will be later in the year.

Given the fact that triathlon is essentially a year round sport, you are going to find fit folks at all races, regardless of where they fall on the calendar. With this in mind, it can be frustrating to subjectively compare yourself to the field as opposed to objectively evaluating your early season condition. As you bring racing back into the calendar, keep the following in mind:

  1. Early season fitness/race comparisons - When training in the early months of your season, it is important to not compare yourself to last season’s peak (hopefully it occurred at the end of the season). Instead, look to where you were at a similar point last season. I like to have certain early season races to benchmark myself from years past. Even if you might not be as fast as you would like “yet,” are you faster than you were at this time last year?

  2. Avoid a shift in training before necessary - It can be very tempting to perform well in early season races, which in turn makes many of us want to place harder and more challenging sessions in our training plans that might not be prudent (yet). While I do think that it is important to prepare specifically for race demands, you might still be in a phase of “training to train.” Shifting away from training the capacity to do more work will make it difficult to do “better” work later in the year. Don’t sacrifice long term goals because of short term anxiousness.

  3. Races are the best practice for races - Early season races are a great time to work on some of the intangibles that you might not get to rehearse in a training cycle. You can work on a variety of things like travel arrangements, race-week workouts, nutrition plans, meals the day before, putting your shoes on while riding, etc. You can practice many of these things in training, but nothing is better than going through the motions of actual racing.

  4. Write down a post-race report and learn from your success and failures - Following a race, make some notes in regards to what you believed worked, and what did not. It’s often easy to pinpoint what went wrong and I often hear that you learn more from bad races than you do from good ones. I would agree with that sentiment, but do not not use that as an excuse to ignore what created success as well. Apply lessons from both when moving forward with your training and race preparations.

Justin Daerr is a professional triathlete and co-owner of Endurance Corner. You can follow him on Twitter @justindaerr and contact him directly via email.
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