Friday, January 12, 2018

Year-End Review

In college, my coach required every athlete to recap each season with a goal review. The goal review was an opportunity to assess your season - if you met your goals, why or why not, and set or adjust your goals for next season. They weren't always performance goals - they were also academic, spiritual, social, etc. But at the end of each season, you reflected on your progress, gave yourself an honest evaluation, and made plans for moving forward. It keeps you accountable, but it's also a very cathartic process.

It's been a few years since undergrad, but I still find value in writing goal reviews. I attribute much of my success in the past year to having made goals at the end of 2016. I'll admit, I don't always write out my goal reviews, but I want to this year - I have a lot to review and plan.

I feel like sharing this with others will help keep me accountable - but one great thing about a blog is - if you don't want to read my self-centered, narcissist ramblings, you don't have to.

2017

Broken

At the beginning of the year, I was recovering from a sacral stress fracture (the second in a six month span). I knew if I was ever going to meet my goals, I had to be able to train consistently - I couldn't afford to continue getting injured and missing weeks, or months, of training at a time. I talked with my doctor about the fractures - I had blood tests and bone mineral density tests, but nothing was ever abnormal. Regardless, she suggested I take more of a calcium, vitamin d and vitamin k supplement. I also switched medications from Warfarin to the newer anticoagulant, Eliquis. I've written about the negative impacts of Warfarin use on bone health in the past. By switching to Eliquis, I was hopeful that I'd be less likely to develop stress fractures.

Patience

I hit it hard in 2016 - Perhaps, a bit too hard. I realized by the end of last year, the training I was doing was not sustainable (at least, not yet). I was trying to train on a level I wasn't ready for. So, in 2017, I tried to be patient and focus more on consistency. If I did 5 sets of intervals in 2016, I'd do 4 sets in 2017. If I ran 12 miles in 2016, I'd run 10 in 2017... and so on. I also did fewer brick workouts and fewer hard double workout days. In 2016, it was fairly common for me to run a hard interval workout in the morning and ride a hard interval workout in the afternoon. I still did a few brick workouts and hard double days in 2017, but they were much less common. Instead, I spread my hard efforts out over 2-3 days. For example:

  1. AM - Bike: 5 x 5:00 (5:00) + Lift/Core      PM - Run: Easy 45-50:00 with 4-6 x 100m strides
  2. AM - Run: 8 x 800m (2:00)                        PM - Bike: 90:00 with 4 x 30s openers
  3. AM - Bike: 4-5 sets of 2 x 3:00 (60s) + Easy Run of 30-40:00 + Lift/Core
A three day block like this was usually followed by a complete rest day followed by two light/recovery days of training. In 2016, I would have crammed another running workout into the brick on day 3. Sometimes this year, it was difficult not to do more. Even though I wasn't always exhausted, I had to trust that I was getting stronger (and not getting hurt).

I never set any training volume goals for a year, but I do keep a log and I keep track of how many miles and hours I log every year. Because I was able to stay injury free, I logged more miles than I ever have on the bike (8900). I also ran more than I have in any year since college (1502).

I also took several breaks through the year. I took a week off after long course nationals in May, 10 days of vacation in Peru after standard distance nationals in July, 3 weeks of reduced volume after Penticton (Aug-Sept) and 2 weeks of reduced volume after the JAX half marathon in December. I think these regular forced breaks helped keep me fresh mentally and physically.

Strength

This was the first year where I had regular access to strength training equipment year-round - and I was very consistent with it. I lifted 2-3 times a week. After I strained my hamstring in March, instead of trying to add more and more weight every couple of weeks, I worked on being consistent. I squatted 135-165lbs a countless number of times - not exactly mind blowing numbers, but I was doing it consistently, and feeling good about it. I never felt like I was hindering my cycling or running. It's possible that lifting also helped me stave off another stress fracture... can't say for sure, though.

I tried hard to gain weight this year. In combination with lifting, I ate to my heart's content and I drank a lot of protein shakes. I managed to add about 1.5-2 kg without negatively impacting my power to weight ratio on the bike or my running. My W/kg was exactly the same from my two power tests (Feb. and Nov.) but I added an additional 13 Watts. My running  performance only seemed to improve with the added muscle mass. I think I also noticed I was recovering from hard efforts faster, I had good energy, I was less sore and my mood was improved from years past. Of course, there are a lot variables at play - but I think lifting more, eating more, and gaining some weight improved my performance and wellbeing.

Brass Tacks - Objective Goals

2017 Race Goals

  1. Win long course duathlon nationals
  2. Win standard distance duathlon nationals
  3. Top 3 Overall at ITU age group world championship draft legal sprint duathlon
  4. Top 3 Overall at ITU age group world championship standard distance duathlon

Outcomes

  1. First
  2. First
  3. Second overall, first in age group
  4. First overall
Those were the only goals I set at the beginning of the year. I met all of them. I never set any specific performance goals for the year, but I did two 15:00 power tests - one in February and one in November. 
Feb - 15:00 @ 384 W
Nov - 15:00 @ 397 W

After Penticton, I decided to try to squeeze in one more duathlon for 2017 and go to Powerman Florida. Training was going well, but two weeks prior to the race, it was cancelled. Once I found that out, I reduced my cycling volume and spent three weeks preparing for the Ameris Bank Jacksonville Half Marathon. I capitalized on my fitness and ran 71:44. Despite running a 2:00 PR, I wasn't completely satisfied with that race. I wanted to run 71:00.

My friend Phil convinced me to do more USAC (cycling) racing early in the year. I'm glad I did. USAC made me race Cat 3, but I learned a lot about the tactics of bike racing and I became more comfortable riding in a group - I also whooped up on some Cat 3 riders... Some of that experience was helpful in the draft legal race in Penticton.

2018 Goals

  1. Win standard distance duathlon nationals
  2. Win long course duathlon nationals
  3. Top 5 overall at ITU elite long course world championship (Zofingen, Switzerland)
  4. Upgrade to USAC Cat 2 (pending race goals)
  5. 20:00 @ 400 W
  6. 5K @ <15:00 OR 10K @ <31:45 OR half marathon @ <70:00
  7. Run 7-10% more
Other, less quantitative goals include balancing a social life with training; being a husband, son, brother and friend; having fun and staying healthy. I hope to get back to collegiate coaching by the fall. I also want to do something to help promote duathlon - I'm open to suggestions.

Long Term Goals

I have a hard time envisioning what I want to accomplish in or with sport over the next 10 years. I want to stand on the podium at an elite world championship, but if that doesn't happen this year -- I'm not sure I'll have the desire to try again in 2019 or beyond. Duathlon is a great sport, but being a full-time duathlete is not always fulfilling. Not to mention, it doesn't pay. In a non-Olympic sport where race entry fees can top $250; there is rarely a prize purse and even fewer endorsement or sponsorship opportunities - I can't expect to live on duathlon money for a few days, much less the rest of my life... It's comical to even think about.

To fill the void, I want to get back to collegiate coaching. I would like to feel like I'm having more of an impact on other people and building my own value in some way. More importantly, I want to share sport with other young people. Power records and half marathon PRs are initially satisfying, but they're not relevant outside of your own cycling and running. Every time I accomplish one of these self-centered goals, I have to think about the cost. How many hours did I spend by myself, churning my legs in vain? How many friends did I blow off because I was out training or too tired to meet up? There will always be an opportunity cost, but the lack of relevancy and fulfillment eats at me.

Getting the most out of duathlon training and racing, requires a lot of sacrifice. Training 20-25 hours a week leaves little time for professional development. It also leaves you feeling pretty damn tired.

Long term, I hope to continue training and racing in duathlon, running and cycling - but maybe not at the same level. I hope to shift my focus towards helping others.

Needs Improvement

It's one thing to put down a bunch of goals and say, "I want to do this." It's another to recognize you have to make changes to get there. Here's what I'll change for 2018:

More running volume
While I ran more this year than I have in any other year since college, I know I'm capable of doing more. I was recovering from a stress fracture into February - I didn't really hit my stride until May. I think I need to run more to accomplish my running goals, and these running goals will help me be a better duathlete.

Mobility and regular massage
I run better when I'm feeling good and I feel better when I take care of my legs. I think a little more maintenance stretching and massaging could go a long way. It's just a commitment to do more, taking care of the little things. I would like to find a good massage therapist (one of the pitfalls of living in a small town) for a weekly massage. Problem areas - feet, calves, glutes, hip flexors, TFL/ITB

More specific (longer) workouts - in pace/power and duration
I've spent years working on 30:00 power (pH threshold) and I've improved a lot - but I think there is room for improvement if I work on stretching out that power over a longer period of time. I can ride 400 W for 15:00. And while I think a 15:00 effort can serve as a valid indicator of aerobic fitness, maybe 15:00 efforts aren't always relevant in time trial races that last 2-6 hours. I'll continue to work on maximizing 30:00 power. But this year, I want to include more long intervals and threshold runs (I've never been a fan of threshold runs).

Practice and tweak race day nutrition more often
Truth be told, I rarely practice taking gels on the bike or drinking while running. And I know I should get this dialed in, especially for longer races.

Wrapping up

I've received my USAT elite duathlete license, I've joined the Timex Factory Racing Team, and I'm eager to get started on 2018. With these goals, I know I've got my work cut out for me.

Tentative race schedule:

Jan -
Feb - Powerman Arizona
March -
April - USAT Du Nats, Mount Rainier Duathlon
May - Powerman Michigan, Sartell Apple Duathlon
June -
July - ITU Sprint World Champs?
Aug -
Sep - Powerman Zofingen/ITU LC World Champs
Oct -
Nov - USAT LC Du Nats
Dec - Jax Bank Half Marathon

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