Monday, April 15, 2013

Looking back (and then forward): 2012/13 Triathlon Lessons Learnt.

Lessons learnt are a common management ‘thing’ as we try and look back at the past day, week, year etc and figure out what could be better.  For me so much could be better that to narrow my endeavors down a bit will require some careful thinking and prioritizing.

Prioritizing starts with setting a goal and then figuring out where I’m falling short of that goal (and these represent the lessons I need to learn really).

So, my goal(s) for 2013/14? Easy:

Top ten in my age group for the Sunshine Coast 70.3 in Sep 2013

Finish my first ironman (Bussleton, December 2013) in under 12 hours.

Improve on my Bussleton time/place at Melbourne (Mar 2014)

Perhaps I should have made it clear, setting the goals are easy. Achieving them isn’t meant to be!  These goals aren’t supposed to be easy, they are supposed to challenge me.  (Think these are bad?, I’m considering having “qualify for Kona” for 2015)

Ok, with my goals set, lets look at where I fall short.  I’m going to focus on the 70.3 goal here because this is where I have the most data.  I’ve never done an ironman, frankly the idea still scares the shit out of me, so I’m not sure how to analyse my performance there.  So, I’ll start with the 70.3 and I’m kind of hoping that if I get there the ironman will look after itself.

Basically I need to take an hour off my best 70.3 times.  In Oct 12 I did Port Mac in 6:08, in Feb 13, I did Geelong in 5:45; that’s a 23 minute reduction in 4 months.  Now I have 5 and a half months until Sunshine Coast and I want to take another 60 minutes off.  Before saying it cant be done, lets see where the time is likely to come from (using Geelong as my datum point).

In Geelong I did a 5:45; this was broken up as (place in group in braces):

Swim    0:30:19 (14/77)
T1        0:04:13 (57/77)
Ride     2:50:00 (50/77)
T2        0:01:42 (25/77)
Run      2:19:00 (73/77)

So, it doesn’t take a lot of complex analysis to see where the savings have to be made, the ride and run!  Yeah, I reckon I’ve got maybe 5 minutes I can find in the swim and transitions but the bulk will be on the bike and run courses.  Looking at the kind of times others did and trying to be kind of realistic I think this breaks down to the following targets:

Ride  2:30:00 (saving 20 minutes)
Run   1:45:00 (saving 35 minutes)

Put another way:

Ride.   Best Race pace achieved: 31.71 kph
   Race Pace Target: 36 kph

Run.    Best Race pace achieved: 6:36 min per k
   Race Pace Target: 5 min per k

I’ve got a lot of work to do!

Now, with goals set and analysed, areas of improvement identified, the task is now to look back and see how can I effectively double the improvement I made between Port Mac and Geelong in the space between now and Sunshine coast in Sep 2013?  These  are my thoughts:


My weight has actually been pretty stable for about 12 months.  I first went under 100 kg’s in mid 2012 and have hovered around 97 for ages.  A simple look at myself in lycra tells me I’ve got more to lose and a more scientific assessment by a sports nutritionist has given me a number to shoot for: 89 kg.  Personally I’m going to call that 88.9 (to make sure that being under 90 is outside the margin of error).  I’ve got an eating plan that I’ve started but not really committed to since my training has been pretty soft since Geelong.  I’m locking into that plan as of today and I’m on my way (or should that be weigh – sorry couldn’t resist).

That’s, ballpark, a 10% weight reduction from my last competition.  This should yield quite significant benefits, especially on the run.


Swimming.  A back problem and then an (undiagnosed) dislocated elbow meant essentially no swimming training for me this year.  I need to do more.  This isn’t going to make me a lot faster, but it will get me out of the water feeling better helping with a quicker T1 and a better start on the bike.  Combining a few minutes here and there I guess some swimming training will yield me between 5 and 10 minutes overall.

Travel.  I have to travel every second weekend and this has lead to me missing a lot of sessions – in particular, the big power building mountain/hill sessions on the bike.  Losing every second weekend doesn’t sound so bad until you think these sessions are quite special, they are the big sessions that power breakthroughs in performance.  In the space between Port Mac and Geelong there were about 17 of these key sessions and I missed 8 of them, that’s really really bad.  As a result I lose out twice, my ride hasn’t developed like it should and (perhaps worse) I’m still chasing a fast bike time regardless which then costs me badly on the run.

The travel cant be avoided but I have to get a lot better at a) training when I travel and/or b) perhaps moving some training bulk into mid week sessions when I miss a weekend.


My coaches are excellent at setting highly personalised training programs that carefully match distances, times and intensities.  I can’t promise that I’m getting the training intensities right.  I mean I try but so far I’ve been training without so much as a heart rate monitor and been relying on gut feel and rough calculations.  I’ve got a Garmin 910 on order, it should be arriving next week and all that will change.  I WILL figure out my zones and train within them!

Which brings me to……


I need more.  I’ve been a night owl so long that getting to bed early, switching off, sleeping well and then getting up early is hard.  I tend to stay up too late, don’t sleep well, wake up late and be pressed for time too often.  I have to treat sleep like a training session.



Gear.  For my previous races I’ve been using a road bike that was a size to small, didn’t enable me to get aero at all and pretty much screwed me up for the run.  I’ve now got a Tri bike (to be discussed later), the fancy wheels and helmet so this is taken care of.

That said I’m changing my tri suit – my current one is too small – the one piece cut simply doesn’t suit my body shape and while I have weight to lose this one has shrunk and just isn’t cutting it.  I’ll be going up in size and also considering a two piece to keep me more comfortable and cooler.


In Port Mac I totally bonked and rethought my nutrition completely.  In Geelong I had a better plan and followed it more closely but I was still cramping in the back half of the ride and feeling sick and “sloshy” from late in the ride to the mid point of the run.  I don’t have the answer here but I know I have work to do.

This is far more than just an energy equation thing too.  The cramps and nausea hurt emotionally also and lower my drive and mental energy.  Getting the nutrition right I see as having a double benefit – physically I have more energy and emotionally I’ll be better placed to use what I’ve got.


Simple, I tend to spend too much on the bike and while I might save 5 minutes on one leg, I’m losing 10-15 on the next.  This will be difficult as I’m trying to get faster on both the bike and run.  I’m hoping that bringing in some more careful measurement and management of my heart rate in both training and competition will help me balance my pacing better and get this equation better sorted.

So that’s about it, keep training (obviously) but:

Get lighter
Train for the swim
Manage travel better to hit key/big training sessions
Managing training intensity better
Sleep more
Optimise my gear
Get my race day nutrition sorted, and
Pace my races better.

Those are the lessons I’ve learnt from 2012/13 and those are the changes I’m making to hit my goals in 2013/14.

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