Thursday, November 14, 2013

The "Take it Easy" Season

Off season, out season, transition period, dream season. Whatever you want to call it, this is the time when most multisporters should be taking it easy. If you follow the traditional Florida triathlon race calendar, you probably began racing in late March and finished sometime in the fall. There were over ten races on the Gulf Winds Triathlon Club’s Grand Prix schedule for this year. Some members participated in close to all races; that is a lot of training, traveling, and racing.

It can be hard for those of us who are accustomed to days structured around workouts, training goals, early bedtimes and alarm clocks, to not have a race on the near horizon. When we are so used to going after the carrot at the end of the stick, once we’ve reached it, what do we do?

I’m a big believer in taking a moment to enjoy the carrot and think about the journey that led me to it. And this is best done a couple of weeks after my last race of the season, when the transition bag is in the closet for good, the race kit has been washed and put away, and the racing flats are in the donation pile.

This mental and physical break is important for me to take after my last race of the year. While I still enjoy exercising for the stress relief and physical well-being, I’m not concerned with splits, paces, or times. It’s more exercise than training.

I use this down time to look back on my training and racing from the past year. And not just what went well and what didn’t, but the specifics of the year. In racing: what were my strengths and weaknesses compared to my competitors, how was my mental game, what races did I enjoy or would rather not go back to? I take stock of my equipment. Is it time to get a new bike or maybe this is the year to get race wheels? Workouts and training sessions are also evaluated: did I find a good balance of tempo sessions and speed work, how was my strength on the bike? Hopefully, you have a coach or trusted training partner you can go through these questions with, someone objective who can be honest with you.

Once the yearly evaluation is complete, planning for the next year begins. While it may seem early to start planning for races months away, coming up with a rough race schedule helps to nail down key dates in your training year, such as when to start building up your base again, when important training blocks will take place, and when to stop eating spoonfuls of cookie butter. Obligations such as personal and professional commitments are important to consider when looking at your proposed schedule. Think about what you want to get out of the next year. Is it to build up miles for an upcoming Ironman, regain some lost speed, win your age group in the Grand Prix? Again, it helps to have someone to discuss these ideas with you, to help you narrow down your options or encourage you to set the bar higher.

Remember, it is only November. Most likely, your first triathlon is not until March. That is four months away. Enjoy this down time while you have it. Enjoy sleeping in, going out with friends, and spending money on non-triathlon items. You do not want to be thinking “I wish I had done…” a few weeks before your first race of the year.

Oh how I love thee....
Come talk about how your season went and what you have planned for next year at Monday’s Gulf Winds Triathlon Club meeting. It starts at 6:30 at the Momo’s on Market Street. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

From the Coach's Perspective

Triathletes may not have a stage as big as the World Series, but we do have a World Championships that takes place in Hawaii every October. Two Tallahassee triathletes competed there this year, Colin Abbey and Kate Harrison. They both share a coach, Chuck Kemeny, who travelled to Hawaii to watch them compete. Kemeny himself raced Hawaii a few years ago, so he is familiar with the course, logistics, and excitement associated with an event as competitive as the World Championships. Here is a little of what he had to say about his experience on the coaching side of the sport, rather than the athlete side.
R-L: Shannon Coates, Colin Abbey, Kate Harrison
SG:  How do you think your experience racing Kona helped you as a coach to your athletes racing there? 
CK: Having raced Kona before allowed me to prepare them for the environment. Kona provides the perfect storm as far as race conditions go. You have very hot temperatures and humidity is always high. Knowing this, I was able to instruct them what parts of the course to ride/run and what time prior to race day. The time of day is important as you want them to get a feel for the heat and winds during certain sections of the course. 
Most importantly, I was able to prepare them for the energy of Kona during race week. During race week you get not only the athletes competing, but hundreds more elite athletes coming to watch. Collectively this adds up to a few thousand very elite athletes working out at all times of the day at varying intensities. Going there for the first time it is very intimidating as you start to question what you are doing and why people are working out so hard leading into the race. Reality is that the vast majority of the people putting in major miles at high intensities are not racing. I believe I was able to prepare them for this and keep their head in the game.

All Done! R-L: Shannon Coates, Chuck Kemeny, Colin Abbey

SG: What assistance were you able to provide on race day?
CK: I met up with my athletes in the morning prior to the race to make sure they were all set for the race. Coaches are not supposed to be on the course other than as a spectator so I was not able to advise them once the race started. My role race day was to track my athletes and support their families.
SG: What did you notice as a spectator that you missed out on as an athlete?
CK: As an athlete, you do not truly appreciate the sacrifices your family makes for you to be there racing. I was able to witness the highs and lows of both Colin's and Kate's families throughout the race. I was there to give them good and bad news throughout the race as we watched splits get updated on the athlete tracker. I know as a coach I was much more vested and worried throughout the race than I was when I raced it. Even though I knew that I had given my athletes the proper training and advice, it is what you cannot prepare them for that worries you.
SG: What was it like not competing?
CK: Not competing was wonderful. I was able to take in the race and the days prior to. I did not have to worry about my sleep schedule, what I was eating, or what I was wearing. I could not have asked for anything more from the race or my athletes. I thoroughly enjoyed playing the role of coach and supporter to my athletes and their families.
SG: How does it feel as a coach to have three people who competed in Kona (Kemeny also coaches former Tallahassee resident Shannon Coates, who also competed in Kona this year)?
CK: How does it feel? To put this in perspective, there are thousands of triathlon coaches. Hundreds of new coaches are certified each year. Most of these coaches will never have an athlete qualify for the Ironman World Championships. Statistically, less than one percent of athletes who compete in an Ironman get a chance to compete in the Ironman World Championships. Having three athletes qualify and complete the race in the same year is surreal to me.

Proud Coach! R-L: Chuck Kemeny, Kate Harrison, Colin Abbey