You’ll never know what you’re truly made of until you’re very fiber is called upon. Race day isn’t always the best time to truly test how you’ll react. It’s why a well designed triathlon camp can drastically increase confidence. A blend of volume and intensity can stress the will power, shed light on weak areas and build confidence along the way. Thankfully, around 9 TRIBAL athletes took advantage of this opportunity to learn, grow and perform at a higher level. Hopefully, mid season we can arrange another camp like this, however 5 days would be better than 3.
– Double triathlon day! That’s right, headed into your first races this season, we knocked out 2 simulated triathlons. As a coach, talk is cheap and seeing athletes in motion in a simulated race environment tells all. Although everyone deals with different demons on race day, they all increase stress on a relative level. How will you perform when the unknown becomes reality?
– Round 1 – Appx 1 mile swim, 16 mile bike, 5 mile run….enough distance to put out an olympic-type effort without digging too deep of a hole. The big take away comes from each athletes analysis and understanding of what did or did not work.
– Swim –
The water was chilly, some chose to wear a wet suits. Some find the suit restricting in the shoulders or even have a hard time breathing due to the diaphragm pressure. However, everyone should feel smooth-er and very buoyant. The emotional aspects of swimming can aggravate panic responses and severely strain performance. So let’s re-visit the question on a deeper level…how will you handle the challenge on race day? Will you be able to keep a straight heading or zig zag everywhere? Was the logical part of your brain (frontal cortex) in charge or was your emotional survival (limbic system) instinct taking over? It’s important that you understand how this works so you can remain in control. It can help in life and during all stressful scenarios…logic based decisions can prevent negative knee jerk reactions. It’s your survival instinct that may cause you to kick furiously if someone grazes your foot, however that’s wasted energy that could have been easily, logically been dealt with. This list goes on and on but the question remains, have you adequately prepared for the spike in heart rate, contact in the water, sighting etc?
My experiences show that most triathletes spend most of their time on race day worrying about the swim and sadly, it’s a chain of events you shouldn’t have to play “catch up” from. Also, the volume of swimming most athletes take on is probably small in relation to the combined bike/run. How could anyone blame you? The swim is terribly short in relation to the combined bike/run, right? However true this may be, it’s vital athletes focus on swimming proficiently. Less emotional stress, less wasted energy, more confidence and a stronger bike and run. Who wants to play catch up from the start? All I’m getting at here is, if you spend even 10-20% more QUALITY time in the water or open water, practice sighting, swimming straight and take you weaknesses head-on…you’ll be a stronger mental warrior overall. Get comfortable being uncomfortable and if you “don’t like” something, it’s probably because you’re not very good at it. Jump in some masters sessions that mentally strain and develop a race day plan. Take what you’ve learned from others and your coache…work on them by yourself. Set-up a 1 on 1 video analysis so you can really get some solid feedback. The theme here is….work on the weakness!
– Bike –
It’s simple right? You pedal, you move…you go fast! Our distances weren’t enough to cause too much fatigue but it was very windy and it should have put everyone on alert. With a power meter it’s easy to analyze your effort. Our first round was at threshold. This means the effort and/or power is at and above 100% FTP. Most noted how long the legs took to warm up after the cold swim. Also, after feeling the burn, some let off too much. Some didn’t even hit threshold. The bike is pretty straight forward since we can analyze the data but it’s worth asking the same series of questions concerning any mental weak areas. Dig deeper into the data and remember how you feel during threshold and what processes keep you mentally focused.
– Run –
Remember, most athletes fade during the last 1/4 of the race since they may have gone out way to fast, failed to fuel properly during the meat of the bike etc. I’ve heard the excuse “I didn’t think about it” or “I forgot”, too many times and honestly, it’s a cop out. There is no excuse after completing hundreds of miles of training, yet failing to execute a vital aspect of your performance. Also, when it comes to discomfort and the ability to push through, we need to dig deeper during training! Was the limiter mental or physical? How many times have you tapped out during training…leading to the same outcome on race day? If you fail to take advantage of the daily stepping stones and confidence boosters, race day will be exponentially harder than it should be. Train harder than you race and build that mental fortress brick by brick. The consistent, daily successes and confidence boosts will add up to an enormous tool box in the years to come. Remember, consistency is absolutely vital to your gradual progression. Too tired? Too Hot? Too windy? The only thing that slows you down during a race is you…take ownership and be confident in your affirmations. You are in charge of your body and you can prove it on a daily basis.
To cap off Day 1, we hit a nice strength session focusing on that efficient pedal stroke at a low cadence. Power on the bike shouldn’t be 100% quadricep based. You need to add-in the posterior chain to help out the pedal stroke and limit the dead spot at the top and bottom of the cycle. All in all, it’s important to understand that sustaining high tempo power, preventing max effort type bursts (burning matches), maintaining a cadence above 70 rpm and selecting the proper gearing is part of your development. It’s why hill training for Floridians is so important!
Day 2: Long Ride
The journey to Clermont is very worth it. Why? Because it’s outside of the normal florida environment and has the type of terrain otherwise impossible to find in our state. Many were a little deflated having felt the up-hill battles. However, it should inspire all to get stronger. A long, tough ride offers opportunity to practice fueling protocols for a long day with lot’s of fluid loss. We started with 40 min of threshold work build into 5’ and 10’ intervals. There are huge benefits to pushing hard early on and then spending the remainder of your time slightly below or at race effort. Remember, train harder then you plan to race! Also, there are benefits to a long warm up with some harder max efforts at the end. The equation always include over-load and recovery…the duration is the main variable we alter. We need to perform at and above race effort for a sustained period while remembering to fuel and mentally keep keep it together. Triathletes should practice legal spacing between bikes at all times. Remember Ironman rules require 6 bike lengths.
The Hill run off the bike was also the type of challenge I expected some to excel with and others to struggle with. Personally, I hit a bit of a glycemic low…getting a bit light headed and weak. I sort of planned for that given the heavy trading so 10 min after the gel I took, I bounce back. It’s always possible to bounce back and you aren’t always forced to fall victim to your current mental status. FIGHT through the low spots…that’s what this whole day was about! All in all, I’m very very happy with everyone. Especially those who may have taken a wrong turn, added extra mileage and still ended up running! Setting up a hard run off the bike, often harder then your race-day, will offer huge benefits. Never be afraid to fail during training.
After our recovery we had some more open water work with race-start simulation and drafting work. As hard as it is to find feet during the race, on the rare occasion it happens, life is good!
Finally, as with everything during a tri-camp experience, it’s vital to consistently tackle the weak areas. It’s easy to correct others as we noted during our group run critique, however how can you fix your imbalances? Connect the dots on a daily basis…execute drills, look in the mirror on a treadmill, get some video of your running and always make sure you creating that mental checklist. The consistent mental awareness of your body as it moves will allow you to connect with your imbalances. Also, remember these issues are best corrected in the gym and through drills, in a controlled environment. Then after you’ve developed the skills and knowledge, you can begin to build in steps to ensure you’re actually correcting the issue during your run.
Day 3: Long Run
The clay trails are the absolute perfect place for a long run. The softer surface, rolling hills and relentless sunlight make for a tough day. I suppose most would argue they could use some bathrooms and water stops..but we make it work, right? The goal here was to get 45’ or steady aerobic running and then transitioning into 30’ or more of next 1/2 marathon or marathon effort. I knew at that point most would have been quite tired so completing over 90 min or more would be the goal. It’s important to remember the cumulative fatigue by this point. Hard work will always pay off so even if you’re unable to hit the desired metrics, a simple “completion” goes a log way.
After our run we had a nice stretch swim with some technique work. I highlighted some big problems, proposed some drills and unless you truly slow down and work on these aspects of your swim, I don’t expect swim times will drastically improve. You’ll get some aerobic benefits if you keep at it, however the swim times may not necessarily drop. Please, take the time and understand slowing down is super important. IF we can execute quality swimming at a slow speed FIRST, it’ll add value to your threshold efforts.
TRIBAL Coaches are committed to our ethics and will always do our absolute best to educate athletes with science based, proven methods. Keep in mind, you don’t need a big excursion or weekend away from your family to simulate race conditions. It’s a mindset and approach that can always be utilized. Our next camp should be mid-season and yes, it’ll be very hot in Florida! All the best during your next race and please let us know how we can better help push you beyond all limits.