My 2016 training started this week after taking some time off after the big 2015/2016 that I had. As I mentioned in earlier posts I was struggling a little bit to do minimal training. I have been back into it this week and with some big races and big goals ahead of me I was ready to rip right in and start burying myself with serious volume. My coach, Ben Hammond, works for a company called Today's Plan which is an advanced training program for planning and analysing my performance. I was excited to get going and when I saw the first week of training I was, well... a little surprised. The week was easy. Very very easy. My first thought was that it was too easy. I am racing the World Championships this year. I see what other athletes are already doing. I need to be smashing myself. I am however a model athlete who does exactly what their coach orders (most of the time) and followed the plan perfectly.
The toughest session for the week was going to be an FTP test. This is a test on the bike to determine your functional threshold power which is the highest number of watts you are able to sustain over an hour period. Watts are the amount of power you generate when riding a bike. To get an idea of how these numbers work watch this video of a cyclist powering a toaster. I am a pretty good cyclist and was convincing myself that despite the time off I would still be able to see an improvement on my last result. I was wrong. The test was horrid and I barely managed to keep going. My score was 30 watts (which is a lot) lower than my last test in December... Regardless I still felt like I should be doing more training. This week we also had new carpet installed in our apartment and it has been very full on with the removal of our existing floor and basically moving all of our furniture out of the apartment. It wasn't until yesterday when I realised that while I wanted to train longer and harder, my body was absolutely exhausted. My sessions yesterday were literally a 40 minute low heart rate run and a 60 minute low hear rate ride. I was so tired I struggled with even that. On my run my heart rate was all over the place. So while the mind was willing and able and ready to go the body was not being playing ball.
Something I notice with other athletes when talking to them or seeing their sessions is that triathletes are chronic over-trainers. How many people do I see doing all of their work at threshold or above. The answer is a lot. How many of these people struggle with niggles and injuries? The answer is also a lot. How many of these athletes are relatively new to the sport? Again the answer is a lot. I have been racing triathlon for a while now and I know that I should not go and smash myself every session but despite that knowledge, I still wanted to. With my body feeling the way it did yesterday I am confident that if I was training myself without a coach I would probably be injured or sick right now. I would have gone too hard too quickly and hurt myself.
My swim sessions have been particularly frustrating. I know I am a 1:20/100m swimmer and while I have been swimming this week I feel like the technique is good. When I get to the end of the 100m I was annoyed because the times were always around the 1:40/100m mark. How did I lose 20 seconds in 3 weeks? Seriously, count 20 seconds. It is a long time. Old Tim would have tried to swim faster. The technique would have become more erratic and the efforts would have become harder. The new training program means that my coach can literally see exactly how the session went. So I almost had his voice in my head saying to ensure it is an easy set. The internal battle between my mind which wants to train hard and my body which is not where it was a month ago is something that many people probably struggle with.
What gives me confidence though is knowing that there is a plan in place. As my training continues I know that the intensity will come back. I know now from experience that the swim times will come down and will improve to new levels I have not achieved before. The power on the bike will go up and I am expecting to see it grow well above where it was last year. I have faith in the program my coach has given me. Why wouldn't I? The improvements I have seen under him are all the evidence I need to know it works. The funny thing to consider though is that 2 years ago, I struggled to get my swim times under 2:00/100m. My power would have been significantly lower and my average run pace was probably 30 seconds per km slower. While I feel like I am training slow and not hard enough, my base is significantly better than it was 2 years ago or even 12 months ago.
I am excited to see how our much more technologically advanced approach will work this year. I am also excited to start training with power. I am honoured to be partnering with Pioneer this year and will be excited to see how training with power will change the way I train and race. I have been a chronic over-rider in the past. By now having all the tools to ensure that there is next to nothing left to chance as well as a coach utilising state of the art technology, I am expecting to train harder and smarter than ever before and as a result I will race harder and faster too. 2016 is a big year with a number of big races. I started this year with cracking the 4:30 barrier. Who knows where I am going to end the year but I am confident it will be significantly faster.
At the end of the day it is ridiculous to assume that after a break you will come back exactly where you left. You take a break for a reason. I am racing a half marathon this weekend with a friend of mine and I am expecting absolutely nothing. I was entered as a birthday present and am going to try and enjoy the experience. My friend won the marathon last year so I am just hoping to finish as quickly as possible so I can then cheer him on. But if you are reading this and are feeling tired or are constantly dealing with injuries maybe you need to look at taking some time off. Look at all of the best athletes in the world. They do not train 12 months of the year. They have certain races they peak for and others where they are not in the best condition. When you do come back to your training make sure that you ease back into it. By going too hard too soon you will not become a better athlete. Instead you will probably hurt yourself and be forced to take time off which will set you back even further. It might seem hard but it is absolutely the best option.
Train smart, don't rush into it and remember to TRI!