By Aaron Moss
Part 1 of 3: Assessment
For a lot of us triathletes the end of the racing season is a time of confusion and lack of direction. Many athletes find themselves wondering what to do when they aren’t racing, because there is a void inside of them where the goal of training for and racing a triathlon once was. For those of you who have a goal race, especially a substantial race such as Ironman, completion of that goal can lead to temporary elation followed by boredom and even, in extreme cases, depression.
What should you do once the season is over? First, the end of the race season is not the end of the world. This is the time of year fondly referred to as “The Offseason,” and it can be an extremely productive time of the year for triathletes. Here are some tips to head into the offseason in the frame of mind such that you can make the most of your time away from competition.
Assess the year you just completed:
Its time to revisit the goals you set for yourself way back at the beginning of the year. Hopefully you wrote everything down along the way (you did, right?) so that you can accurately take stock over the year at how things actually were at that time, instead of through the foggy veil of recollection. Why did you set those particular goals? How did you set yourself up to achieve them or, in some cases, not achieve them? What was your plan? How well did you follow your plan? How did life get in the way? Be honest with yourself in taking this assessment because these lessons learned will help you in the coming offseason, and then also in making goals the following year. Be careful: honesty does not mean negativity—be gentle with your self criticism.
Consider each race in the context of your training. It is tempting to look at your races one at a time during the race year and find reasons that they went well or did not go as planned, but one of the more useful and productive ways to analyze your entire plan is to find the link between your training and races over the course of the entire year. This includes analyzing the races that left you feeling both satisfied and not satisfied and connecting those results to your training and life in the time leading up to them and following. Again, honesty is the best policy. Try to find the common elements that resulted in the positive as well as negative racing experiences. Was there a series of missed workouts? Did you schedule too many work trips around race time? Do you have a trend of overtraining at certain times before a race? You might be surprised at how easily you identify aspects of your training or lifestyle leading up to your races that make a key difference.
Identify 3 things you believe you did well and 3 you feel you could improve upon. Remember, this is for the purpose of learning and improvement, NOT for being negative in reflection. The things you did well can be anything from “T1 transitions were in the top 5 at each race” to “I kept my bike pace average above 17 mph”. The key is to not be too general and to congratulate yourself on some things you did well. In terms of things you feel you could improve upon, this is not the time to critique your elbow position during your freestyle pull. This should be more like “My run split are slow at the beginning of each 10k” or “My swim starts fast but I get tired half way through and barely finish” or even “My training is inconsistent the two weeks before a race.” These are things you can actually retrieve from the year of racing, that have results or numbers that you can see associated with them
Relax, enjoy a break. You just completed a season, take some time and heal. Be proud of yourself and your accomplishments. Do some things you couldn’t do because that time was always spent training or racing. See how much money you aren’t spending now that the season is over! And never fear, the offseason allows for just as much spending opportunity should all that saving bore you.
You have looked back and relaxed, basking in the glow of another (or first) great triathlon season. Very soon it will be time to set yourself up for an even better season ahead. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, where we will discuss using that assessment for setting goals of the offseason training program.
About the Author
Aaron Moss lives in Seattle, Washington and has been competing in triathlons for 12 years. He is the founder of the Bellingham Triathlon Club in Bellingham, Washington and has been coaching beginning triathletes for 5 years. He is currently an Aquaphor sponsored triathlete.