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Zachary Britton {September 2011}


"The Training Diaries" is a monthly series of posts by Zachary Britton, a DC Tri Club member who was a participant in the New Triathlete Program in 2007 and is currently attempting to qualify for the Olympics. Read the previous entry.

Olympic Trials

The first of two U.S. Olympic trials for triathlon took place on August 6th and 7th. Interestingly, no American male qualified for the U.S. team. Under the USAT selection criteria the top two American men would have automatically qualified if they finished ninth place or better. Manuel Huerta finished 25th and Matt Chrabot finished 42nd. They were the top two American males. Both Hunter Kemper and Jarrod Shoemaker DNF-ed. It should be noted that the language of the selection criteria grants USAT the discretion to select athletes for the U.S. team even if those athletes finished worse than ninth. But in all likelihood the slots will be given away at the second trial.

The performance of the American men is also notable for another reason. That being, the International Triathlon Union imposes a qualification system on National Olympic Committees, i.e., countries, as a whole. This means that the United States has to earn Olympic qualification slots through the performance of its athletes. The better its athletes do the more slots the U.S. is awarded. And although the U.S. typically qualifies for the maximum quota of six athletes (three men and three women) there is a good chance that it might only be two American men in the 2012 Olympics.

On the women’s side, both Gwen Jorgensen and Sarah Groff qualified. Gwen was a dark horse. Although she ran track & field and cross-country and swam for the University of Wisconsin, her foray into triathlon was not until 2010. USAT identified her as an Olympic contender a few years ago. Sarah, however, is a veteran. She just missed out on the 2008 Olympic triathlon team and has been racing really well this year. She will be someone to watch in the coming months.

Back in School

As a separate matter, I returned to Washington, D.C. last week to start back up at Georgetown. Being in school means that I have to cut training back from 20-30 hours per week to 15 hours per week. During this 15 hour per week time I will increase the intensity of my workouts in order to hold onto fitness and try to make some gains before heading into my base training phase. I have to increase the intensity of my training to make up for a lack of volume and frequency.

To explain, in its most basic form, the formula for training is: stress + recovery = fitness. And when it comes to stress I basically have three things to play with: volume, frequency, and intensity. However, being in law school means that I no longer have the time to do high volume training. It also means that I am unable to do high frequency training because I need long unbroken blocks of time to attend class and study. Thus, in order to keep and/or improve fitness I have to increase intensity.

Basically, I will do this high intensity training for a month and then shut things down in early October, having one week of absolutely no training. Throughout this week I will catch up on sleep, catch up with friends and revisit school items that may have been neglected. The following week of training will be completely unstructured. I’ll probably play soccer, basketball, or wander aimlessly around the gym. Then I will start my base training phase, which consists of all aerobic work with an increased focus on strength.

I really like strength training during this time. It is unlike any of the sport specific training that I do and many of the lifts require a great deal of technical expertise. The fact that it is entirely different from the other type of training that I do means that it is refreshing. Also, the technical aspect gives me something to master, which I like. For example, the proper technique for doing a power clean.


I accomplished everything that I went up to Boston to do. I established a relationship with a coach who I see myself with for the long haul and I re-qualified for my professional license, which is one less thing to worry about next season. In short, it means that I can focus on ITU racing rather than having to spend time doing non-drafting races in order to re-qualify. Most importantly, however, I created a solid platform of strength and aerobic fitness, which will serve me well later on down the road.


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