Reply To: 2020 Successes and Learnings

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CoachAJ
Moderator

Amazing feedback!  Silver lining just might be reigniting our love for the sport (and appreciation for those areas that we might have taken advantage of like the pool and our training squad)! This is likely why we are all part of a group like the DC Tri Club in the first place (versus going it on your own).  As Jason shared, we will get back there soon enough…

Congratulations Jason on the improvements you have gained with a focused effort on the bike.  You have a very strong FTP!  You are going to be a force to be reckoned with on the race course (but it sounds like you already are with your podium achievement.  Congrats!!).  And congratulations to Megan who has taken on the arduous process of changing your running mechanics.  You are overriding decades of ingrained form that was seldom taught to us correctly at such a young age.  And your love for the sport is contagious.  It kinds of makes me want to do an Ironman again (well, not quite yet)!  Your focused efforts have paid off, Jason and Megan! Just wait until you can put your hard work to the test!

And while I don’t often talk about my own training, I would like to add my experience for this diverted 2020 season.  I just completed the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee (GVRAT).   It is a 1000km ‘run’ across the width of TN, which is a very long state! Participants have 4 months (May to August) to complete it (which equates to about 5 miles per running/day).  We have a FB forum to share experiences, provide motivation, cheer each other on, ask questions, gain guidance, etc.  With that as a backdrop, here is what I learned, both personally and from being part of this 19,000 participant strong group from all over the world.

Consistency is king/queen!  Like Jason shared, productive training is all about consistency and building a strong aerobic engine.  You do not need an overly detailed plan to make progress.  However, you do need to smartly execute that plan.

Smart execution is productive.  The first athlete to cross the GVRAT finish line did so in just 41 days and many quickly followed.  This created a wealth of discussions/questions/considerations.  Were athletes following periodization?  Were athletes taking rest and recovery days/weeks? Were athletes enjoying the journey? Were athletes sacrificing other ‘extras’ and/or responsibilities to make this happen?

If you do the math, it’s hard to believe that these runners were actually periodizing their training.  By not doing so, this means that most of these athletes really didn’t make anything productive out of their training (and all of those miles run!).  Instead it likely lead them to plateau (not getting faster) and increased their risk for injury and overtraining.  Some participants even talked about how they carved out 4 hours per day to ensure they got their miles done as quickly as possible at the cost of spending time with their children.  🙁

And while I love to run, as the weeks wore on, even I didn’t want to don my running shoes and get out the door.  Physically I felt healthy (!!) but the mental fatigue was real.  So what I ended up doing was just muddling through my workouts.  Yes, I had a plan but my workouts that once had some tempo/intensity and hill repeats built in, literally came down to putting one foot in front of the other.  Everything was in zone 1-2.  Not that this is necessarily poor training but it surely wasn’t that overly productive.  Thankfully I ran on some of the most beautiful trails throughout the Mid Atlantic and I finished being 100% injury-free, which was a HUGE accomplishment for me!  This leads me to my next learning.

The extras are indispensable!  There is a whole lot of talk on the FB forum around injury, overtraining, and other even more tragic situations.  Because athletes were trying to get in so much volume, they were neglecting things like strength training, recovery protocols, PT appointments, recovery days, sleep, recovery days, nutrition (daily and during the workout), etc. Unfortunately athletes were overlooking their less-than-ideal running biomechanics for the sake of miles.  Unfortunately, athletes were overlooking HOW they were executing their workouts for the sake of just getting miles in (present company included and why even coaches need coaches) or just checking the box.  Overtraining is typically a result of executing too much of your workouts in zone 3 and/or not getting enough rest and recovery.  Some of the tragic situations were athletes ending up in the hospital from falling, broken bones, etc.  Again, overlooking the extras could have played a hand in these particular situations (ie running while overly fatigued).

Training is vital.   The GVRAT was definitely not originally on my race calendar!  However it ended up being an exciting challenge that provided a goal during this pandemic and most importantly, it got me safely and responsibly out the door for fresh air every day.  It afforded me the opportunity to research new parks and trails to explore.  I even rekindled my love for camping (in order to explore even more parks and trails)! This unexpected opportunity literally has been my sanity (and health) during this stressful environment.  Like Megan and Jason, I love training and will never take it for advantage again 🙂

Seldom does it have to be a race finish to make the most of the journey!  So who else wants to share what they have learned or valued from this season?