4 key principles I have adopted this year that have made me a better athlete.
1. Disassociation - or not being emosh
Not a conscious decision, but something I've noticed has happened as I've got older. If I have a bad session, it's forgotten about immediately, aside from a quick report back to coach.
When I was younger I used to dwell. Training's training. It should not contain emotion and certainly not afterwards. Some sessions are good. Some are a bit crap. Whatevs. Switch off. Move on.
Bad races still take a bit longer to digest. But rather than sitting in my room fretting as Alice version 1 would do, I'll meet with the other athletes/friends, have a drink and share laughs and perhaps the odd story of woe.
So long as the bad experience inspires better performance, that's ok. I was able to transform myself into the shape of my life less than two months after two bad races back-to-back. I used the experience positively, and it fuelled a fire I may never have had without the wake-up-shake-up call.
A huge tick in the 2016 box! From 2015- mid 2016, I got a little heavy. There was nothing 'much' to see, but an extra 3-4kg of 'non muscle' is not my ballpark fighting weight when trying to compete against the best.
I have always had a weakness for sweets and evening snacks.
A few weeks of forcing it, and the lifelong habit was broken. I also know now I can enjoy a week off and slot into being stricter any time I please. I am in control of my diet, and that's been key this year. We eat well, and abundantly, but I try not to snack in evening and have all but cut out sweets. Chocolate stays, as does wine, but all in moderation!
Still helps not to have it in the house though.
Before this year, I'd never raced with power or pace monitors. Now, we work out a race plan and pacing goal before each race. Even local ones as they are practice hit outs.
The plan includes:
Course knowledge: not necessarily going round the whole thing as that can take ages, but studying the maps, the elevation gain, any technical parts and knowing any out-and-back sections where you can see where you're placed.
Who to swim with/aim for.
Power and effort on the bike in various sections and a fuelling plan down to the last gram of carb. Always carrying a little extra.
Pacing on run.
The plan will have two similar race strategies, dependent on if I need to chase or not.
Sometimes, I can't hit the prescribed power or have to be reactive to other competitors (it is a race after all) but having a plan helps you stay in control for the large part.
In my opinion, triathlon is one sport, certainly not three separate ones. I had this debate when I was part of the start up team for Triathon Plus magazine. With their strapline, 'One Sport Is Not Enough', I argued that it is one sport, and therefore we shouldn't use it. I lost. (No hard feelings, guys! :) )
To be good at triathlon, you must condition yourself to run off the bike and bike off the swim. Therefore, sessions must include these 'bricks'. I've found swim-to-bike is really hard when I've not raced for a while, so whilst most triathletes are familiar with bike-to-run sessions, I also plan to work on swim-bike bricks next season.
In the build up to my best race ever, we would run off just about every bike session, and do some sort of cycling before many hard run sessions.
These sessions do not need to be a year-round focus, but I'd certainly recommend bringing them in the few weeks before key races.
Obviously, racing gives the same effect, so 'training' races are also a good call for conditioning.
When things don't work - find solutions!