2011 Year in Review

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It’s time for my annual year in review post.  I sit down, think back about my year from a triathlon perspective, slice it, dice it, and otherwise think about what I did and than write about it and share it.  It’s as much for my benefit as your reading enjoyment.  You can read previous write-ups here.

Typically – the way this works is I make a bunch of pretty graphs comparing the volume, TSS, IF, kJ, etc for this year against previous years, both on a month by month basis and a year as a whole basis.  Than I spend a bunch of time talking about things I did good and things I did bad – and what I need to do to continue to improve.

This years format will be a little different.  Why?  In the end, the details of the training are meaningless.  I believe there are three  reasons for this:

First, a season/year is simply an artificial construct we as humans pin ourselves into.  Success in triathlon (or life), contrary to what the corporate world tells us, is not defined by years, quarters, months or weeks.  Yes, milestone dates are critical for us to determine if we are moving in the right direction along the path of success, but we must be careful to remember that improving ourselves is a constant process and allowing ourselves to slip into predefined time constraints can limit our progress (more on that in a future post).

Second, how much or how little I (you) trained, or what I (you) did means nothing.  You don’t get an award for having the most TSS, or running the most miles.  Results is what matters – did you achieve what you wanted to achieve, when you wanted to achieve it?

Finally, what did you learn along the way – and how will you leverage that to achieve more?

With this new approach to the review, the part about results is going to be pretty boring.  While I had some up and down race performances this year, I delivered at my two key races.  In both races, I had life best performances.  One of them was nothing short of a breakthrough performance – one of those experiences where down the road you ask yourself “Did I really just do that?”  That breakthrough performance at Ironman Arizona – also checked off my longest standing triathlon goal – finishing as the first amateur at an Ironman race.

Results – talked about, so now lets talk about some insightful stuff that I learned this year, and how I intend to use it in the future to continue improving.

Last year – one of the things that I really tried to figure out was, what did I do differently between 2009 and 2010 – that was the difference between a horrid 2009 and a successful 2010.  Logically one could ask – what did I do differently between 2010 and 2011 – that yielded a breakthrough.  Last year I examined a lot of different things that I thought it might be: taper, rest, fitness, execution – in the end I settled that execution was the *best* difference, but I still wasn’t sure.

After Ironman Hawaii and Ironman Arizona – I think it is really two things.  Commitment and belief.  In late August I sketched out what I believed was a training block that would deposit me in both Kona and Tempe with the right level of fitness.  I committed to executing that block 100% – I never once doubted what I was doing.  This left me with a dozen or so workouts that boosted my confidence like never before, each workout reinforcing the commitment and belief in this path¦ In the end the result was me believing with all of my being that I could put together the pieces to execute a breakthrough performance.

Kona was not the breakthrough performance I had hoped for, but it built my confidence even more – knowing that I could ride an Ironman bike leg @ ~230 watts in hot conditions, get off the bike, blow up on the run, but still run a sub 3:30¦.it started the wheels turning¦.

While commitment and belief were two big things that helped enable the breakthrough this season, the hands down biggest item that contributed to the breakthrough this year was nutrition and I don’t mean race nutrition.  Nutrition is a bit vague of a term, on the surface you might take it to mean I wasn’t eating a healthy diet or was short on a critical vitamin or mineral – perhaps resulting in anemia.  If you read the word nutrition and thought that – you’d be wrong.  I mean nutrition in a simpler sense – purely from an intake perspective.  In an attempt to get back down to what I raced Ironman Wisconsin at last year (173 pounds) – I ended up eating too little, forcing my body into a type of starvation mode – killing my workout quality, and resulting in no weight loss.  So I’d eat less – and the situation would get worse.  On and on for several months – roughly January to August.  In late August for a two week period I obsessively counted my calories and estimated my calorie burn.  What I found was that I was significantly under-eating 4 or 5 days a week and over-eating 2 or 3 days a week.  After that period of observation, I focused on continuing to count intake and burn – shooting for a slight deficit.  The result – my workout quality and consistency went WAY up, and from September 1st to Kona I lost 5 pounds, and between Kona and IMAZ I lost an additional 4 pounds!  All the result of eating more most days (on average 700 to 800 calories more), and less on a couple days (700 to 1000 less).  I arrived at Ironman Arizona the leanest I’ve been in my adult life.

Nutrition, commitment, and belief – how can I use the identification of these factors to continue to improve my performance?  Nutrition is definitely the most simple – count calories, estimate burn – make sure they match, so that I’m fueled properly for workouts and racing.

Commitment and belief are very intertwined.  I simple need to commit to the process of executing my training and believing that I am capable of great things.  As I am a self-coached athlete, I need to make the further step of believing that I know what I need to, to successfully guide myself to success.

In the end 2011, was the most successful season of triathlon yet, and not just because of some great performances, but because of the important lessons I learned about training, racing, and myself.

Where to from here?  In a change of heart for me, my goals are staying between myself and a selected few.  You’ll just have to wait and see…

Oh, and because I am such a numbers orientated guy – I will be posting a breakdown of 2011’s training in the next few weeks, but it’s simply a curiosity – almost entirely the same as it has been before!  Crazy like a fox.