2016 is not quite over, yet it is time to start thinking about next year. At this time last year my goals were clear: do whatever I could to succeed at Ironman 70.3 Hawaii, a.k.a. "Honu." Even though my result was a DNF I had a great time preparing for the race, and definitely want to do it again. When? I doubt that I can improve enough to warrant the time and expense of another attempt in 2017. Besides, there are a lot of things I have not done, and I think I can use them to work on the improvements I need for success in long course triathlon. Better to work hard and plan a return to the Big Island in 2018.
As my 2017 plans began to coalesce I realized that I might improve more by focusing on one skill at a time. One of the challenges of triathlon is the need to divide ones time between three activities, swimming, cycling, and running. Oops, I left out sleeping. Well, that goes with any sport. Oh, and eating. Did I leave out anything? Beer?
Seriously, when I hang out with swimmers I hear about the daily trip to the pool. Same for runners; how can you consider yourself a serious runner and not run twice a day, every day? Anyone serious about cycling only gets off the bike to sleep.
One complaint I often heard from my fellow age group triathletes is that they admire professionals because training is all they do. Working out is their work. The truth is, even with nothing else to take your time there are limits to how much training your body can absorb. The average body will soon break down trying to do everything completely all the time. Someone once said that one characteristic of elites is their ability to train more without breaking down. That is something you are born with. The rest of us need to make the best with what we have.
Now let's delve into a less well studied area: learning and retention -- whatever it is that happens when we do a workout. When I say "learning" I do not mean memorizing a bunch of facts. I mean practicing a skill until you get really good at it. Increased strength and endurance are natural byproducts of mindful practice. All sports require that the body learn skills that are not inherently easy. Practice makes perfect. Better still, regular, consistent practice makes perfect. It is intuitively obvious that too much time between practice sessions results in very slow progress. The longer the gap between sessions, the more the body has to do over. Again it should be intuitively obvious that learning new skills becomes harder with age. A twelve year old can make enormous progress after studying piano for just one year, whereas someone over 50 who never studied piano will struggle to learn Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
Where am I going with this? When I began to sketch out my year I spotted some trends, and decided to home in on them, the trends being the emphasis on one particular activity for a time. This focus is not exclusive. To have any hope of being good at triathlon means I have to keep up all three activities, swimming, cycling, and running. My thinking for this year is that by focusing on one for a time I will make a lot of improvement in that activity. After that the trick will be to stay active enough to retain the skills learned.
The chart below (click to enlarge) shows the focus by activity in terms of color saturation. The brighter the color, the greater the focus. The chart begins with this year's build to the Honolulu Marathon, thus the bright green. In January the focus shifts to the bike, at first climbing, then the red turns orange to highlight road race skills.
For my "B" races I will do the tried and true triathlons and the North Shore swim series. I will not list the schedule here because I do not have confirmed dates for all of them.
In January 2018 things get back to normal with the start of the Honu base period. Hopefully the abilities developed during the previous twelve months will carry through the spring and bring me to the finish line.