Is always dangerous, so hopefully this is coherent!
In trying to maintain some regular blogging, I was brainstorming what to write about this week. My brain is so full of training and coaching and podcasting these days I was like “did I even do anything remotely interesting to write about this week?!” — so, I scrolled through my phone pics to see what I have been doing. I came up with: several pictures of dogs, a picture of a hot dog and candy bars from a long bike ride, a few pictures of me saying farewell as I left on said bike ride, and a couple pictures of a new baby gate I installed in my apartment to keep the beasts dogs at bay so I can get UPS packages or food delivery without scaring the bejesus out of other humans. Hence the photo at the top of this post.
This is #lifeofatriathlete people. Isn’t it fun?!
So, since I haven’t been doing much fun stuff, I got to thinking more about my training and what people might want to hear about. Training for an ironman is tricky — training for an early season race can be a little bit trickier because you are managing things like daylight hours, bearable temps, precipitation (I won’t even write the “s” word because I don’t want to jinx myself!)…..the summer absolutely lends itself to be a bit nicer to ironman training when you don’t need to worry about lack of sunlight at 7am OR 7pm. And you know that whenever you roll out your door you’ll be warm, even if it rains!
So then I got to thinking about how important execution is in training. Early season or not, actually, the way you execute your training is SO IMPORTANT. And I’m not talking about execution in the sense of hitting the prescribed paces or the number. I’m talking about not taking any liberties to “do what you’d prefer to do” rather than what is written on a plan.
Let me tell you, from a coaching perspective, the workouts that get put onto your plans *are not* suggestions! You want to carry out these plans as best you can. And if you can’t? Ask questions…..Ask those questions in advance!
I am annoyingly Type-A about the execution of my workout session. So much so that if I am training with other people I am *very* clear about what I will be doing. There is a time and place in my season to be flexible and go with the flow…..4 weeks out from an Ironman is not that time. If I have a run off the bike, I look at the pace expectations (if there are any) and make sure that I’ll then end my ride in a place where I can run those paces of the bike. That may or may not be my home sometimes. Is it a little bit annoying to drive to ride somewhere so you have a more favorable place to run off the bike? Sure. But, the workout is the workout. You make it happen. One time, I entrusted my boyfriend Matt to plan the route for our 4 mile build run off the bike. He proceeded to take me on a run that involved climbing Mt. Everest during mile 3. Needless to say, his route planning privileges have been revoked until further notice.
Executing the day to day successfully when you are in a race build can be what separates the good from the great. And I truly believe that learning to execute things properly goes hand in hand with skills like time management and advanced planning. SKILLS! Yes, that means you can work at this and get better at it. Great news, right?
Here’s a few tips for sharpening up your execution game:
-Take in your upcoming training when it’s posted so you can start planning. You don’t want to be looking at Saturday’s training on Friday night, when your day has already been set and you’re committed to other things so you won’t be able to drive to ride for the best place to do the workout. Had you checked a day earlier you might have been able to adjust some things to make it happen.
-When in doubt: don’t try anything new on [important] training days. Just like a race!! Sometimes with a training day you can try a new ride or a route. But if you don’t know, don’t go! This means don’t assume a road will be flat for intervals. Or don’t assume a hill will be long enough for 6 minute repeats. We are now lucky enough that with computer tools (mapmyrun or ride, strava, gmap, etc) we can investigate a lot about terrain ahead of time, but if you haven’t done that work, assumptions can get you in a sticky spot. They always told me in the Navy:
What happens when you assume, Godesky?
You make an ass out of “u” and “me”, sir!
Needless to say, I learned that lesson plenty of times in my day, the hard way 🙂
-Keep it simple. Good training isn’t sexy. I follow up the point about assumptions with this one because it means that often the best training grounds are the ones you know…the boring ones. I have done 4-5 hour rides with most of the mileage being done on a 10 mile stretch of road, that I knew was flat and appropriate for intervals. It wasn’t the most epic or engaging thing to do, but to execute the workout – and more importantly – to give myself a fair shot at a successful session, that was what was required. Some training can be fun and/or epic and all of that goodness, but rest assured that the pros you know are probably doing the BORING stuff, and that’s how we’ve gotten to be good.
-Keeping a fun factor IS important. Make sure you are in open communication with your coach about this and plan that in. For everyone this is different, but it’s important. Your coach might have you make a call sometimes too — hopefully they’d give you a little tough love if you are asking for some liberties that aren’t the best to get you to your goals that you’re working towards with them, because it won’t always align.
-Make a meal plan and fueling plan around training! When I take a step back to look forward at my training ahead – often my first thought is about eating. For the big weeks, you need to be proactive about meal planning and fueling. By the time you’re in a fueling hole, it’s too late and your workouts will suffer while you dig out of it. From making sure my pantry is stocked with training fuel (NUUN, Spring Energy Gels, Clif Blocks are my faves), to making sure its also packed with the basic snacks (AND emergency snacks! I always have a pack of Oreos and a box of poptarts in the cabinet during times of high volume training!!), to sitting down and making sure you have at least a rough plan for lunch/dinner through the week. I’m also the first person to encourage you to make this as easy as you can for yourself! We live in a time where you can get groceries delivered, and meal planning done for you. If these things cause you extra stress or you just don’t know where you’ll find the time – outsource it! You are investing so much already in your training for this goal race, don’t cut yourself short now over a few extra dollars to help yourself out (and seriously, it’s only a few extra dollars – I’ve done the math many times!).
-Communication. I have touched on this through a lot of the above posts, but communication about how you’re executing things is just as important as the execution itself. As I said at the start – this is a SKILL that you will work on during your time as an athlete. Your coach is there to help you fine tune this, and guide you through the processes to do this well. But coaches are not mind readers, so make sure you are communicating!
Happy training everyone!!