A season to remember…

Now that the season is over it’s time to step back and reflect on the year. What did I accomplish? Did I reach my goals? What did I learn? What went well for me and what didn’t? What do I need to improve on for next year?

What did I accomplish?

In a 19-week season, I raced 13 times. I won all 12 of my non-drafting races and I placed second in the one draft legal race I competed in.   I won the USAT Olympic Distance National Championship for the second year in a row in the fastest time in championship history, breaking my previous record. A few weeks later I won the Olympic Distance World Championships overall.   I set nine course records, breaking them by close to four minutes, on average. I was the fastest female swimmer at every race except Nationals.  I ran sub 6:30 pace for every sprint race, I broke 6:00 pace on a sprint 5K and was finally sub 40 (sub 6:30) for a 10K.

Did I reach my goals?

Goal setting for triathlon has been a bit challenging for me. You can say you want to get an Olympic distance PR, but the course layout and conditions will affect that greatly. Even PR-ing on the same course isn’t all that exact, the buoys could be different, the wind could be blowing harder or it could be 90 and humid or 50 and raining. All of this will play into what you actually accomplish. You may want to win your age group or overall, but sometimes the field of competition is deep or small so it can be hard to have that as a reliable goal. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have goals like this, because I definitely do, it’s just important to keep in mind how much or how little control you have over accomplishing your goal. For example, you could race your fastest time ever and break the course record by a couple minutes, yet someone else still beat you for the number one podium spot. You didn’t reach your goal to win but you still raced well, you can’t control how others race, just yourself. Point being, I try to have a variety of goals with varying levels of factors for which I can control. Here’s the goal list I put together at the beginning of the year and notes on my accomplishments:

Swim:

  • Sub 18:30 open water wetsuit mile. I did this twice, Lifetime Minneapolis I was 18:23 and at Nationals I was 18:19.  

T1:

  • Get wetsuit off faster. I practiced this a lot and had a better process to do this; I rarely got stuck with my legs on so I would say I accomplished this.

Bike:

  • Be 24 mph or greater at all sprint races. This didn’t happen at Blaine, maybe related to my legs, feet and hands still being completely numb from a 57-degree swim. Otherwise all my sprint races were 24 mph or greater so I’m pleased with this result.
  • Break 25.0 mph average at any race. This happened at a few races, Minnetonka, Chisago and YWCA.
  • All Olympic Distance races, 23 mph average or greater. This didn’t happen at Trinona; likely it’s related to the huge bluff climb in the middle of the race. Otherwise, I was able to stay above 23.0 at all my races. This really depends on how technical and hilly a course is so maybe not the best goal but it was something to shoot for.
  • Break 24.6mph average at an Olympic distance race. I knew this was a tough goal because this is very much dependent on the course, but I was thinking I’d be able to do this at Nationals. Unfortunately, that wasn’t my best bike of the year, so something to strive for in the future and a goal I can carry into the next season.

T2:

  • Fast. Not a ton of detail on what to improve here but just to be fast. Even though I practiced I still struggled more than I should have getting my shoes on. Definitely plenty of room to improve on this in the future.

Run:

  • Figure out how to stay cooler while racing. I tried out a visor to see if that would help but it didn’t really make a difference for me. I did a lot more run training in the afternoon heat and that seemed to have the best result. Even though it was a cooler summer, races where others had noted the heat/humidity was bothering them, I oftentimes hadn’t noticed. Normally I have trouble breathing in the heat; I only recall having an issue with this at Nationals running in the afternoon sun with basically no shade. I’d say I did a pretty good job getting myself more accustomed to hot conditions.
  • Be aggressive on all sprint races. I think I did this for most sprint races. My goal was to go out strong and hang on. Pigman sprint is the only race I really felt I struggled with this, but it was still a decent run for me.
  • Run sub 6:30 pace during an Olympic distance race. I almost didn’t accomplish this. I hadn’t even run sub 6:40’s at on Olympic race yet but finally ran 6:26’s for the 10K at One Last Tri. My Olympic Distance races up to this point were pretty significant races so I typically tried to control my run. This time, it was the last race of the year and I had nothing to lose so I was more aggressive from the start.
  • Run sub 6:00 pace during a sprint race. I did this at Detroit Draft Legal tri. I definitely had more legs left because the bike was a lot less intense compared to a non-drafting race. Running 5:50’s is something I wasn’t sure I could even do at the end of a race. My closest non-drafting run was 6:05’s at Alexandria.

Overall:

  • Top 6 compared to pro women at Lifetime Minneapolis. I definitely put the most pressure on myself for this race knowing I wanted to get an idea how I might stack up against the pros. My time would have placed me third but the pros didn’t wear wetsuits and Sarah Haskin’s couldn’t race so I’d say I would have been more like 5th, but still goal accomplished in my mind.
  • Win all MN races. Knowing Minnesota has a seriously deep field of amateur women racing I knew this would be a good challenge for myself and I am proud to have accomplished this.
  • Win Nationals. I knew this was going to be a tough goal. I was tempted to make my goal overall podium because you never know who will be racing and I didn’t want to set myself up for failure. That said I think it’s good to have some far reaching goals to help push yourself.
  • Top three at worlds. It was a little scary for me to actually admit this on paper as a goal. Some of the best amateur athletes in the world would be competing, so I knew it could be a stretch. Really proud to have ended up number one.
  • USAT AOY. I guess I have to wait a while to see if I receive this honor but it was something I set out to achieve this year and I think I gave it my best shot. There is definitely a great field of amateur women so we’ll see what USAT thinks come February.

Overall I definitely had some great accomplishments this year, reaching many of my goals but not all of them. There’s still plenty of room to improve in the future.

What did I learn? What went well and what didn’t? What do I need to improve on for next year?

I like to reflect on each race and think about any lessons I may have learned or areas that need improvement. At the end of last year I wrote up a list of lessons learned which I was able to draw some common themes from and make a plan how take advantage of each lesson and improve myself for this season. I’ll share some thoughts on what I learned this season.

  1. This season was huge for me to grow and develop as a triathlete. Before this season I had raced 18 tris, of which only 5 were Olympic distance or longer(Bend). This season I definitely tested my limits. Early in the year I raced back to back weekends, which I had never done in the past (Pigman Sprint followed by Trinona Olympic). Later in the summer I raced back to back weekends with back to back days (Nationals, Detroit, YWCA). In the last seven weekends of my season I raced 6 times. I learned a lot about how my body responds mentally and physically to training, racing and recovering (or not recovering). With this I think I’m situated well to make a good season plan for next year. Lesson being, when making your plan for next year keep in mind what worked well for you during this season or seasons prior.
  2. Practice your bike mount. This one is basic, but I had issues getting into my shoes on the bike my first two races. After the first race I meant to practice but forgot, as soon as my feet were getting stuck again during my second race I was pretty annoyed with myself for not taking the time to resolve the issue. After the race I walked through the process on my trainer in slow motion to figure out what the issue was. I never had that issue again. The more general lesson here, if something isn’t working during a race don’t blow it off. Take a few minutes after each race to think about what didn’t go so smooth, figure out why and make a plan how to fix it. You’ll be happier you did and likely you won’t ever have to think it through again as it will become second nature.
  3. Be prepared for all weather conditions. I always carry a bag of extra clothes to races. If it happens to be cold for the bike I’ll have a cycling jacket, gloves, socks and toe covers.   If it’s raining or cold I have extra sweats and clothes in the car so I have dry clothes to be warm post-race or more clothes to stay warm before the race even starts. I’d consider getting booties if I ever do a below 60 degree swim again, having numb feet a whole race is not pleasant and definitely slows you down on the bike and run. Lesson, be prepared for all conditions, it’s easy to leave all the extra gear in the car.
  4. Make sure your hydration system, calories and flat tire gear are well secured to your bike. Even if you think it’s secure, take your bike for a ride with your race setup to be sure it works. I had no water on the bike for two races because of issues with securing a new bottle system; I always carry electric tape and tape everything down now.
  5. Drink more water. I’m horrible about drinking water on the bike so by the time I get to the run if I didn’t take in enough water on the bike, it’s too late. I’ve been trying to drink more on the bike and take water at all water stations on the run to stay hydrated and cool as I have learned that my body reacts poorly to dehydration.
  6. Wetsuit removal, I know you might feel odd standing in your house with your wetsuit on but it’s worth it to practice the steps. I used to be a spastic maniac trying to get my wetsuit off and I’d always get my feet stuck. I now have it down to a short process that makes it easy and a lot faster.
  7. Know the course. Drive it if you can, you’ll be happier that you recognize the turns and where you are. There aren’t always mile markers and every turn may not be very well marked. I know it’s hard to do this for every race but at least for your “A” races, take the time to do it. You’ll be kicking yourself if something goes wrong I can tell you that, I’ve learned this too many times.
  8. Know your spot in transition.   If you have trouble finding your spot, mark your shoes, transition mat, aero bars or something with a colorful piece of duct tape that you can pick out. I also like to walk through transition and count the racks so I know if I’m on the 6th rack, after counting to five I should be looking at the ground (or at my bike) for that colorful duct tape.
  9. Just because your training week was “bad” doesn’t mean your body doesn’t still know how to race fast. Similarly, if your body feels heavy, sore or slow, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to race poorly. If you’ve done enough racing your body knows what to do. That said if you’re truly over-trained or maybe you were up all night etc., it might not be your best day, but if you know you’ve been putting the necessary effort into your workouts and recovering, your body will likely still perform, so stay positive!
  10. We put our bodies through a ton and I’ve found a few things have worked really well to keep me healthy and mostly injury free. Take the time to do these things (i.e. stretching, sleeping, taking an extra day off when needed, balanced diet). We can’t prevent everything but if you find something that works for you stick with it and you’ll be happy not to be sitting on the sidelines.
  11. Keep it fun. I can’t say this enough. I know I struggle with this; it’s hard for me to keep things fun with an intense training and racing schedule on top of working 40 hours each week. I’ve found that I perform a lot better at races when I go into with the goal of having fun and enjoying myself. Having that mindset can be tough when there’s a lot of pressure (self-inflicted) to perform well at certain races. Something I will continue to strive for.
  12. Don’t stress about the things you can’t control. Many times things will happen on a race day that are completely out of your control, rain, wind, course change etc. Do not waste energy stressing about this things, roll with the punches, stay positive and address issues as necessary.
  13. Confidence in yourself. I think it’s a very important “lesson”, if not the most important. I think it’s something you acquire with time and experience. It took me more than twelve years to learn this in swimming and I took a tremendous leap after I did. You must be confident in yourself and believe that you can achieve. If you’re not confident and trusting in yourself you’ll always be holding that little bit back or second guessing yourself.

That’s the long review of my season. From this I plan to make goals for next season and a plan of action for what I need to do to reach those goals. I’ll also start to plan out my racing schedule as race dates for next year are finalized. There’s plenty of hard work ahead for the winter. Hope to see you all in a few weeks at the Minnesota Multisport Awards banquet at Gear West!

 

 

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