So far, so good. Thanks to an incredibly mild winter through the end of December, I was able to stay consistent with my training despite transitioning down from Hawaii and dealing with the increased workload that comes was coaching in the OutSeason®.
My Swim FocusOne of my biggest lessons learned from the 2015 season was the impact of consistent, quality swimming on my race performance. I used to think of swimming as a discipline unto itself. I was looking for success within swim workouts and particularly within specific sets. That proved to be challenging for me simply because – as a not so great swimmer – progress is not linear for me in the pool. Some sessions are good, some sessions are bad. I honestly can't tell you why some are good and some are bad… They just are. But stepping back and looking at my season from a macro level, I was able to see where consistent swimming made me faster overall on race day regardless of the actual swim time that I had. My commitment was very simple, I was going to focus on swimming as much as possible in December and get some video work done.
I'm pleased to say that I was able to get some video work done thanks to my good friend Peter Russo (www.r2tri.com) gave me some great feedback. Peter is not only a fast triathlete, he is an incredibly fast swimmer. Taking that feedback, I focused exclusively on technique and was able to swim almost 5 times a week during December. I'm fortunate in that I have multiple pools near me with options to swim during the day and my biggest obstacle was simply scheduling. I feel like I made some good progress in the pool in terms of defining my form as well as finding key areas where I was able to see improvement without a corresponding increase in effort/work.
Of course it remains to be seen how much of that sticks because the holiday season is such a buzz kill for swimming. With pools closed, travel opportunities, and lots of yummy food, I have had a full two weeks off from the pool. January will be interesting to see how much, if anything, I have been able to retain.
Run Focus BlockMy real early-season focus was on a run frequency block that would allow me to raise my chronic training load on the run up to levels that I normally only saw during my previous Ironman® race buildups. Much like the swim, I have found that consistent running is what allows me to be successful on race day. As I reviewed my 2015 season I had some solid performances, but I wasn't as fast as I had been in the past. When I went back to take a look at what those workouts were from previous years, the trend that I noticed was how consistently I ran from week to week.
In 2015 I certainly ran well, but my runs were typically fewer in number and longer distance/time. Think four ten-mile runs to get 40 miles. There is a cost associated with that across the board, and I believe that that was reflected in my run times on race day. So my focus in December was to build a consistent running program that I could then ramp up to some solid numbers just before Christmas vacation week. I'm pleased to say that I was able to put in a great six week block that culminated in two big weeks: 55 miles in the first week, 60 miles in the second week.
That may not sound like much, as many of you probably know runners who do those kind of weeks for "rest." But for a triathlete who last year averaged just over 30 miles a week, a 60 mile week is a massive increase. In terms of the actual data I was able to raise my running chronic training load to just below the peak values I saw in April 2015 for Ironman Texas. To give you perspective, it took me five months to raise my run to those levels last year and I did it this year in six weeks. Now the hard work begins in terms of consistently running to keep that training load high for the next two months as my focus in training begins to shift. With the cold weather officially here, it will be interesting to see how successful I can be in this endeavor!
Preparing for the January Volume CampI enjoyed a great holiday trip with my family and friends. It was a relaxing week where I stayed active but really had no serious exercise goals aside chasing a few Strava KOMs. Now as I return to proper training in January, I have the January Volume Camp in Clermont, Florida (online here). This is our second annual trip to the warmer weather down south where we can put in some critical swim bike and run volume as a boost for the remainder of our year.
This type of training is an integral part to how I manage my trick my fitness across a year. I don't have the bandwidth or ability to sustain high levels of training volume across a year. I have no idea how elite age groupers and pro-triathletes alike can put in 25 to 40 hours a week of training consistently. Anything north of 18 hours for me given my life and work demands is completely unsustainable. So I use these shorter camps as an opportunity to raise my fitness levels.
Of course I'm coming off of a period of time when I really didn't ride my bike at all after Hawaii! I literally did three bike rides between October in January 1st, so now I am on the bike on a daily basis just putting in some time trying to get my legs ready for the long rides at camp. I'm excited to see my teammates and myself in short sleeves and shorts outside on a bike. :-) More importantly I look forward to using this as an opportunity to really get back into my training groove.
When I return home I will have a six-week block which covers the second half of January and the first part of February. I will be doing higher intensity workouts very similar to our out season training plans. This'll be my final high-intensity push before I transitioned into a more traditional race preparation phase as I build towards Ironman Texas 2016. Thanks so much for reading my update, I'd love to hear from you as well in the comments or online via twitter: www.twitter.com/pmccrann.
Thanks, and good luck this month!