A Look Back and Forward
2016 to 2017
From both a racing and a coaching perspective, 2016 was spectacular! My athletes and I raced well and, importantly, progressed in our journeys as athletes. I have continued my lifelong process of learning as a coach, and I am confident when I say that I am a better coach than I was a year ago.
As an athlete, it is common practice to look back on my personal racing for the year. I’m not going to list all my race results, for those interested, they can be found here: http://www.fordituderacing.com/about.html
But when I look at the year as a whole, what I see is: if I raced, I was on the podium (with one exception at Kona).
5x 70.3 (half Ironman) age group podiums
1x full Ironman race (1st)
Ranked 3rd in the world for my age group at the 70.3 distance
Gold level (top 1%) All World Athlete for Ironman
All American for USAT (USA Triathlon, top 10%)
I start 2017 having qualified for and planning to race the World Championships for both the 70.3 (half) and full Ironman distances. I’m looking forward to another chance at Kona!
Looking back at my training for the year, I have done more training volume than I ever have before. Ballpark figures include:
Swimming: 306 miles, 165 hours
Biking: 7863 miles, 464 hours
Running: 1934 miles, 274 hours
For a total of: 903 hours of training, not including other activities such as strength training or stretching.
This is the million mile overview. It doesn’t show what I did during that time, how that training was structured, what I did during those workouts, or how I recovered. All of those details are critical, and that’s what the art of coaching is about. But, it is interesting to note that the number of training hours is closely correlated to the level competition at which an athlete competes. When looking at athletes in beginner, age group contender, age group elite and pro divisions, the number of hours they train generally falls into distinct categories. I’m not going to provide those numbers, because the tendency is for people to decide to train at the hours of the category they want to join, ignoring whether they are ready for that training volume and what that training should look like. Increasing training volume is a very long term project. Suffice it to say that my training falls in line with the published categories of results, and my volume of training is not unique.
This is a long way around for me to talk about consistency. Yes, I took planned breaks during 2016. And yes, I took unplanned breaks when I got sick or injured (http://www.fordituderacing.com/blog/what-i-learned-from-falling-on-my-head). So that means that those hours were accumulated all the rest of the time. There were no long breaks, or long periods of minimal training. It reflects a lot of day in, day out putting in a lot of hours every day, whether I was in the mood or I wasn’t. Consistency is not sexy, and it does not look impressive to someone watching. It isn’t monster workouts or drilling oneself into oblivion, or putting most of the week’s mileage into the weekend. Consistency is about staying healthy and getting all the workouts done, the big ones and the little ones. It is about making time for all those workouts, and making them a priority. Consistency is the single most powerful force in triathlon training. It is what makes it possible to do more this year than you did last year, and that is how you gain the ability and earn the right to do more the following year. Success is not a short term project. It is a far longer term project that most people realize. It requires not just long term participation, but long term consistency, dedication and progression, for many years. Most people like the idea, until they have been doing it several months and get impatient wanting results, or tired of the daily grind of doing the workouts and prioritizing them in their lives. Then people get frustrated and quit, or decide to increase their volume or intensity too quickly and get injured, or commonly: yo-yo back and forth between getting it done and not getting it done, failing to progress as an athlete, and feeling frustrated and disappointed.
In conclusion: yes, that 30 minute run or short swim matters. Do it. Every workout is there for a reason. Missed workouts means a delay, or even a setback in progression, as you cannot build upon workouts that aren't completed. Set big goals understanding the time commitment required and with a realistic understanding of whether it fits into your life. Workouts will be designed to progress you on your path toward your goals, but do not focus on your big goal. Instead, focus daily on the goal of doing all your workouts today. Then, daily, string the days together into weeks, the weeks into months, and the months into years. All you have is today. Whatever your dreams may be, if you progress as an athlete from year to year, your triathlon journey will be personally fulfilling and rewarding….and there is no greater award or reward than that.
Susan Ford is a coach, triathlete and veterinarian who enjoys sharing life with others.