The Data Says, Don’t Overthink It

Monday night I sat down to plan out my off-season recovery season. Part of this is thinking about what I want to do between now and spring—a trail race or two, trekking in Patagonia, and another Knighthood quest, perhaps?—and what my key triathlons and events for next year might be. It’s too early to say for sure what I’m going to sign up for beyond the NE Season Opener tri that I’ve done every May for the last five seasons, but I can tell you that I entered the lottery for next year’s Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in San Francisco. Challenge Maine in late August is always fun, and if the timing is right, Ironman 70.3 Muskoka could show up on the calendar, too. We shall see.

There will also be plenty of cross-country skiing. Oh yes, there will be!

Another part of planning is figuring out what to focus on during base training, that lightly structured time of the calendar aimed at building aerobic capacity without adding lots of fatigue. There’s no real plan except not to overdo it. Still it needs to have a little bit of direction, and for this I need to know what my strengths and “limiters” are. Where do I need to invest time?

So I did what any self-respecting triathlete would do, I went to the data. I keep a spreadsheet of my results, which includes my times and placing by discipline. It also includes the best swim, bike, and run results overall and for my age-group.

I noticed some interesting things in that spreadsheet.

First, the basics: I’m getting faster, both in absolute terms and in comparison to my fellow competitors. Yay! Also, my age group is tough. I consistently do better overall than against my fellow 40-44 year-olds.

Now here’s the interesting bit. Looking at where I place relative to other people in the race, my bike is the weakest of the three disciplines, and yet I am closer to the fastest time on the bike than I am during the swim and the run. I find this fascinating, especially since the bike is always the longest of the three legs; you might think I would lose the most time here.

Also, I excel on the run, which is both strange to me, since I’m not particularly fast compared to the fastest runners—I’m consistently 25-30% slower—and also not really a surprise. I passed 263 people during the marathon a couple weekends ago. Seriously! I went from 898th at the end of the bike to 635th at the finish line. I was a bit shocked to see that. It put me in the top 80% of marathon times.

What then do the next six months have in store for me athletically (beyond not taking anything too seriously and having fun)?

More strength work for sure. I’ve found that this helps my results and resilience. My races are faster and (*touch wood*) my body is more capable of enduring all of the workouts and racing with less injury. The muscles from my hips to the middle of my legs get the most tired and are the most likely to hurt during and after the bike, so I’m going to give them some extra attention.

At the pool, I plan to go through the Swim Speed Workouts program again, since it has really helped over the last couple of winters. And there are a few body position tweaks I want to make to get a little bit more efficient. I’ll wait until spring to focus on any actual long swimming.

Running will be what it will be. I’ll keep doing a couple of small outings along with a long run each week, but I won’t really stress it. I’ll hit the trails and have fun and work on honing my mental sharpness. I would like to get faster, but I really wonder how much more my body can give me here.

The bike though . . . Oh the bike! I’m going to keep getting outside whenever the weather is good, but the bike and I are going to have so much fun with Sufferfest videos in the “love dungeon” this winter. If I’m going to get faster on the bike, I’m going to have to work hard at it. This is the winter to see if I can push myself on the bike.

How about you? What do you have coming up? How are you spending the recovery season?

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2 Responses to The Data Says, Don’t Overthink It

  1. Caroline says:

    This is quite interesting! And a clever way to keep track of your progress. I dig it!

    Have you done a post about the Swim Speed workouts before? I’m interested in learning more.

  2. Victoria says:

    Yes to the Knighthood Quest. I’m still hoping to make that happen!

    Also, can you teach me how to spreadsheet? (Yes, I used that as a verb. My spreadsheeting skills are basic.)

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