Monday, November 18, 2013

A pre "season in review" Season in Review

I am going to write a short blurb on my season because, for all intents and purposes, it's basically over.  You may find yourself asking: "Gee James, I thought you still had an Ironman to start?"  Well you, you would be right.  But, the IM was a late, somewhat spontaneous addition to the schedule so my 2013 [as I saw it in the spring] is over.

Now, that's not to say that I'm mentally done.  Au contraire, mon frere.  (so worldly).  I am very, very excited to "race" Cozumel in less than 2 weeks.  It's just that, from a planning perspective, the year is done.  I don't know what I really expected out of this year.  I suppose I could peruse old blog posts (who doesn't love doing that, by the way) to figure out what I hoped for when the year started, but ain't nobody got time for that.

I don't really see the "season" in the same way I used to (just reference Jenny's humorous blog post on my page 2 weeks ago to see the veracity of that statement).  There aren't any/many "A" races around which a season is built.  I just kind of train all year.  I never have a good answer for: "What are you training for right now?" The answer is always the same: "I am training to train." Now, that being said, there are certainly races about whose results I care more.

I wanted to do several things in 2013:

1) Win the NCTS (check)
2) Improve across all disciplines (check)
3) Have fun (check)

So I didn't wanna suck at local races.  I wanted to get faster at the longer/bigger races.  While doing those two things I wanted to be more awesome at laughing at myself and with others than I have ever been before.  On all three counts I can say that was a solid win.

I think the most TELLING statistical improvement, however, came in the form of my long distance races.  Before this year, I have never gone sub 4:20 in a 70.3/half-iron before.  I've had the fitness, but the course or my own mistakes presented obstacles that prevented me from passing that "barrier."  In 2011 two halves I did had canceled swims and two halves were "bad' races.  In 2012 the two halves I did resulted in a 4:23 (tough course) and a DNF.  I have mixed and matched various splits that were good and bad but have never had an entire 70.3 where all splits were PRETTY good.  I am still in search of that "perfect" race where I don't feel the need to come up with any sort of explanation, just a simple "That was perfect execution."

This year, I have gone under 4:20 at every half I have done.  Three of those courses were "flat" and two were "hilly." Each race had notable things about it:

White Lake - 1:18:00 half-marathon, CRAZY swim, 2nd to an out of town rookie pro
NOLA - 26.5' swim, helmet problems, survived the run (still a 1:26 or so)
Rev3 Williamsburg - CRAZY swim, 2:14:00 bike on rolling course, survived hilly run (1:26.5)
Carolina Half - ok swim, ok bike, great run (controlled 1:23 on a very difficult course)
Rev3 FL - non wetsuit swim PR (ok swim), fast bike on low watts, controlled 1:21 w/ injury break

The common theme here is really the running.  Yes, I've gotten better at swimming and at biking, but the real improvement this year has manifested itself in my ability to still run fast even when I'm not running fast.  A 1:20 is the new "normal" to a certain extent, in the sense that it's the goal for every race.  I could have run that at Florida if I had wanted to.  That's not just me blowing smoke up my own ass (which is fun, by the way; has a nice tingle), it's a realistic assessment of my own abilities.

As I used to say in golf (for those that don't know, I was an OBSESSED teenage golfer and was on the path of collegiate golf before discovering cycling): as you get better, your "misses" get closer.  The same holds true in triathlon.  Even though I wouldn't say I had that one, "perfect" race, I still raced REALLY well, mostly.  Even the "meh" races were still pretty good.

In a more general standpoint, everything local I either won or came in 2nd.  With the exception of Lake Hickory, the only people who beat me are licensed pros.  So throughout the year, regionally, I did pretty well.

As a pro, I'd say I did ok. I beat some people this year.  I finished every race. It is clear, however, that pro racing at the half distance is still ALL about the swim.  It's obviously about the bike and run too, but you stand no chance at doing well (i.e. top 5) if you don't "make the pack" in the swim.  It's just the way the dynamics work.  Rev3 races also seem to be much more competitive at the pro level than most 70.3 races.  There are just SO MANY WTC 70.3 races that the pro field, as a consequence, gets diluted.  So, to a degree, it seems "easier" to place well at those races.  Rev3, on the other hand, has a more limited prize purse race list, so what races there are that DO have pro fields are very packed pro fields.  At the AG level, however, they sometimes seem less competitive.  Obviously, there are exceptions to the "rules" but I don't think I'm far off.  At the pro level, the half is becoming - essentially - an olympic distance race.  Basically going as hard as you can until you blow.  Make the swim pack, hang with the bike pack, and run the first 10k to see who's left and just hang on as long as you can.  There is no negative splitting of the run among the pros.  At least, that I've seen.  So my pacing strategy basically means I catch a couple on the bike and then, if I have a good run, catch some more. It's a lonely way to race.

I don't have totals yet for the year, because there's still some work left to do.  But my guess is that they are going to be similar to last year from an hourly standpoint.  I've swum much more, biked a bit less, and run about the same or a little more.  All in all, it's been a good year.

Now for Cozumel.

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