Thursday, October 13, 2011
Lots of Learning-2011 reflection
I'll try to recap each major phase of the season in a paragraph or so, then go into something a bit...deeper.
I started off the season with my first ever real coaching plan from Kevin and Jeff of the TriSoldier Project, and I'm eternally grateful to both of them for their help with that plan and beyond. They always answer my stupid questions like "should I buy a new road bike, fly to Florida, and get my ass handed to me in an Elite Development Race with a 1500m swim somewhere in the upper 20s/low 21s?" (The answer is no) While anybody will tell you an A-race in April isn't really feasible if you live north of Florida, I didn't want to believe that and went into Collegiate Nationals ready to do great things. I didn't. You live and you learn, and this was my first of many learning experiences for the season.
In the week or so before Nationals, I decided that a good, fun way to keep myself doing something physical was by signing up for the first-ever XTERRA Jersey Devil. It promised to be an easy course, and I'd have the fitness base from my A race only three weeks earlier, so I just had to learn to ride a mountain bike, which I figured couldn't be that hard. I was wrong. The course in NJ kicked my ass, but I took solace in at least doing well in my small age group, and by having a great swim (the only translatable skill from road to XTERRA)
Then I went to my cutter and was able to keep some training going in a couple of little races here and there, including XTERRA East Regionals, where I learned just how bad I was at mountain biking. That race was an awful experience from the start, with the hopping over and across rocks during the swim, my horrific biking coupled with a broken chain, then a 10k bonk-run-walk, the first time I walked during a tri since my first (and only) half three years ago. Following that race I resolved to learn to get better at mountain biking, because I felt it could only improve my road biking as well.
My summer period involved training whenever/wherever I could, so there was practically no base endurance. I like to joke that the second I run 6.3 miles, everything starts to hurt. I finally had the race I was looking for at the DQ Tri for Autism at the end of July. That race was really special to me too, because it was my brother's first and my mom's first in several years. At that point in the season, I'd yet to string together the swim, bike, and run I was looking for in the same race, and I finally hit it just in time to tune up for my main late summer/fall season. I had a similar feeling the next weekend at XTERRA Stoaked, where I had a lot more confidence mountain biking, thanks mostly to my weekly rides with Alex from Bicycle-Pro.
I headed into Age Group Nationals with a good feeling, but I just had no idea how competitive it was going to be. I had a pretty good race I thought, PRing for Olympic distance on a tougher course, but I still came away a bit hungry, knowing I had work to do for the NECTC season....then I got sick. It started actually the day or two before Age Group Nationals but wasn't a problem that weekend. Afterward, I felt terrible and threw up off and on the next two and a half weeks. Semi-fortunately, the NECTC opener, Cranberry Trifest, was cancelled due to Hurricane Irene so I didn't have to choose between resting and racing sick. Being sick taught me the importance of rest vs. simply not working out, as well as the importance of not eating like a toddler.
My last few races of the season were all nearly perfectly executed, including The Nation's Tri-brick, Westchester, Mightyman, and Dottie's House. I realize it's strange that I did (according to my semi-reliable Excel sheet) 13 tris/dus this season, and four in the final five weeks. In that respect I'm glad to be done with collegiate racing for now, because man, does it hurt.
Otherwise, that launches me into my semi-sad reflection on how I'm done racing with a team now, aside from preparation for Nationals 2012. I also realize that I'm probably done racing DQ races, which kills me almost as much as the lack of a team does. I have practically grown up with these races, and they've always afforded me the chance to race easily, close to home, and for pretty cheap. While there's an outside chance that I could end up in the NY/Philadelphia area after I graduate, the odds are that I won't, so those races are out. I am happy to have gotten the chance to race them, though. I realize it's time to move onto the next chapter of my tri-life for the most part, Collegiate Nationals being the big, looming exception, but that has to be more a part of next year's planning than this year's.
As for what I have left this season, still looking at 5 to 6 cyclocross races across the mid-Atlantic and New England areas, as well as a half marathon in mid-November. Next season will kick off with hopefully a race over spring break in Florida, probably another late-March duathlon, Collegiate Nationals, then it's up in the air from there. The only semi-certain race I have for 2012 after Collegiate Nationals is Escape from Alcatraz. The rest is undecided between local races, 70.3s, and others.