Patience & Discipline: How To Set Expectations for Performance as a Self-Coached Triathlete [Part 4 of 4]

Part Four: Inserting Your Deltas Across A Year of Training

Now that you understand how your evolution of the Endurance Nation athlete happens on a macro level, it’s time to look at how a basic season operates. Our “short” season is about 34 weeks (approximately 7 months). There’s always an option to extend it with another late season race, essentially adding another Race Preparation cycle to the mix.

But first, let’s review how the basic triathlon season unfolds inside Endurance Nation, via our Triathlon Season RoadMap™ process and Coach Rich.

Season Planning Image

Please Note: This graphic doesn’t mention here of our
Transition (Recovery) period that lasts anywhere
from two to four weeks at the end of each season.

The Basic Endurance Nation Season Plan

The baseline Endurance Nation season, broken down below, accounts for all the fundamental CPCs that a beginner triathlete could possibly need. We cover this baseline — and encourage first-time / beginner triathletes to follow this progression — so they can learn the basics, but also so they can learn how their body responds to the standard workload. It’s easy to talk about training, but it’s best to see how your body responds before making any massive changes.  

Phase 1 — The OutSeason® Training Cycle by Endurance Nation

  • Achievable Hours, Threshold Training, Frequent Recovery, Core Work
  • Maintain “long” run between 75- and 90-minutes.
  • Big boost on Bike and Run Fitness here.

Phase 2 —  Swim Camp™ by Endurance Nation

  • Jump start of swim focus and stroke through daily application of swim work.
  • Recovery from the challenging OutSeason® training protocol. 

Phase 3  — Early Season Race

  • Opportunity to put early season work/fitness to the test.
  • “Dry Run” of execution protocol to expose further opportunities for speed / development.

Phase 4 — Volume/Focus

  • Short-term bike volume in the form of a training camp; no more than one big week at a time.
  • Experienced athletes have opportunity to push run volume up (but long run remains around 90 minutes). 

Phase 5 — Race Preparation

  • 100% of training shifts to race-specific work — nutrition, pacing, etc.
  • Volume consistently high, time is at a premium, Spousal Approval Units are being used up!
  • Multiple race rehearsals and race planning homework assignments to make sure you are physically conditioned and mentally organized to succeed.

But What About Outlier Needs, Based Off the Deltas You Identified in Step One?

Again, for most triathletes — especially first-timers / beginners — we recommend that you follow the basic plan. The temptation to begin modifying your plan for specific needs or performance goals is tempting, but usually means ignoring the fundamentals of consistency, frequency, etc.

Remember, you are a triathlete now, and you need to train like one. You can’t simply go out and find the best run plan, the best bike plan and then swim by following some world champion protocol. Unless you want to get injured, depressed and over-trained!

For more experienced athletes, here’s how we recommend you focus on the development of each discipline. For the sake of brevity, some of the basic steps regarding training and/or equipment are skipped as this is targeting more experienced folks. Remember that your investment in each area should be a reflection of the change you need to create — if you “only” need 3 minutes in a swim, you don’t need a 12-month focus on it!

I Only Need to Improve the Swim…

While Endurance Nation postpones swim training until after the OutSeason® Training Cycle, athletes seeking swim improvement might want to move to a more annual progression. We would recommend the following:

  • Skills & Drills Swimming in the OutSeason® Cycle, ideally twice a week. This is solo time and is focused on putting as many good strokes into the pool as possible.
  • Consider getting some underwater video during the Swim Camp™ Phase, so you can get some visual feedback on how you are swimming.
  • Masters Swimming for your Season. While you won’t necessarily do the exact workouts you want, swimming with others for comfort, awareness and the challenge to be a little faster is a great too. Move up / down lanes depending on your goals for the session.
  • Commit to four (4) swims a week during your Race Prep phase. This is “just” twelve weeks, but an additional 3,500 a week will net you 42,000 for this training block which is a substantial upgrade.
  • Maximize Your Open Water Swim Time. Most triathletes lose all swim ability when they move out of the pool; include frequent open water swimming (or longer swim sets) to set up a great race.
  • Develop A Good Swim Warm Up. This will help you in training but will also come in useful on race day when you need to move from nervous to ready to race! 

I Only Need to Improve the Bike…

Bike fitness has two distinct flavors inside Endurance Nation — threshold fitness (your one-hour power) and your endurance fitness (your race effort / power). By identifying the bike, you are explicitly looking to improve both areas.

  • Invest in Training with Power. Power meters are expensive, but there’s no hiding from the reality that they can improve every training session as well as how you execute on race day. Endurance Nation has several industry discounts to help our members with this purchase.
  • Focus on the FTP in the OutSeason®. Our basic plan does just this, but there are additional modifications we can make if there are some solid gains to be made or if you have been stuck at a certain plateau for an extended time.
  • Plan an Early Season Bike Camp. You are looking for four to five days of solid cycling. Nothing too hard, just averaging 80 to 100 miles a day in the saddle as a counterpart / boost to the hard work you have done in the Winter.
  • Dial In Your Race Set Up. Are you aero? Do you have an aero helmet? Disc wheel? Front-mounted hydration system? Sometimes spending money is the easiest way to peel off a few minutes from your previous performance.
  • In Race Prep, Focus On Bike Nutrition and Last Hour Power. Your ability to ride well for a long training session — and on race day — is a function of how well you are fueling as well as your early pacing. Make the last part of every long ride count with your best possible effort to simulate what you hope to do on race day.
  • Know Your Race Course. Take the time to do the work so you know where the hills / challenges are, as well as how to adjust your race plan if needed.  If you can train out there, great, if not then be sure to do some good online research (or in the Endurance Nation archives!) and a race weekend reconnaissance session.

I Only Need to Improve the Run…

For most long-course triathletes, tweaking the run is really tempting but there are potentially serious downsides such as injury or overtraining. The average run session is twice as “costly” as the bike, and arguably four times more than any single swim. We have to be very careful here.

It’s also worth stating that a better run is most easily achieved through better bike pacing — mainly because most athletes mess that up. Already pacing well? Then consider your nutrition — even with proper pacing, you’ll need to be 100% fueled up to be able to run anywhere near your potential.

Already ride and eat like a rock star? Then we can talk about your run pacing!

  • Start with Frequency & Durability. We’ll keep you on your same “plan” but will add a few shorter runs in the mix to add more quality runs and secretly boost your weekly run volume in a sustainable way.
  • Make Every Run Have Quality. We’ll encourage you to do Strides — several 30-second efforts around 5k pace with great form and cadence — at the end of every run.
  • Focus on Running Form. It all starts with cadence, but you can also focus on hips, shoulders, hands and head position. Find something to focus on in every session to make sure you are continually moving the needle!
  • Consider A Run Block. Most folks can benefit from a 28-day run block. Yes, running every day! But this comes after some quality training, usually in the Volume Phase.
  • Split Your Long Run. Another favorite strategy is to reduce the cost of any single long run session by splitting it between the morning and evening. A two-hour run can really set you up with fatigue, but you could easily do two one-hour runs for the same volume with significantly lower cost. This is a great way to build the early miles, before consolidating these runs into more traditional long runs.
  • Have A Great Race Plan. Everything you do on race day sets you up for the run. This should be reflected in your plan. Your run execution plan should be incredibly detailed; remember long-course performance is less about speed in the early miles as it is about simply slowing down less than the competition over the course of the full run!

Need to Improve More than One?

This is where things start to get challenging. Again, new athletes have the benefit of simply following the basic plan that allows for progress on multiple fronts across your year.

 And let’s not forget that while you might be training the bike with more “work,” you can also be improving your run through better nutrition. That’s a function of mental focus, not physical bandwidth!

If you want to work on multiple disciplines, a basic framework would be:

  • Set Up the Run Early — Begin your frequency and durability focus in the OutSeason® Training Plan so that you can carry that with you across the rest of your season without many other modifications.
  • Plan on Short Bike Volume Pops — Before race prep, set aside one or two weekends where you can get in some good bike volume to prepare your body for the transition to the full volume training program when Race Prep begins.
  • Commit to the Full Swim Cycle in Race Prep — From the four swims a week outlined above to more open water time, the technique dependency of swimming will transfer well to your race as you are frequently swimming. Additionally you can consider swimming as often as possible (not for volume per se) in the final two week taper period into your race.


Thanks so much for reading through this four-part series on Season Planning!
This is something that we do every day inside Endurance Nation, building the resources, plans and support network that enables everyone to be their own personal best. We’d love to have you check us out by creating a free trial. You’ll get a Triathlon Season RoadMap™ from Coach Rich and you can talk to Coach Patrick (that’s me!) about your year and how we can help.

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Coach P

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