Patience & Discipline: How To Set Expectations for Performance as a Self-Coached Triathlete [Part 3 of 4]

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Critical Performance Components

Season Planning Part 3/4: Critical Performance Components

Part Three: Critical Performance Components

Critical Performance Components (CPCs) are the building blocks of your season. As an Endurance Nation athlete, many of these are already accounted for within the context of your training plan. And each level works across a given season, such that by Year Three you will be in Level Three of your CPCs.

But of course, not everyone wants to wait a few years to be better…so this section is dedicated to explaining the progression of CPCs, defining basic exceptions, and explaining how to tackle your current season goals.

These are macro-level goals, across a three-year term, as recommended (and utilized!) by Endurance Nation.  These may or many not sync up with the “performance deltas” that you identified in Part One of this series. Once you understand these building blocks, we can talk about a “typical season” and how to adjust in Part Four of this series.

What is the Critical Performance Component Progression?

Before I dive in too deeply, here is a link to the Three Year Plan for TeamEN athletes — non-members can’t see it but basically it lays out how we envision the “standard” progression through the Endurance Nation training system. Similar to the CPCs above, it favors the easy wins first and has a strong emphasis on education vs training just to train.

But there’s still plenty of work to be done…we just spread it out across the long term so there’s no sudden stress to your system; ideally each element of the progression builds off of the next. 

This Critical Performance Component Progression is a more granular version of the Three Year plan, with actual elements of your training highlighted as the topic is about Season Planning, and our bias is towards action. But, a bit more detail before we start moving things about.

Level One CPCs — Baseline stuff, required by all. Achievable and easy from a logistical standpoint. Could be summed up as simply “follow the plan and don’t get hurt” — in reality you are laying the foundation for a solid first year where the majority of your energy is focused on establishing and maintaining a good plan.

Level Two CPCs — Building on your Level Ones, you can now add more volume to your training plan and add an emphasis on cycling to your skill focus. You are encouraged to race more frequently at a “comfortably shorter” distance to refine your nutrition, pacing and race execution.

Level Three CPCs — Here we begin to focus on the elements that will separate you from the competition and put you closer to your goals. We can focus on your run development as we continue to refine your swim; we also encourage you to explore equipment upgrades that can help your performance exponentially as your physical capacity is getting close to maxed out. You will also specify some key races where we will put your “system” to the test! 

Why In THIS Order?

Almost every triathlete I talk to, when asked where they want to improve this year will say they want to get faster on the swim, stronger on the bike and set a run PR. Typical Type A triathletes want incredible improvements on a super short timeline and a budget that still let’s them race a lot and upgrade their watch, shoes and bike to the next coolest thing. 

Besides, it’s helpful to remember that most of us are running at roughly 95% capacity. You are already getting up at 4am to workout, and TIVO-ing your favorite shows so you can watch on the trainer. You already have foam rollers and yoga memberships; and we haven’t even started with what the kids are up to, the projects around the house and anything else you have committed to.

Your Goal: Work to Build Your Capacity From Year to Year

Reality dictates that there is a basic progression of things. A total newbie doesn’t need a $10,000 bike. A veteran shouldn’t _still_ be nailing her nutrition. Ideally you work from left to right, maintaining what you have gained so that your focus can remain on improvement.

Using the CPC chart, you can see what you should be focusing on each year. More importantly, you can see which elements you should “already” have on autopilot — there is no dropping one thing for another. You are essentially working on a level until it become more than just practice, it’s a habit…simply something you do. Only then can you move to the next area to tackle the next “new” challenge.

If you are looking to get started with the sport, then you are all in with Level One and there are no issues — follow the plan! If you are a veteran triathlete will a sub-par swim but a solid bike, then you can invest most of your focus time on improving your swim. If you have some experience, but need to improve the bike, for example, then you will fit right in with Level Two. 

Are You Exceptional?

With any system, there are outliers. Perhaps you were a collegiate swimmer, and can really just focus on the bike and run. Perhaps you have a running or cycling background, or maybe you are just a machine.

Whatever your experience and strengths might be, they essentially allow you to focus on the other elements of the CPC progression. You might even be able to fast track some of your training, moving faster than recommended.

But remember not every individual strength is an asset in the world of triathlon. Most excellent runners and cyclists have a “natural” pace that has no place inside a triathlon. And most of them have no idea how to eat across a 5- or 10-hour day. Use this situation as an opportunity to improve the other areas of your triathlon game.

Great, But Now What Do I Do?

As we mentioned above, these are macro-level goals across a three-year term, as recommended (and utilized!) by Endurance Nation.  These may or many not sync up with the “performance deltas” that you identified in Part One of this series. Once you understand these building blocks, we can talk about a “typical season” and how to adjust in Part Four of this series…stay tuned!



Coach P

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