In recent years, we’ve seen the Age Group Triathlete’s calendar become filled with more and more opportunities for “epic winter training/racing events” – high volume run challenges, high volume cycling challenges, Goofy Challenges, and many more.
As endurance coaches and athletes ourselves, we certainly understand the commitment to a fitness lifestyle — build your fitness and do cool stuff with it. But these events may have some implications for your next triathlon season that you may not be aware of, or have fully considered.
Before we begin, however, let’s review our thoughts on how exactly you should be training over the winter:
- You spent all season training and racing triathlons and therefore likely have a very good base of fitness.
- Therefore, rather than having an off-season, you’re having an OutSeason® — a period of time where you step back from “I need to build endurance for my race” training and have moved towards “I want to use this time, NOW, to get much faster in preparation for next season.”
- Therefore, in the winter, we drop your training volume, freeing up recovery resources so you can absorb the higher intensity, lower volume, hard work that makes you FASTER.
- Finally, you’re not training “for” a race, with all of the mental costs that entails. Low volume, high intensity, two days off per week, head NOT in a “training for race” place, allowing us to save your limited mental currency so we can spend it closer to your races next season.
Let’s now discuss the implications of epic winter training and racing events within this context above.
Lost, or Compromised Opportunity to Become MUCH Faster
This happens on both the front and backend of your epic winter event:
Depending on where your epic winter training or racing event lands on the Epic-ometer, you may very well find yourself training for…your epic training event. Typically, intensity decreases, due to the necessity to increase volume, to train for your training event. This creates a compromised opportunity to make yourself much faster and the athlete often incurs a higher mental cost, as a consequence of the higher volume training and early season focus on an epic event.
That said, not everyone necessarily changes their training, too much, on the front end of these events. They often “run what they brung,” and just do the event with the fitness they have. However, everyone will incur some costs on the backend of these events. Depending on the event’s position on the Epic-ometer, you’ll likely dig yourself into a big hole, and need to recover yourself out of that hole. And this recovery process is another lost opportunity to do the training that makes you faster.
Mental Cost, Limited Mental Currency, and Burnout
In our experience, the typical age group triathlete has a limited amount of mental currency to apply to their training and racing across a season. Spending that mental currency now often means that less mental mojo is available to be spent closer to your race, where it will do the most good.
In other words, the epic winter event that sounds like a good idea in February contributes to significant mental burnout in June, when you need to be on your game for your July A-race.
However, at the end of the day, you’re an endurance athlete who likes to do cool stuff with your fitness. Cool usually means fun and fun is often the only reason you need to do anything. In the end, this is all just a game.
But hopefully we’ve encouraged you think about the impact that fun stuff you do now may have on other, equally important and fun stuff you have on the calendar later in the year.
Photo courtesy Charles Smith on Flickr