Swim: 0 m/93,745 m
Bike: 20.1/829.5 miles
Run: 7/271.8 miles
With any training plan, you can expect big gains at the beginning of the regimen that eventually become a plateau as your body adapts to the stresses. From there it takes a shake-up, a change in direction, a re-thinking of the routine, to break out of the rut and realize new levels of performance.
At the beginning of this year, I was only a runner. I didn’t know how to swim and my cycling to that point in my life had been purely recreational. For those first months of triathlon training my skills in each sport increased exponentially as I learned new techniques and strengthened dormant muscles. But for the past couple months my paces have evened off, particularly on the bike. My training sessions started to look the same – getting in the mileage at the same pace every time. I knew I needed to shake things up if I wanted to see improvement.
So, for six weeks starting in June I added a weight-training regimen that focused on cycling-specific leg strength. And about three weeks ago I started my dedicated half-marathon training plan that includes track work, a tempo run and a hard long run every week. In other words, I shook up my routines and have been adding far more variety in my workouts. And this week I have been enjoying the fruits of that labor.
On Wednesday’s 6-mile tempo run (2 miles easy, 3 fast, 1 easy), I hit the fast three miles in 20:08 – a 6:42 pace. It was the fastest pace I’ve ever held for more than a mile. And I did it in my hilly neighborhood on one of the hotter days of the year. Then yesterday I set out for a 20-mile ride and threw in some random speed intervals – nothing specific, but more like, “Let’s crank it until the next intersection.” (Yes, I talk to myself in the second person when I exercise.) I finished in exactly 1 hour for an overall 20 mph pace. Another hot day, and another milestone effort – this was my very first ride holding an average speed of 20 or above.
While these paces weren’t totally out of the blue – I’ve run several shorter runs recently in the high 6’s and I generally complete longer rides at over 19 mph – they indicate improvement. And the thing about improving is that, once you know you can do something, you know there’s no reason you can’t repeat it or even top it. My run training is only going to get more intense in the coming weeks, and that can only mean I get faster. Yesterday’s ride was the first in which I consciously added intervals – I’ll continue to do that and continue to get faster. There’s still so much room for improvement.
It’s becoming obvious that making specific and targeted tweaks to my training is producing solid results. And while I realize that every session can’t be a new PR, I’m still excited to get out there every day and see what I can do. Each session is a test to see what I can accomplish – the goal isn’t simply to log X miles, but to log them at Y pace or with Z strategy. Not only does the variety help me become a stronger athlete, but it improves the mental and motivational aspects of training as well – it’s easier to push hard when you have a specific pace target to meet. And it’s so satisfying when you start to see real results!