Early Season Build
When I first took up triathlon I lived in a place where we had four distinct seasons and winter was at least from October to May. It was so cold during the winter months that you couldn’t train much outdoors. There were no real winter races except the local fun runs.
That made planning the year pretty simple. Your race season would be from May to August. Winter months were for building strength and skill. Spring was the time to get some miles since you got to go outside. You were strong and fresh as you left the dead of winter and excited to put in some time outside, then get into full race mode for the summer.
Once I turned pro I started to travel, and with that came the revolving/endless summer and race options 12 months of the year. I had to learn to put true planning skills into place.
Pacing the year
My good friend Joanna Lawn talked with me in detail about the importance of pacing — not pacing a race, but pacing the year.
- Define where you want to be: Start by defining when you want to be at your best in the year — pick a three-to-four-month window for when you want to be your strongest and fittest. Everything before that window will be a building block. Be sure those key months match your environment, your work schedule, your family's life, etc. There will probably be bumps along the way and you will need to be patient while planning and executing the process.
- Gear choices: When you start your season, you should feel fresh and ideally have a bit of extra weight to burn off. This is the time to finalize your gear choices and make sure your bike is fitted properly and everything is dialed in.
- Fitness and health: In the early season, you should feel strong, but far from being able to handle hitting key sets. Know that it’s a work in process to get to your goal sets. When you’re able to hit them, it should be race time, so you’ve got months to get there. Take the time during the early season to make sure all old injuries are settled or managed. Get your family and work life in order as you as you head into the spring training load of more hours and races away from home. Get “all your ducks are in a row” before you hit the intensity of the race season.
- Benchmarks: It may be tempting to compare yourself to last year. But knowing where you are right now as you head into the season is great for setting targets and goals, as well as making your plan. You’ll be able to develop your plan based on where you actually are, rather than were you think you should be. Give yourself a starting benchmark with a few sessions, with your nutrition and potentially physiological testing. Then develop your plan from those benchmarks.
- Early season racing: It’s also a good idea to plan some low key races as you begin your season. I call this dusting out the cobwebs before the big show. Pick a couple C or B events that are very low pressure. You can use them to race yourself towards the form you want for your key events later in the year.
If you build slowly towards your key months and have fun with the process and the challenges as you come out of winter, you’ll set yourself up for the big training and you’ll be poised for a great season.