The quick synopses of these year’s trials reads like a tragic play. As a preface, I failed before the season even started by trying to do too much this year. I can no longer spread myself thin trying to race competitively in ITU races up to 70.3 events. Unfortunately, in trying to do too much, I ended up doing everything poorly. In Act 1, I started the season full of hope and had some mediocre race results from March until early July where my biggest issues were merely attempting to stay sharp for too many distances/styles of racing and not getting my bike fit dialed in properly. The groundwork is laid as each sub par result leads me to train harder not smarter. In Act 2, the perfect storm begins to surface on the horizon. I left my coach and started working with multiple single sport coaches rather than one triathlon coach. In retrospect at this point, I started doing all the work of three single sport athletes and headed down the path of overtraining. Tragically, the worse my results, the harder and more I trained. In this act, the injuries started to creep in as I tore the joint capsule in my 2nd metatarsal in my right foot. Instead of heeding this injury as a red herring, I continued along my path pushing through the injury with brute force. As this act closes, I made the fateful decision to race un-rested in my last event before the ITU world champs and train through it like a hard workout. Already dancing on the line of overtraining, I have no doubt that this pushed me over the edge. At the start of Act 3, I arrive at the world champs overtrained, sick with a virus, and exhausted. After a horrible result, I arrive home and continue to feel awful for weeks only to find I had a recurrence of the Epstein Barr virus along with overtraining syndrome. With a month of rest, I start to feel amazing and the play seemed to be heading for a happy ending. In the light of a new day, I begin to train for Clearwater and am rejuvenated by the hope that I can finish my season off with a redeemable performance. The training was going better than expected until my friend injury came to visit yet again. A second MRI of my hip this week will tell me if it is just a torn labrum or additionally a stress fracture in my hip. Needless to say, I won’t be able to race Clearwater and the play ends with a sad tragic figure on a ledge ready to jump…start next season and juice lots of lemons into a boatload of lemonade.
Top five lessons learned from this year’s school of hard knocks:
- For most type A triathletes, it’s best to stick with one specific triathlon coach rather than single sport coaches. In addition, if you don’t have a coach now, run don’t walk to get one especially if you have a tendency to overdo. Rest and recovery is vital and taking a day off doesn’t mean you’re a slacker.
- Injuries are signs not be ignored. When you get injured, there is a reason. Don’t just tape it, suck down some Advil, and continue your current training as if nothing happened. Evaluate your races and training, take a mid-season recovery break for a week or two, and come back stronger.
- Illness is a red flag too. If you get even a cold, don’t exacerbate it by being “tough” and trying to train through your sickness. There is a difference between a good tired from hard training and the exhaustion that means you are sick and/or on the path to overtraining. Start listening to your body and learning how to tell for yourself. If you’re consistently feeling tired everyday for a week or two, then something is wrong. Take some easy days and keep adding in more recovery until you bounce back. It’s normal to feel tired after hard sessions but not weeks on end.
- Look for trends in your body and performance to learn how best to proceed. An interesting correlation for me is that the last time I had Mono I got a stress fracture. By the time, I reach the exhaustion point of overtraining; I need to realize that there are probably bigger skeletal issues lying dormant. Keeping a training log and diary can help to unlock these trends in your own body.
- Finally, set goals but reach for them with enthusiasm. Even for professionals, this sport must be fun, and there could be something wrong if you’re not 100% excited to train everyday. When my enthusiasm wanes, it is usually a sign that I am heading toward overtraining. While every session may not be fun and some goals are evasive, take time to ensure that you are enjoying the journey that is triathlon.
I hope that sharing by my experiences and lessons I am able to help even one person avoid my mistakes and stay on the happy healthy path of triathlon success.