So, what did I learn this season, my first season racing in the professional field? It was my fourth summer doing triathlon races and third summer with the long distance things and quite a lot time spent on this kind of life style. I must note that I still worked in the office quite a lot. I can’t afford my life without doing my IT consultant work. It is a cruel fact I have to live with and accept in my every week training routines.
1. Race dynamics
As assumed, it is different to race with a small professional women’s field than with age groupers, mix of both men and women. Fast swimming skills become much more important. You need to get out of the water with others in order not to bike alone and loose time and advantage in the bike. This is especially important in half distance races. In IM70.3 St. Pölten, age groupers started 15 minutes behind professional women, which made the roads in bike leg very empty.
I wasn’t good enough swimmer this season. My first race was a disaster, a few ones after that not, but not very fast either. In the full distance (IRONMAN Italy), fast swimming didn’t matter so much in the bike leg, as I could start the bike leg with some fast age group men, but in total time it was important. I really look forward to putting more effort on improving my swimming, and I want to see if next summer I get out of the water in better position. My cycling had improved so that I could have stick to a group of fast ladies, but this time was too much behind after the swim.
Swimming with the small field is also harder. So is cycling too. Thus I’ve stopped looking at age group women’s split times. That is a different race with different race dynamics.
Good aero position matters A LOT. It is totally not all about watts, watts and watts.
I have still plenty of space for improvement there.
3. Build your own support group
Triathlon is an individual sport, but in the end it is actually a team sport. Nobody is good alone. Nobody has energy to both train, race, organize and plan things, find sponsors, travel, and much more, alone. This has become even more important now.
The last two years have been in that sense new and special to me. I’ve been “forced” to gather people around me, who are willing to help and bring forward and who are supportive, glad and positive in both normal training days as in race trips.
At the same time some other people vanish from my life. Triathlon is not interesting for everybody, and I get that.
4. Price money matters
When I drop some of my office work and monthly salary to have more focus and time in triathlon, price money becomes more important. Very simple. When starting this season, I was afraid that I will do a minus saldo season, but luckily it ended up a bit more positively.
I never earlier thought that I would be comparing races on how much money you can get, but it is very true now.
5. Trust the process and be happy about small progress
When you train a lot, there are both good and bad days in training. There are days when I am not better than the day before, although I would like to get faster and stronger every day. I’ve tried to learn not to analyze my shape and sessions far too much, but to concentrate on the overall process and progress. Small pace and power increases should be celebrated though. There aren’t anymore so big progress steps as when I started this sport.
6. Sleep and food
All things matter. There is no point only mastering training when food and sleep are almost as important. I think I’ve slept too little for many years, so during the last year I’ve tried to build up routines of more sleep and more time on sofa. However, you can’t still buy more time…
7. Don’t get sick or injured
During the last three years my most important learning is for sure not to get injured or sick and do things that support it. The receipt for it has been not to overdo, listen to my body and skip a planned morning session if extremely tired and in a need of a longer sleep. That way I’ve probably skipped a few flus.
However, how much I tried to be smart and do things right, I got very strange angle/shin problems last December, which continued until April. I don’t know where they came from and why it took so long from them to go away. So, my running winter was almost a disaster. Lesson learnt for next winter again: don’t get injured, be even smarter and more diligent with preventive strength training. Running training is needed next winter.
Luckily I caught a flu only once the entire year.
8. It was still a lot lonely work
I’ve always trained mostly alone. It has both positive and negative sides. I can always decide the pace myself and listen to my body and head, not somebody else’s. I also spare time as I can plan everything to fit only my own schedules, not to somebody else’s. On the other hand, when I have a bad day or the weather is shitty, I need to struggle through the roughness alone. I fight with head and side winds alone (= I’ve noticed that it helps in races though). Group training would for sure help me to push harder when it is needed. I learned again this season that I need to make a difference and come out of my own “lonely training bubble” every now and then. I would need to train with the faster.