This is the time of year when we begin planning our new season of training and racing, and stopping to take a look in the rearview mirror and review LAST season is a tremendous place to start the process. Now is the time to consider what went right, as well as what could be improved upon for even greater success in the upcoming year. This is true in many aspects of life, but I will focus primarily on planning our training and racing schedules for the upcoming year to optimize performance and satisfaction.

Personally, I am feeling that my performance and training efficacy have suffered in recent years, both due to aging AND to falling into a training schedule rut that (IMHO) is no longer giving me the stimuli that I need to maintain the race results that I am looking for. With my planned return to a full IRONMAN distance race at IRONMAN California this October, I also feel a need to revamp my race day fueling strategy for long course events, due to a DNF at my last IRONMAN distance event after bonking badly at mile 20 of the run in Chattanooga 2021.

Here I will outline my previous patterns, along with what I am envisioning for the upcoming season. Hopefully, some of these proposed changes will cause some of my readers to take a look at their own past year(s) and think about whether some of these, or possibly other, alterations to their training and racing habits might bring about positive changes in the future.

Like many of you, I always take time early in the year to plan my racing schedule for the season. I always like to insert some variety into this and will not really make drastic changes to this process, as it has served me well in the past. It is vital in this process to consider serious A races along with the less important B and C races, and space them throughout the calendar year to allow proper build and recovery blocks in the schedule for peak performance when needed.

Here is a place where I am truly going to abandon my past habits and dive headfirst into something new. I, and many other athletes, have often relied on the tried and true pattern of 3 week build/1 week recover, with each week containing a progressing long run and long ride that is directly related to the event distances of the primary event targeted in this training block. As I advance in age, I am finding that it is difficult to fit the proper recovery time into this type of schedule and, also, that my 30+ years of training and racing have supplied me with sufficient endurance base that I don’t really need to spend so much time redeveloping something that I already have. I feel that it is more important to incorporate strength training and quality speed/power sessions, along with the additional recovery time needed for this more stressful load.

SO, what I am planning to do is to move from a one week basic schedule, to a two week basic schedule, allowing for additional variety of quality sessions and sufficient recovery to adapt. This two week block will, of course, include my endurance days, but I am going to try something a bit different this year. With the midweek populated with interval and strength sessions on a rotating focus, I will continue with my endurance sessions on the weekend, as I always have done.

However, as I build these days during the early season, I will reach a plateau point that will set things off from what I have always done in the past, which has been the 3 week build/1 week recover repeated throughout the season. I intend to make the change when I reach the 2 hour ride and 1 hour run targets.

At this point I will keep these sessions at this duration every other week, while continuing to build the alternating weeks, based on upcoming events, while still allowing for recovery weekends as needed. My belief behind this strategy is that, by not having the heavy weekend load EVERY week, I will be able to tolerate the more intense sessions during the week, AND schedule sufficient recovery.

The end goal is to maintain speed, especially in my run, as I have reached an age where improvement is not likely possible and PRs are a thing of the past. I can still strive to hold onto as much as I can.

This is something that has been my downfall in recent years, and something that I KNOW can be improved upon. It is partly an issue of not always following my plan effectively, but also an issue of not having the plan specific enough to the course and conditions. Plus, recent developments have shown that my long followed regimen of 1g carbohydrate to 1kg body weight per hour on the bike may not be sufficient, especially in extreme heat.

In my earlier long course races I developed what seemed a pretty successful format of fueling and hydration that served me well during my events. In looking back, what I see is that early on I used the same fueling plan in TRAINING as I did in RACING. Thus, I was training my body to absorb and utilize the fuel during my training sessions so I was able to perform on race day in a predictable fashion. In more recent years I have neglected this very important key and have fueled my training haphazardly, expecting my body to respond to the race day fuel load in the same way it did in the past. This is a BIG mistake that has cost me a lot of discomfort and more than one DNF. Not again.

Going back here a bit, you will also note my reference to “1g/1kg/hr”, a fueling strategy that has been recommended for many years in long course triathlon. New developments have proven that one can not only train their gut to absorb and utilize this amount of fuel during races, but that one can train to utilize even more. At 67kg, the old formula would indicate that I should be able to take in 67g carbohydrate per hour, or approximately 268cal per hour. New research has shown that this amount, if properly trained, can be increased to at least 90g(360cal/hr) or more, resulting in less calorie deficit (one is burning up to 600cal/hr during an IRONMAN) and more consistent performance as the day wears on.

Additionally, each gram of carbohydrate stored as blood glycogen can hold 3-4 grams of water, so by taking on more fuel the body is able to hold onto more of its stored blood glycogen, which can enable the body to hold more water, thus not reducing blood plasma and maintaining heart rate stability as the day wears on. The successful long distance triathletes are not the ones who can go faster, but the ones who can slow down less during the event. Fuel and hydration are the keys to accomplishing this.

So these are the changes that I am planning for the upcoming season and I am really looking forward to seeing what happens. The proof is in the pudding, and in this game the “pudding” is RACE RESULTS. Only time will tell, but I am really excited about moving forward and implementing these changes. What changes can YOU make to improve YOUR game?