What do the words “off season” mean? And what does it mean to be off season, anyway? For me it means that I’ve raced my last triathlon of the year, it’s time to focus on setting next year’s goals, and creating a periodized schedule to achieve those goals. Periodized what?
Periodization, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the proven model of athletic training developed by Russian physiologist Leo Metveyev and Czech scientist Tudor Bompa in the 1960’s. It is the reason the Soviet Union kicked everyone’s ass in the Olympics throughout those decades until the United States adopted the proven principles and saw their own athletic prowess explode. At its simplest, periodization breaks a year’s training into cyclical weekly micro-stages involving a base period, followed by a build period, and climaxing in a peak performance. It is a way of repeatedly beneficially stressing the body and mind through gradually increased volume of training without the body plummeting into overtraining or distress. Since I am not a coach or a physiologist, those interested in periodization should embark on their own research into the matter. Joe Friel’s Triathlon Training Bible heavily utilizes this model for the self-trained athlete, the Triathlon Training Series DVDs include PDFs and guides for creating periodization schedules, and just about any coach in the sport will use this proven model, perhaps in combination with power tap or heart rate data, to formulate a multi-year training plan. Online coaching, very popular, uses power tap and heart rate data to guide creation of periodization schedules. As I embark on my first coached season, periodization will guide my progress to setting personal record times.
We spent this past weekend in Santa Fe for a friend’s wedding. On the plan ride back to Los Angeles my wife and I created an initial 2009 race plan. I raced 4 triathlons this year with increasing success each time. Small changes yielded big improvements. Next year will include several of the same races spaced out to allow for the periodization schedule. Also, since travel is prohibitively expensive, and my wife is in grad school, our ability to travel for races is limited. For starters we made a list of all the races I’ve done, talked about wanting to do, or been curious about. We ranked them in order of personal priority, and then dates. Here is what we came up with at 35,000 feet:
Oceanside Ironman 70.3, April 4
Boise Ironman 70.3, June 13
Hansen Dam Sprint, August 16
LA Triathlon Olympic, September 6
Malibu Sprint, September 13
Clearwater, FL 70.3 World Championships, November*
Vineman 70.3, July
Santa Barbara Long Course, August
Escape from the Rock, September
Wildflower 70.3, May
Pumpkinman Long Course, October
AZ Ironman, November
*Yeah. I put Clearwater in there. Why? Because I’m not racing anymore to know if I can do the distance. I’m racing to win my age group.
Together we decided that the High priority items would be my preliminary 2009 racing schedule. The next step is to present this to Coach Brian and have him review the goals. From there we devise a periodized schedule for the next year, including my off season workout plans.
There are a lot of races on that list, but time and money dictate everything. I’d love to add Escape from the Rock September 9, and Santa Barbara Long Course August 10, and maybe even Vineman 70.3 July 19. But my wife is in Baltimore for school the last week of July and first week of August, so my leaving for a race adds a huge expense to the house budget (race fees, dog care, and hotel is easily $400 to start). The best thing for me is to remember that her time in grad school is a delayed gratification. This degree is going to vault her career to the next level, which will benefit both of us tremendously: including being able to race more! If magically more money and time come available I could add one or two more races, but still, 5 races that I focus on smashing to pieces is a pretty good race year. Clearwater is in there if, somehow, I manage to win a spot. It’s got to be part of the goal package, even if cost prohibitive. Winning a spot would be such an amazing accomplishment it would be worth going into debtor’s prison to race among the world’s best. (This is why it’s worth sticking around for the awards ceremonies if you do well – many people who earn championship slots cannot afford to go and the space goes to the next person in the list. Can you imagine the heartbreak of winning a spot for Kona Ironman and not having the money to go? I can. That surprise Hawaii “vacation” will easily cost $5,000.)
Therefore our planning also included a travel cost breakdown. A destination race involving airfare, bike transportation, hotel, etc. is a minimum of $1300. This isn’t a vacation – this is me racing. That means that we can really only budget one major destination race per year right now (if we want to stay out of aforementioned debtor’s prison). Add this to the fact I want to buy a multi-thousand dollar tri bike in January *and* take my wife on vacation at the end of this year and the budget just gets squeezed. Oceanside 70.3 is in southern California, so I can simply drive south with the gear and hotel one or two nights. Hansen Dam, LA, and Malibu are all local, so no major costs there. Just registration fees for 5 races comes to $900. Keeping in mind that racing as an age group athlete yields no prize money – even if you podium – this is an expensive sport. We’re not even going to mention all the ancillary costs that will arise throughout the year.
For now, at least, I’m taking a little time off. I can’t ride the bike because they are painting my apartment building and my ride is trapped under plastic and wet paint. I’m going to swim. I like swimming, it makes me feel good, and doesn’t feel like a brutal workout. I brought the running shoes to Santa Fe, but the 7,000 feet altitude snuck up on me and I was fighting exhaustion most of the time. Also, the wedding reception had a disco ball with flashing lights going the whole time which made it so I couldn’t escape the pre-migraine feeling when near the dance floor. (I recently discovered that my most hated and feared visual precursor has a name! The scintillating scotoma. I can’t even look at the Wikipedia entry without feeling queasy.)
Also, a clear indicator I am off season is that I ate TWO pieces of the most amazing chocolate toffee wedding cake made by Sherry Yard, two-time James Beard winner and dessert chef for Spago. Gods of Kobol, how I’ve missed sugar.
Taking some time off is not a bad thing. Especially as I look at my goals for next year. If I’m going to race Oceanside in April for real, I will start training again in less than two months.
Time to enjoy a swim.