Doran’s 2013 Season Wrap-Up & Reflections

Doran | January 5th, 2014 - 7:44 pm

2013 is over (wow, it flew by) and January is when everyone takes stock of things.  I like to do a review of finances, fitness, and generally just take the time to check in on where things stand.  Here of course, I’ll stick to triathlon.

One of the main drivers (in terms of time and stress) in my life is work, so it’s important to understand how that went before analyzing any fitness goals.  This year was definitely the most steady and consistent in this regard.  I had very little work travel and rarely worked crazy long hours.  I’d say I generally averaged 45-50 hours, which means I have absolutely no excuses for work holding me back in my training.  My hours are really flexible, we have a small gym at my office, and I have a short commute.  All of these things are extremely helpful in planning training around your work commitments, and I definitely had the best work situation (in terms of training) in years.  One highlight of 2013 was purchasing our first home in March, and the months of painting (done mostly by CJ, I must admit), furniture shopping, and settling in that follow.  It was definitely a successful year in that regard.  We love our new house, neighborhood, and with the garage gym complete, we are fully furnished and done with any big purchases.   But again, this change didn’t really affect my training and if anything, had a net positive effect (having a garage for bikes, room for trainer, garage gym, short commute, etc, etc).   So let’s get to the data, first in training…

Below is a graph of training volume by sport over the last seven years (2007 to 2013 from left to right).  In 2013 I swam 147,000 meters (91 miles), biked 2,206 miles and ran 397 miles.  If you add it up, I swam, biked, and ran a distance equivalent of New York City to Los Angeles this year.  While not the highest volume year I’ve had, it’s kind of cool when you think of it that way.  My swimming and biking volume totals were the highest since my Ironman years in 2008-2009, and biking in particular was pretty high.  I also can say that my biking intensity was much, much higher than in 2008/2009, and overall I was probably in the best shape of my life, biking wise.  However, it came at a cost… and that was run volume.  Again, I know I did a fair amount of intensity.  My weekday morning brick session (usually on Wednesday) usually included race pace (or harder) bike interval work, after which I would run a sub-20 minute 5k.  That’s some really intense training.  But again, the biking and run intensity did mean less volume, and my run miles were the lowest since I’ve been serious in triathlon.

2007-2013 Training Volume

Also, I really shut down my training after mid-September, so using full year volume is a bit deceptive when comparing to the years of Ironman Florida when that race was in early November, so training continued through the fall.  The chart below tracks cumulative training volume by month shows this well.  It’s too busy with all the years in it so I selected 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2013. The blue lines are swimming volume, green is running volume, and red is biking volume.  2013 is highlighted with the big fat squares at each data point.  As you can see, my 2013 biking volume was put in very early on in the year, so it had a bigger effect on my performance (higher training load) than in 2008/2009 in which I achieved higher volume, but it took 11 months to get there.  In fact, you can see that before August, my 2013 biking was higher than ever.  This confirms my thought that in July/August this year I was very strong on the bike.  The chart also confirms run mileage being very low and swimming somewhere below an Ironman year but generally about average.

Training Volume by Month

So what did all this training data mean in terms of results?  Well, they were generally the best of my career in terms of consistently placing fairly well at races. But I definitely failed to achieve my goal of 2:10 Olympic Triathlon, despite having some pretty good races.  Overall, I’d say I put in a ton of work and commitment this year and really only achieved marginal gains.  I think I am about as close to my potential (given constraints of job/life/etc) as I will ever be.  With my athletic priorities likely shifting in 2014, I have likely achieved all I will ever achieve in the sport of triathlon in terms of high performance.  So let’s take a look…

–          Smithfield Sprint Triathlon (April) – 24th of 450ish Overall – I was more prepared this year than last year, but there was some stiff competition at this race.

–          Richmond Sprint Triathlon (April) – 10th of 500ish Overall – Felt really good at this race.  The bike work was paying off, and my GPS had my 5k at 19:01 on a hilly, technical course that definitely slowed me down.

–          Running Races – 10k (39:28) in May and 8k (32:01) in June – 10k was on a cold windy morning, but is my fastest ever.

–          Rev3 Williamsburg (June) – 2:13 & 15th of 477 Overall – My fastest Olympic length race ever, even with a very long run up to T1 and hilly run course.  According to USA Triathlon’s ranking system, this was probably the best triathlon of my life, when compared to my peers.

–          Tidewater Triathlon (July) – 7th of 368 Overall – A top 10 in a good sized race, at which I only placed 30th the year before.  Again, I was on really good form in July.

–          Cleveland Triathlon (August) – 2:08 & 10th of 93 Overall – I wish I could have this one back.  Pushed way too hard on swim and bike and suffered on the run.  It also shook my confidence and really mentally my season was done at this point.

–          Patriot Sprint (September) – 2:19 & 32nd of 600ish Overall – Really enjoyed the race, though I could tell my bike fitness just wasn’t where it was in July and August.

–          Sandman Triathlon (September) – 6th of 431 – One of my favorite races.  Even in much calmer wind conditions this year (meaning easier swim and hopefully faster bike) I had a similar bike split and just missed a sub-19 5k, going 19:04.

–          Riverfront 5k & Franklin Templeton 5k (Nov & Dec) – 19:02 & 19:18 – Two 5k’s without much serious training just for fun.  Despite being much heavier than triathlon season and on very little running (10 miles TOTAL in all of October and only 36 in November), I really enjoy revving it up for a 5k.  I did manage to go about 30 seconds faster than last year at the Franklin Templeton 5k and we all know next year I will be “in it to win it” at the Riverfront 5k after coasting into 2nd place this year.

Can you find Waldo at the Franklin Templeton 5k in Naples, FL?

Can you find Waldo at the Franklin Templeton 5k in Naples, FL?

So what can I say about 2013?  This year I made the biggest commitment to the sport of triathlon in terms of time, money, and effort since Ironman in 2009. I did a lot of racing, seven triathlons and four running races.  What did I get for my efforts?  I reduced my Olympic Triathlon PR by four minutes from 2:17 (on a course with a slightly short bike distance) to 2:13 (on a course with a quarter mile run up to transition and hilly run).  I also had 4 top 10 finishes, all in races of significant size (with the exception of Cleveland Triathlon).  I made some new triathlon friends in both Virginia Beach and Suffolk, and now have guys I can ride with on pretty much any Saturday morning.  Overall, I’d say I’m a little disappointed, but I had placed unreasonable expectations on the Cleveland Triathlon and that “failure” negatively affected the second half of my race season.  However, I am really lucky to have my health (and fitness), a supportive wife, and the ability to train as much or as little as I’d like.  Onwards and upwards in 2014.

Bonus: Did you know that over a half million people competed in USAT sanctioned triathlons in 2013?  If you’re interested in the numbers behind triathlon in the US in 2013, check out this article with some fun facts from USA Triathlon.

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