For most of us, the 2017 race season is winding down. We are enjoying some down time — glad for a break from the early morning long rides, grueling track workouts, and rigors of training and racing in general. At the same time, we are already starting to turn our attention to 2018. We are thinking: “What races should I do next year? Should I try a half Ironman? Or focus on sprints? Maybe try a duathlon? Maybe even try an adventure race?” Having such thoughts at this time of year is a good thing, because the off-season is the perfect time to assess the past year, choose your key races for 2018 and develop a training program to help you perform your best at those races.
When assessing the past year, it is important to look beyond your times and age group placements. You should be thinking about what exactly went right for you and what went wrong. Did you consistently have a great swim and bike, but consistently fizzle out on the run? Did you repeatedly come out of the water slower than expected, and then spend the rest of the race playing catch-up? Did you fare well in the sprints, but lack endurance in the longer events? Assessing your strengths and weaknesses from the past year will not only help you appreciate your accomplishments from 2017, but it will allow you to focus your 2018 training on the areas you need it most.
Selecting your key races early will also help to focus to your training. As many popular races now fill up as much as a year in advance, it’s often necessary to register for races early as a practical matter. Aside from this consideration, however, choosing your races early accomplishes two important things. First, by having races on your calendar, you will be more likely to start – and stick to — your training program. Second, this approach allows you to structure your training in a way that has you in peak fitness for your key races. For this reason, when designing a training program for an athlete, I like to start with that athlete’s key races for the year and then work backwards before planning what he or she should be doing in the early part of the season.
Too often, athletes train too much or too hard early in the season and have nothing left in the tank when they decide — in the middle of the summer — that they really want to race a marathon or half-Ironman in the fall. To avoid this common pitfall, your off-season training and the early phases of your 2018 training program should consist of significantly reduced volume and intensity. Instead of focusing on going long and hard, there are many other things you can work on – you can spend increased time on the sport you want to improve; you can do drills to improve your technique and form; you can build your aerobic base with nice and easy aerobic efforts; and you can develop upper body, lower body and core strength by committing to a consistent strength training regimen.
The bottom line is that the off-season holds tremendous value for you as a multisport athlete. You should embrace the opportunity to not only rest, but to reflect, plan ahead, and gear up for a successful 2018 season. Enjoy!
Bill Hauser, Founder & Head Coach of Mid-Atlantic Multisport
Bill has been active in endurance sports, both as a coach and competitor, for more than 20 years. He has experience coaching athletes of all ability levels, from beginners to elite-level competitors. Bill is one of a select number of coaches in the United States to have received Level II certification by USA Triathlon (USAT), the national governing body of the sport. He is also a USAT-certified Youth & Junior coach and served as the Head Triathlon Coach for the Southern New Jersey Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training Program. Bill was selected to the 2001, 2002 and 2003 Triathlon All-American Teams by USAT and represented the United States at the 2002 Long Course World Championships in Nice, France. He has competed in the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii three times and has run nearly 20 marathons around the world. His Ironman PR is 9 hours 38 minutes and his marathon PR is 2 hours 42 minutes. Bill has served on the USA Triathlon Board of Directors for the Mid-Atlantic Region since 2002.