The Coached Coach-- Part 3: Season Reflections- The Technical Journey
This season I vowed to improve my endurance, try something new- a 70.3, chase a short-course World Championship qualification, and to have fun along the way. In retrospect, this was a lot to take on, and I thank my lucky stars that a secondary goal was to become a better coach by being coached myself. Because my coach and sister, Emma Maaranen with Wenzel Coaching, reined me in and egged me on at the appropriate times, I was successful in my ambitious undertakings. Whether it’s with me or someone else, I cannot encourage athletes enough to seek out the guidance of a coach; it’s game-changing.
I have learned so much this season, both technically and mentally:
Calories. You CANNOT omit solid daily nutrition, pre-workout snacks, calculated training and race fueling, or post-session recovery calories.
I learned this lesson over and over and over again, and I may finally have it down. If I’m headed off for a six hour ride, whether it’s appetizing or not, I’ll start eating 30 min into the session, shooting to put in roughly half the calories burned per hour. And we’re not talking a nibble of a bar or small scoop of sports beverage; we’re talking major calories! To get a sense of how many calories you burn per hour cycling and running, check out these tables from The Feed Zone Portables.
I quickly learned that without my 300-450 calories per hour (depending on intensity and duration), I turn into a dark and raging she-beast. No matter how easy the ride, if I get hungry, it’s game over; I won’t be able to finish, and I’ll have to make the shameful call for a ride home.
Prepare for extreme conditions. Rather than hope for the best, there are actually ways an athlete can proactively prepare to race in extreme temperatures or altitudes.
In preparation to leave the dry Utah mountains for the USAT National Championship in the muggy
Midwest involved nearly two weeks of melting away during progressively longer intervals in a steam room. I won’t lie; the process was miserable, but the confidence I felt from my heat/humidity preparation was priceless. No more heat illness for me!
Long, slow distance. Keep it slow!
Being reined in and then reined in some more, I was seriously aggravated with my coach (sorry, sis!) as I began my aerobic training last winter. She had me moving so slow when I was confident I should be working harder and going faster; surely my training zones were wrong, my heart rate monitor wasn’t working, and my trainer was incorrectly calibrated! She said they weren’t. …it was maddening. Fortunately, I remembered my silent vow to do exactly as my coach said, to be the good little athlete. And holy cow did it pay off.
Over the season I saw just how much it pays to take the time to build a killer aerobic engine with looong hours on the bike before throwing intensity into the game. If you can go for a long time slowly, it’s a heck of a lot easier to go for a long time fast. Plus, science!
Although I recognized that the lessons I was learning and imprinting into my knowledge base were invaluable, and I was gradually checking off my season goals: build endurance , race a 70.3, qualify for ITU Worlds… there was an underlying feeling of dissatisfaction that I just couldn’t seem to shake. With the guidance of my coach, I had made big changes to my training approach, and although I felt more fit and faster than ever before, I had many races where performance anxiety reared its head and I finished frustrated, feeling that I had allowed my nerves and lack of confidence to undermine my performance. It was a dark and lingering feeling, and I found myself uncharacteristically beginning to dread race day for fear of repeating the feeling.
To read about my mental journey through race anxiety and how I rediscovered my love of the race, see The Coached Coach-- Part 4: Season Reflections- Overcoming Anxiety