>Managing Expectations

>     Several of my athletes raced this past weekend, and for all of them, it was their first “real” race of the year.  I didn’t give them predictions/time goals for a few reasons:
1) I didn’t want to influence their efforts.  I just wanted them to go hard and find out what they were capable of.
2) I told them not to wear heart rate monitors, because I don’t think it’s worth the time loss to fumble around with a heart rate monitor in transition in an Olympic distance race (so I couldn’t give them HR targets).
3) None of them had powermeters, and they had been riding trainers all winter, so I honestly didn’t have a very good idea of where their speed potential was on the bike.

After racing, a couple of them were unhappy with their times.  They were unhappy because they hadn’t hit time targets that they had formulated in their heads, based on nothing other than, “Oh, I think I should go 2:XX:XX”.  This, unfortunately is all too common among triathletes.  It’s typical for triathletes to come up with a goal time that is not necessarily based on reality.  The process is simply, “I went x:xx:xx last year, so I should go y:yy:yy this year.”  They rarely account for wetsuit vs. non-wetsuit,  hilliness of the bike/run, size of the transition area, body composition, training changes, elevation, temperature, the fact that some courses are long or short, etc..

Most importantly, athletes often don’t look at the most relevant workout data.  I cannot emphasize this enough – You need to base your predictions on what you’re actually doing in workoutsThere is no such thing as “Race Day Magic”.  For example, if you’re doing 20 mile transition runs at 8:05/mile pace, you’re not going to be able to run off the bike in an Ironman at 7:20/mile pace.  The most relevant data to be looking at is what you’re doing in workouts that are similar in duration to your goal race.  That’s not to say that you’ll go the exact same speed on race day that you go in your workouts, because with the combination of adrenaline, rest, and higher effort levels, you will go a few percentage points faster on race day than during a typical long workout.

This is where the “Triathlon Calculator” comes into play.  Developed by Jesse Kropelnicki, and available on the QT2 Systems and XTri websites (http://www.qt2systems.com/calculator-overview/), the Tri Calculator is a very powerful and accurate tool when used properly (i.e. given accurate and honest inputs).  It’s the tool I use when coming up with my own pacing plans, and when giving my athletes pacing plans for their “A” races.  It’s gotten to the point where I’m kind of spooked out by the Triathlon Calculator, because it’s disturbingly accurate.  I haven’t seen the source code, but I suspect it involves voodoo magic.

The Tri Calculator, above all, is honest and realistic.  It doesn’t feed you BS.  It might not tell you want you want to hear, but it will tell you what you need to hear.  If you want to use the Tri Calculator, go ahead and play around with it.  And if you want tips on how to use it more effectively, feel free to get in touch with me or any other QT2 coach.

Until next time,  keep training hard, and resting harder,
Doug MacLean

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