Friday, August 21, 2009

The Next Step: Getting Faster

At the Derby tri on Sunday, as I was relaxing (and eating cookies) with one of the athletes I've trained, she said something that's stuck with me all week:

"I just need to get faster."

A lot of readers who find their way to this blog are just getting started. But I have a feeling that there are many more of you who have a few races under your belts. You've done that first event, felt the rush of finishing (no matter how long it took or how hard it felt), and are now into it enough that you feel comfortable telling people, "Yeah, I'm a triathlete."

But there's a problem. You're beyond the point where just finishing is enough; you've "just finished" a couple times, and are tired of being stuck on the last page of the results. Or maybe you've done a few races and have seen your run or bike or swim get a little bit faster each time, but now those times are starting to slide backwards. You want to be faster.
How the hell do you do that?
As a coach, I could give you some basic guidelines about building aerobic base and improving technique and working out in a group and getting on a training plan and blah blah blah. And all of those things are good.
But what will be much more valuable, I think, is to tell you from personal experience what's worked for me. Because I've gone through the experience of spending a few months working hard and training and reading online articles and blogs and doing everything right . . . and then being shocked to find my name still one of the bottom ten. Um, I've also had races where I didn't do anything right and didn't train enough and went in thinking, "I'm tough; I'll get through in such-and-such a time." Have to say I wasn't really shocked to be one of the last five across the line that time, though.

The point is that I didn't have the experience of coming into the sport and being good at it right away. I was a back-of-the-packer (still am, sometimes), and have worked hard to get into the competitive reaches of my age group (at least at small races). That's how most of us do this sport, right? We're not going to be pros (wrong genetics), but we work hard and we get to where we consistently get an age-group or division medal, maybe even expect to win. We can certainly work our way up into the top quarter of all finishers, whatever our genetics.
That's the question I want to address: How do you start getting faster?

I started out trying to address it all in one post. Then, after I previewed it and realized it would take hours to say all I wanted to say, I decided to break it up. So over the next few weeks, I'll be talking about my take (based on personal experience) on how to get from beginner to competitor.
  • Consistency
  • Technique
  • Specific training
  • Racing
  • Single-sport focus
  • Chasing it down
Look for the article on consistency to appear on Monday. See you then, and happy training!


  1. Oooh, you know I am looking forward to your tips. I am gearing up for next year's group of events.

  2. i spent 7 hours yesterday cheering and support my friends and the rest of the participates at the timberman half ironman event down the road from my house. i screamed and yelled and was in awe of these people pushing themselves. the weather was hot and humid and my friends didn't do as well as they had hoped but they finished. i was able to see andy potts and chrissie wellington which was very very cool