I’m racing my first triathlon of the 2011 season tomorrow morning at Llanelli. It’s a sprint distance race with a short open water swim that I entered for fun, because it’s local, as a test, and as preparation for Windsor next month. The funny thing is how different this feels to last year.
Last year was my first triathlon season, and I broke my foot. Everything was new, I didn’t feel that I could call myself a “triathlete” yet, and didn’t expect much of myself so was very pleased with my results. As the good results came in I probably expected more of myself, but I was still very successful in meeting my goals. This year I expect to be faster than last year. That’s tough, but makes sense physiologically. Right now I should be able to get faster every year, and if I don’t I need to reconsider my training methods. I got used to the good results last year and expect to be able to get better results this year. This makes me put pressure on myself, which is usually a good thing; I perform better under pressure. Will it take some of the fun out of it though?
But what is a good result? How do I gauge if I performed well? How do others perceive my performance? (Is that relevant or important?)
The finishing placing overall and within my age group is at the core of racing, so that’s important, but it’s dependant on the size of the field and the quality of the field. I can’t control anybody else’s race other than my own. But racing for a place is a good motivator for me, so it’s often one of my goals for any particular event. I like to compare my performance with that of others more than I like to compare my own performance between different races or seasons. That’s competition. It is really difficult to predict where you might finish though.
A good swim time, bike time or run time may also be a good result in itself. Last year I had run goals in races and this year I have bike goals, as my focus on improvement has shifted to that discipline. I’m also very interested to see how my swimming will perform tomorrow as I’ve spent a lot more time swimming than running this year. So a good bike result or a good swim result would be good for me too.
I try to race with a positive attitude, but this may be harder to keep hold of this year as I expect so much of myself. Setting overall time goals can also give good results and eliminates concerns about the rest of the competition. Triathlon is a time trial after the swim, so this is a sensible target result to go after. Looking at the results sheets for previous years can help set time goals, but you need to bear in mind changing conditions (it’s going to be very windy tomorrow) and alterations to the course. Setting time targets has links with running races, where runners typically go for time targets and personal best times over placings. It’s harder to have a triathlon PB though, as courses vary so much in style and distance. Nonetheless, racing with a target time in your head can really help you push hard. If you meet that time goal but miss the overall placing goal you still feel good. It suggests you raced as well as you could, and maybe next year you’ll beat those faster guys.
I haven’t really set my targets for tomorrow’s race yet. I have some ideas but they’re a little woolly. I may just settle back into the simple, old, standard target: GO FAST.