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IM 70.3 Florida - Quick Recap


Typically when I blog about a race, I find myself comparing it to the last race, reflecting on my race specific training and putting the race in perspective with my upcoming season goals. Well, this year has been a bit different......very different. 

Karel and I are very satisfied with our recent race performances at Ironman 70.3 Florida. This was my 4th year competing in the event and we kinda lost track for Karel (sixth time maybe?). We love this race venue as it is very spectator friendly (pre-Covid), the race itself is all within one venue (swim/bike/run/transitions), there's plenty of lodging options in the surrounding neighborhoods and the community supports the race (and the volunteers are always amazing). While we still love this race venue, the emotions in route to this race were a bit different. 

Navigating the past 12+ months has been difficult for many athletes. For our team, we have encouraged them to train with the focus of maintaining a solid level of fitness, while still progressing with structured periodized training. However, to prevent burnout and to fit training into an ongoing stressful and uncertain life, there has been a lot of flexibility - depending on the athlete. For some athletes, training volume needed to be reduced. For others, there was less intensity and more "happy" workouts without structure. Whereas in the past we were always keeping our eye on the upcoming race schedule when planning workouts to ensure proper peaking, but over the past year, we've become much more creative in helping athletes prepare for uncertainty. 

I don't believe there has been a right or wrong strategy for navigating training during an extended period of no racing. While some athletes have proceeded with training as if nothing changed, we took a different approach for us and our athletes. Although this approach may have our athletes feeling a bit rusty for the first race or two of the season, we do believe that this flexibility has helped our athletes prevent burnout and thus, maintain longevity and joy for the sport. 

As an example, Karel and I rarely rode our triathlon bikes this winter. I took part in an 8-week group ride series (road bike) and Karel joined for a few rides but fell in love with gravel riding. We swam with a masters group to keep swimming fun and social and the focus with running was to stay healthy and injury free. We hardly stuck to any type of training plan. While neither of us felt the same level of race readiness in route to IM 70.3 Florida as we did in the past, this wasn't as a result of not training, being injured or being burnt out. Instead, it was the opposite - we found ways to stay super active, stay healthy and to maintain a love for swimming, biking and running during an extremely stressful and uncertain time in our life. As a result, we showed up to IM 70.3 Florida with no nerves, nothing to prove and nothing to chase. And this was after a few months of questioning if we would even still enjoy racing after having a bit of fun not training seriously for triathlon. 

But this strategy could have backfired had we not approached the race with the same mindset as we had with our training. 

The desire to be competitive never leaves the mind of an athlete. Once you are an athlete, you get a taste of competition and you always want to give your best and test yourself. Karel and I did not take it easy on race day. But knowing that we were in a different place mentally and physically compared to the past few years, we needed to race in the present - not chasing a past version of ourselves. We raced with experience but also with a beginner's mindset. 

There was doubt. There were very difficult moments. There was uncertainty. There was suffering. This is all part of racing. Racing never gets easier, you just get better at managing the uncomfortable and unplanned moments. It's like a workout that you repeat many times in your training plan. At first, you don't know what to expect because it's new and unfamiliar. It may go perfectly smooth but there's a good chance that you either go too hard and struggle or you play it safe and hold back, so that you don't fail. Then you have another go at it and another. It doesn't get any easier but you learned from the first time around. You have improved your tactics, your mind knows what to expect and you can execute it a bit better. Then comes the fourth and fifth time. Not only do you have several more weeks of consistent training in you (better fitness = better performance) but you have learned so much about yourself in the previous workout sessions. Again, it never gets easier but with experience brings familiarity and that familiarity builds confidence. 

It's been three days since the race and I can confidently say that the spark inside us was lit. The strategy worked. Training has a clear purpose again, there is excitement for our upcoming events (and travel!) and we feel that now is the time when we can be a bit more serious/specific with our triathlon training. 

Race Results