Assessing a Chaotic 2020
It’s safe to say that 2020 has been the most challenging year of our triathlon careers. We built our aerobic base early, then had to throttle it back just when it was time to ramp up the quality. We spent months staying “ready to get race ready” and halfheartedly optimistic until the cancellations we knew were coming finally came. So what was the point of all the training we did? Was it a waste of time? Without the clarity of race results to guide us, we need to make yet another adjustment in a year of adjustments and come up with some different ways to assess whether 2020 was a success. Here are a few to consider:
How was it going in March? It’s weird to use your fitness level so early in the year as a barometer, but mid-March was when the pandemic really tightened its grip, closing our pools and ending our in-person group runs. So how were things going for you at that point? Had you done the offseason technique work in the pool to improve your stroke from last year? Were you falling into old habits and slacking on strength training? How were the boring (but important!) aerobic Zwift rides going... or were they? You’ll never know how that first early season tri would have gone, but give yourself some credit if you were doing things right in the first three-plus months of your 2020 campaign.
Have you stayed healthy? Without the stress of “real” races, the intensity of the peak phase training leading up to them, and the recurring need to quickly recover and start prepping for the next one, your 2020 training probably contained much less quality work than it would have under non-pandemic circumstances. If that is true for you and yet you still had to deal with nagging injuries, now is the time to determine the cause and fix it before starting your training for what will hopefully be a “normal” 2021. Talk to a trusted physical therapist, chiropractor, or acupuncturist who can help you troubleshoot the problem and get you back to full health.
Has your volume increased compared to last year? Ideally, you will increase your durability and tolerance for more training over time. And while more doesn’t always equal better, many triathletes do have room for more volume. This added volume does *not* have to contain more quality; in fact, I would venture to guess that the easiest and most valuable way for triathletes to build durability would be to add more hours of aerobic (zone 1-2) riding. If you added roughly 20% to your overall volume compared to last year without creating injury or fatigue issues, it’s likely that you’ll reap the benefits in 2021 and you’ll be able to look back on your 2020 training as time well spent.
Have you had fun? This is key. It was a crazy, stressful year, and you could hardly be blamed for slacking off the training given how many times you had to throw your calendar in the trash. If you were able to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and incorporate some fun into your training this year, that may well be the biggest indicator of whether your 2020 was successful. The good news is, there’s still time to make your 2020 even more of a success, or turn things around if it wasn’t! Virtual events abound these days, and in-person events with limited field sizes are cropping up. If you’re not in the mood to race, even a long ride with friends (the social “muffin ride” is a CMC staple!) is a great way to sneak in some aerobic fitness and get an early jump on your 2021 prep.
You may not have had any PR’s or checked your first 70.3 off your to-do list, but that doesn’t mean your year was a bust. By using some non-traditional metrics, you might discover that you have plenty to be proud of in 2020 after all.