I think the question for me is what has made me a faster, stronger triathlete. I got a coach because I knew I lacked knowledge and experience in certain aspects of training physiology, form and experience. Also, I comnitted myself to becoming better. More succinctly, I wanted to get faster.
Some core learnings I have taken away: A significant amount of training needs to take place near or at race pace. For an Olympic Distance triathlete, that is at lactate threshold. I currently had done this, but Julie's o2fitness program has longer sets (so more time spent at LT) and higher frequency of those type of sets. The results have been obvious: my ability to ramp up to race pace has gotten much easier and that type of effort has become significantly easier to maintain. It is like flipping the switch now, whereas in the beginning it was very difficult to attain and hold that effort.
I have also realized that a comprehensive training plan is just that: comprehensive. Training needs to include technique drills, strength building sets, aerobic days, maximum effort days, etc. I came to Julie very strong aerobically. But, I lacked strength, so I was unable to get my HR high for extended efforts because my legs would not respond. In addition, technique is often one of the main components separating great athletes from good athletes. Watch any great athlete perform and the difference is obvious. They are not always stronger; they just do it better.
We see in print often the statment that to get faster athletes should work on their weaknesses. This is too true. I knew that my cycling, while not weak, had significant room for improvement. I also made the hypothesis that by improving the longest, middle leg of a triathlon, my run would improve as well. Now, I see Julie's credentials in the cycling world are clear, proving a huge advantage for me! And, I was correct: both cycling and running legs have improved together.
The last thing that has been re-introduced to me is the concept of the highest adherence and greatest intent on each workout. Do the workouts as prescribed. More importantly, if the day prescribes a low heart rate and technique drills, do THAT workout the BEST you can. We often make the assumption that harder and longer are always better. I tell myself that whatever the plan is for that day I am going to attempt to truly excel at that workout. Conversely, if a really hard day is planned where a maximum effort is needed, I want to go to a place I have never been. No time like the present to break down barriers in terms of maximum speed, hear rate and pain. Rest is part of this adherence to the plan as well. I know that I will not be able to perfom personal bests in workouts unless I am resting adequately. There is little value to having little energy in a workout that requires maximum effort. To me, that is a lost opportunity to get better.
It is always good to measure things quantitatively to see if we have really improved. I took a race that I do every year and here are the time improvements with the past 10 weeks of training.
Bike: -2:22 Run: -:25
Course PR: -2:30
National Age Group Ranking: 2011: #85
Current Age Group Ranking: 2012: #28