Progress is a hard fought battle.

(cdr hobbies)

2023-10-19 :: Triathlon :: progress

Earlier in the year, I began with a goal. I wanted to break 5:30:00 in a 70.3 triathlon. This was a challenging goal for me, having only completed one 70.3 triathlon before in a humble 7 hours. For that first race, I was happy to just complete the thing within the cutoff time of 8:30:00. 1.2 miles of wimming, 56 miles of biking, and 13.1 miles of running. This was already intimidating for me, and I wanted to show that I could go the distance.

This year, however, I wanted to improve. I wanted to see progress. I wanted to race! So was I just going to sit there and hope for it? Was I going to just dream idly? No. I planned. Set a goal. Wrote it down. And shared it with the world. To make meaningful progress toward your goals, that's what it takes. It takes grit, determination, and passion. It takes you making a statement, committing to it, and dedicating yourself to improve.

What was my goal again? I had an aspiration to complete the 70.3 under 5:30:00. To turn this aspiration into reality I needed to transform it into a specific, tangible goal. a SMART goal. So I took my pen and paper, and broke this high level goal into specific outcomes that I'd need to achieve for each of my disciplines: swimming, biking, and running. Today I'll be focusing on the bike portion, which is often the area where triathletes have the most opportunity for improvement, and I am no exception. My first race this year was a "B" priority race. I would give it a good effort, but it's just a stepping stone to my main priority, my "A" race. For the "B" race, I wanted to break 6 hours.

In order to accomplish my intermediate goal of sub-6, I had estimated that I'd need to complete the 56 mile bike portion within 3 hours. And in order to do that, I'd need a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) of 180W to help me sustain speeds of 19 mph, giving me a bike time of ~180 min. Now that is specific. It can be measured. I can know whether I've succeeded or failed. How did I calculate this? I used the bike calculator to find that I'd need to consistently output 145 watts for the 3 hours, and then used a standard pacing strategy which said that I should use 80% of my FTP for 6 hours. Doing the math, .8 * FTP = 145 implies that my FTP would need to be 180.

So I set out to take my FTP from 145W to 180W. I decided to test every 4 weeks or so as best as my schedule would allow. I began in April with an FTP of 155 and 1.98W/kg. To make the most improvement for my effort, I decided to use a popular app: Trainer Road, which uses artificial intelligence to give you the most accurate workouts for your current level to help you maximize your biking gains. So I followed the training plan, and often just decided to "Train Now", and let the algorithm pick the best workout whenever I had the time to train.

There were so many times when the workout was so tough, that I just wanted to give up. But I always found the motivation to keep going! I just kept riding, kept spinning, kept sweating, and kept pushing. With all of this help from Trainer Road, and my trusty Wahoo KICKR Core, I saw consistent gains. On June 15 2023, I achieved an FTP of 165W, giving 2.10 W/kg. Then I tested again on Aug 7 2023 with an FTP of 176, giving 2.3 W/kg. That was my last test before race day, I think for the actual race I probably had an FTP of 180 or 185, giving roughly 2.4 W/kg. I'm finally grauding from the "untrained beginner" sections of all those power-to-weight graphs! Finally I'll become a "novice" or "intermediate" cyclist! At this point I was ready to bring this 180W with me to race day.

On race day I started with a great swim, where I under-estimated my time, and had to pass some other swimmers in the water. Much better than my usual swims. Got out of the water and headed to the transition where I was ready to take my bike and show the road my new speed. I started with a mild pace, waiting until I was ready to shine. Got into my rhythm and just started cranking the watts out. And my was I surprised. It felt easy! I was amazed at the power I could output, and the speed that power gave me. Throughout the hills and the flats, I was passing many people and knew that I'd be proud of my time. I was able to complete the whole bike course without stopping, only taking a banana and a little water from the aid stations. As I was finishing my ride, I checked my watch and realized that I would just beat my goal of 180 min. I did it!

Given this was only my B priority race, I was very happy with my improvements. Trainer Road's algorithmic recommendations really helped me improve my FTP. Paired with the Wahoo KICKR, I was able to take my goals and turn them into reality. The ability to measure my consistent progress was very motivating for me and allowed me to see that my work had a meaningful impact on my capabilities. All of this ultimately gave me the ability to succeed on race day and make some meaningful progress.