The North America triathlon offseason starts with the last Ironman of the year, Ironman Arizona, and ends with the kickoff of Oceanside 70.3 at the beginning of April. Of course, there are races you can go to around the world such as in Australia and New Zealand yet most athletes in North America are trying to recover after a long racing season. There are some athletes who take this offseason and relish in the time away from training. Others keep the motor running to come into the season without losing too much fitness; each method is up to the individual as far as how they want to spend their time and how their body reacts to inactivity versus continuous motion. One thing that we should all agree upon is if you want to keep improving on your Ironman journey to reach your goals, the offseason should be used to improve on inefficiencies in your training and racing.
At the end of the racing season, you need to evaluate your performance, coaches, consultants, nutrition, hydration, gear, technology, organizational skills, balance and determine where you could improve to shave precious time off your racing. This is what any athlete in any sport does when they have a little time off so that they can get themselves into a better position the next year. Lionel Messi does not sit on his couch when the soccer season is over; the free time that he has is spent improving on his already dominant game. In order to keep improving, you cannot rest on your laurels, even if you are one of the best in the world. Serena Williams, as she gets older, knows she has to train and compete smarter, not harder, so her offseason is spent working on new ways to get better which usually involves boosting her weaknesses.
In my ‘offseason’, I do like to keep the motor running. Exercise and training have always been a part of my life and it rolls on after Ironman Arizona is complete. Yes, it does not make sense to go for long tedious rides a week or two after the last race of the season yet I do continue to move the blood and swim, bike, run and strength train when the season comes to a close. It also is a habit to use my recovery tools like my Recovery Pump boots; when I go home to Ohio for the holidays, I always pack them and use at night when hanging with the family. I go to the local pool and run on the treadmill to keep the blood pumping.
For the offseason of 2016-2017, my goal was to keep strengthening my hamstring, which was a nagging problem in the 2016 racing year, and improve my running off the bike. As women racers continue to improve, you have to be that much stronger in all three disciplines. If the race directors will continue to launch the women so close to the pro and age group men, you have to become that much better to overcome all of these obstacles that these types of situations organically create; the reality is, this practice doesn’t look like it is changing anytime soon so you just can’t worry about interference from these conditions and you have to rise above it.
My offseason consisted of more rehab by utilizing muscle activation technique (MAT) to keep strengthening the hamstring region as well as a more intense running program, compliments of Sean Jefferson, to reaching for that elusive three hour marathon in a full Ironman race. It was important to work with Sean in effort to help me design training programs to focus my attention on this deficiency. I have never focused this much on the running aspect of the triathlon and my comfort was growing in this capacity; preparation and training breeds just that, comfort!
My first race of the year was Ironman New Zealand in early March and I was ready to see if my offseason preparation could translate into race success. As everyone who has raced triathlon knows, nothing ever goes according to plan. My legs were ready and the muscle memory of the run preparation was there but my body just couldn’t deliver that fast run that I was prepared to do. For some reason, I didn’t have that 2nd gear yet these are the highs and lows of racing; not every time out you will have that magical race. The good thing is that the offseason work will not go away; it has been banked and I look forward to using this knowledge and training in future events. Until that time, all you can do is keep working hard, recovering, repeating and ride the waves!
- Meredith Brooks Kessler, @mbkessler