Woke up, grabbed a bite and headed over to the outdoor velodrome. This was my first velodrome experience. If you don’t know what a velodrome is, it’s essentially a bike track. The edges of the track slope inward like a race car track. You can get up to a pretty fast speed on this and it’s also a good spot to practice technical bike handling skills (pack riding, drafting, taking turns…).
First we practiced T1 and T2. For those of you new to triathlon, T1 stands for “transition 1:” going from the swim to the bike; T2 = “transition 2:” going from the bike to the run. Transitions are often an overlooked part of the sport. However, good, clean, fast transitions are an excellent way to gain ground in a tri. While others are fumbling with their equipment, you are already off and running (or biking)!
So we set up a race-like transition area and then went in groups of 3 or 4 athletes at a time. Here’s how it went: run to your bike (pretending you were running from the swim exit to T1); put on your equipment; mount your bike; bike do 2 laps around the track (you must put your feet in your shoes during this time and get them out as well); dismount; rack your bike; throw on shoes and take off. All of that took about 75 seconds to complete. We did a couple rounds of that and like most challenges, the more you do it, the better you get at it. So the motto: if at first you don’t succeed (or do as well as you’d like), try, try again!
After that it was on to bike handling skills and drills. We did everything from weaving in and out of cones to figure 8′s to S-shaped patterns to bunny hops (my favorite new bike skill!!!). The hardest challenge for me was the water bottle drill. The mission was to take a water bottle, place it on the ground upright and then swing back around and pick it up all the while staying on your bike maintaining forward momentum. Talk about balance! This one was a toughie and definitely something I can improve on.
After lunch it was off to the pool for a swim workout. We weren’t in the water a long time, but we sure made the most of the time we were in there! After warm-up, we went right into a threshold freestyle set that took us to the end of the workout. Then it was off to the classroom where we spent several hours with Dr. Genadijus Sokolovas (aka Dr. G)–the swim technique specialist.
Dr. G has filmed hundreds of athletes including many World Record holders and Olympians from all around the world. He is passionate about making the human being as efficient and powerful in the water as possible. He filmed each of us and then measured the force and velocity at which we move through the water. The goal–high velocity, low force. You want to be moving the most amount of water with the least amount of energy. His passion for swimming and science combined is contagious. Even after years of competitive swimming, I came away with things to improve on and new drills to help me accomplish that.
Then we were on to surgical tubing (sounds odd, right?). Well this is a type of bungee or band with tension. Many athletes that use their shoulders a lot (i.e. tennis, baseball players, swimmers) use bands to increase shoulder strength and for preventative maintenance. As an athlete over the years, I’ve learned it’s much better to be on the preventative, proactive side of injury versus the reactive, rehab side of things. You want to catch and prevent injuries before they occur. This means you must pay attention to the details like keeping those rotator cuff muscles strong. Bands also allow you to isolate parts of the swim stroke out of the water–front catch, mid stroke, scull technique… Bands are an athlete’s best friend!
By the time we were through with that, it was dinner time! I haven’t talked much about the food at the OTC, but it’s amazing! Everything is made clean and fresh. They have nutritional information on every item in the dining hall. I mean where else can I eat cabbage salad, lean protein, steamed vegetables, and rizotto to my heart’s desire? As my mom knows, steamed veggies are like mother’s milk to me. I love em! And what a luxury being able to train and then come “home” not having to worry about preparing a nutritious meal! It’s already done for you! The dining hall staff is awesome. They are so kind and accommodating. It’s also a fun spot to hang out. You never know what national team member you might run into you!
After dinner we were back in the classroom to review a running video in preparation for tomorrow’s run analysis with legendary Coach Bobby McGee. Most people may not be interested in watching a video on running technique and form, but let me tell you, Coach Bobby brings the sport to life (his South African accent is fun to listen to as well!). He is like Dr. G for running. He is all about maximizing efficiency. I’m excited to meet him in person tomorrow.
Some key lessons from the day for me:
- it’s never too late to improve: even Michael Phelps has areas in his stroke he can work on as Dr. G pointed out to us. No one is perfect. There’s always room for improvement!
- a teachable heart is worth gold: this is a life concept that we would all do well to adopt. Although I didn’t ace all of the bike handling skills and drills, I want to learn and get better. That’s why I’m here!
- it’s all in the details: details are what separates mediocre from good; good from great; and great from exceptional. Although the adage goes, “don’t sweat the small stuff.” There is a time and place to definitely sweat the small stuff. It’s in the details that huge strides can be made and you can gain “easy speed.” Take for example the transition practice I talked about earlier. It’s easy to overlook this “small” part of the triathlon, but it’s an essential and significant part of the race if you want to perform at the elite, world class level.
I hope you’ve found today insightful and applicable to your life.
Thanks for reading and until tomorrow, adios!