Mark on Monday: Get the memory effect

Photo credit aboutmodafinil.com

By Mark Cathcart

If you’ve ever commuted to work the same way, the same time, day in day out, you’ll know that sometimes you arrive at work with no real memory of how you got there. I used to drive from North London to Basingstoke in the UK, 64-miles each way. I’d leave by 6:30am to avoid the traffic, and sometimes I’d find myself in the parking lot by 7:05, with no real idea how. I’d been on “auto-pilot”, the repetition and familiarization had kicked in.

In this month’s Pragmatic triathlete, I’ll discuss the “memory effect” and why some things seem easier than others and how you can use this in your racing and training, and how to use your subconscious to your advantage.

Repetition ftw!

Remember how when you got your first pair of clip-in cycle shoes, you set out with some trepidation, worried you wouldn’t be able to unclip them when you had to stop, or to clip back in when you had to start again?

Now you’ve clipped in and out hundreds and possibly thousands of times, and now you know when to push your foot down as the pedal reaches just-before dead-center. You automatically move your other foot forward, and mostly ever even look down when clipping in.

That’s repetition. Your brain is great at recognizing patterns and being able to recall what is often a complex series of actions and process them without having to call on your conscious brain. In software engineering terms, we’ve just executed a method on an object in a parallel thread.

There are literally dozens of ways you can use this in triathlon.

Image Public Domain. Credit . U.S. Air Force Photo/Austin Thomas

Swim stroke

Over the winter, get a swim coach, or someone you recognize as a great swimmer and get them to video and critique your swim stroke.
Write down comments about hand entry, arm height, head position, body roll, leg kick, etc. Don’t try to correct all the problems at once.

Pick one improvement, concentrate on it at an easy pace for 50-lengths. That’s hard, you have to concentrate on a single corrective action. Do it over a few sessions, when you can do it without concentrating, get feedback and move to the next improvement.
Once you’ve addressed all the improvements, you’ll have no doubt developed the memory effect for a better, faster swim stroke.

Helmet time

Probably the easiest of all the things here. How quickly can you get your helmet on and done up? And yes, I mean the right way around… It takes me precisely 7-seconds to get away from my transition spot when everything goes right.

This is almost entirely attributed to picking up my helmet, and doing it up. Stand in front of a mirror and put your helmet and sunglasses on a table or the floor in front of you. Head-up, go!

Pick-up the helmet, put it on your head and stop. Notice where the straps are; reach up, do the straps up; undo; repeat five times without removing the helmet. Put the helmet down, pick up, put on, do up, take off, put down. Pick up, etc. Do the full cycle at least 50-times.

Make sure you hold your head up straight and breathe. When you come into transition in a race you’ll be out of breathing hard, now is no time to try to put on and do up a helmet while doubled up. By standing up straight, it also means the straps will mostly likely fall in the same place, making them easier to find and do up.

Once you think you can do this, try it with your eyes closed.

Clipping in

OK, so you have not mastered this yet? You look down, your shoes slide over the pedals, your bike wobbles all over the place. This is asking for trouble when you come out of transition in a race. You want to be clean, fast and away from the chaos that is the mount line.

Find somewhere quiet and practice. We all have a preferred leg, a “strong one”. Clip this one in first, leaving the other foot on the floor. Start cycling and try to clip in. Concentrate on remembering where your strong leg was in the pedal rotation and if you didn’t make it, try again.

Try not to look down while doing it. Once you’ve mastered it with one leg, switch to the other. Eventually you’ll be able to do it without thinking about it. I do not recommend learning while on a trainer. Part of the memory effect you need to develop is the balance required to do it without wobbling.

T2 Dismount

I’ll dedicate a whole future article to being fast in transition. The whole mount and dismount is a massive time saving opportunity. My T2 time at my last transition was just 40-seconds, in the top-10 overall.
For the remainder of this season though you can transition much more effectively by mastering the dismount.

Again, find yourself some space, and quiet, somewhere you can afford to fail. School parking lots in the evening are good. Use the lines as the dismount line. Cycle around the parking lot, and as you approach your dismount line, about 150ft out, don’t slow down; don’t look down; reach down, undo one shoe, take your foot out, place it on top of the shoe and cycle a few turns to get back up to speed; then repeat with the other shoe/foot.

The first few times you might overshoot the dismount line, go back do it again. If you are really uncomfortable doing this on tarmac or concrete, take your bike with some talcum powder to a park and practice there. Shake the talcum powder to make a line.

Mark Cathcart

With your feet on your shoes, holding the handle bars, take your “strong leg” over the saddle and leave it hanging behind the other leg; 20ft out of the line, brake with both hands, a split second later drop your “strong leg” and simultaneously, grab the saddle, with the hand on the same side as your “strong leg”, let go with the other hand, and drop the other leg to the floor.
This should be practiced until it is one fluid motion, and you should be running just short of a sprint.

Once you’ve mastered getting out of your shoes, and can do it without wobbling and looking down, move on to the next step, the dismount. There are two distinct alternatives to doing this, one has your first leg to touch the ground going in front, the other behind. I firmly believe the latter is safer (see picture).

Again, practice until you can do this without thinking about it.

When it comes to race day, walk out to 150ft past the dismount line and just walk through the whole process. Visualize your speed, slowing down, taking your feet out, lifting your first leg over the saddle, dropping your first foot and then running to your transition spot holding the bike only by the saddle.

Running arms

If you watch a 10k track race, you can clearly see the difference between the leaders and the followers. Leaders have great form, and from about the 2km-to-go mark the followers form will start to fail, while the leaders maintain form.

The leaders have running arms. Shoulders back, arms only making a smooth back and forward motion, never coming up across their stomach, never punching the air in front of their chest, never getting wider to try to get faster. Your arms act as an imaginary set of brakes when you run. If they have a crisp back and forward motion, they will set the cadence for your legs and propel you forward. As your arms go faster, so will you.

Be economical with your arms. You are not a sprinter, but using a smooth back and forward motion close to your body will make you more aero.

That’s it, my top-tips for exploiting the memory effect. Building on the brain’s ability remember and reproduce sometimes simple, but often complex set of actions and reactions. Each of these tips will individually save you a few seconds. Together they add up, and make you faster and smoother during your race.

Most importantly, once you’ve mastered them, you can focus on the parts of the race where you can make the biggest differences, conveniently arriving at the finish line without thinking about your transition.

Next time, I’ll look at facing your fears and how to be ready for them.

Mark Cathcart took up triathlon in the late 90’s to get fit for adventure racing, which to this day he has never done, and has since taken part in 170+ events. His pragmatic approach to training, racing, and life have lead in from being the Chairman of one of the bigger UK Triathlon clubs 15-years ago; British Triathlon volunteer of the year; a sometime race organizer; The organizer and ride leader for Austin Texas award winning Jack and Adams triathlon shop; doing sometime Sports Management for development and professional triathletes; he has attended all the Triathlon Business International, and Triathlon America conferences, where he usually asks the questions others won’t; moved to Colorado in 2016 and is a co-owner of Boulder Bodyworker

How to Handle Every Sticky Situation Your Outdoor Workout Throws at You

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

Author: Jason Lewis

Most of the time, getting active outside is a blast. You get to work on your fitness while taking in the sights and sounds of your neighborhood, and it’s a great way to get your dog a workout too. But exercising outdoors isn’t all sunshine and cool breezes — sometimes, some seriously sticky situations can happen. Here’s what to do when the worst hits.

Muscle Cramps
You’re pumped up for your run, but after two miles you’re doubled over in pain from muscle cramps that aren’t going away. The key to stopping cramps is to understand what caused them in the first place.

Cramps arise from a combination of dehydration, electrolyte depletion, and muscle fatigue. When one stops you in your tracks, listen to your body and take a few moments to rest, take deep breaths, and stretch the area that’s spasming. Sip some water and ease yourself back into your workout, walking home or calling for a ride if you need to.

Getting Lost
If you realize you’re lost, stop where you are. Retrace your steps if you’re confident where you came from, otherwise stay put. If you’re running in the city, this is the time to consult your phone’s GPS to find your way home. But if you’re trail running and don’t have cell service, it’s a little more complicated.

Use your trail map determine where you veered off-trail and your compass to direct yourself back. If the ground is soft, you may be able to retrace your steps using your footprints. Don’t take a different route than the way you came, even if it seems like a shortcut. And of course, avoid getting lost in the first place by knowing your route, taking note of landmarks, and staying alert.

Heat Exhaustion
Headaches, nausea, dizziness, muscle spasms — these are all signs of heat illnesses that can range from mild to life-threatening. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, stop exercising immediately.

Move to a shaded, cool area, indoors if possible. If you’re feeling faint, elevate your legs and pelvis. Replenish electrolytes with a sports drink and salty foods, and put something cold on your head and neck. If you’re somewhere that you can’t pop into a store for air conditioning and a cold drink, seek shade, remove tight clothing, pour cool water on your body, and call for help.

Street Harassment
Perhaps the most demoralizing thing that can happen while exercising outdoors is harassment. Athletes of all ages, genders, and fitness levels experience street harassment, although women arguably have it the worst. Attacks can range from catcalls to mockery to aggression.

Exercise with a partner, either human or canine, and skip headphones so you’re aware of your surroundings. Run against traffic so cars can’t drive alongside you to heckle, and if someone engages you, either ignore them or respond assertively and calmly. Carry a charged cell phone so you can call 911 if a harasser won’t quit or becomes aggressive, and consider carrying pepper spray just in case.

Animal Encounters
If you’re a trail runner and take your dog along, run-ins with wildlife are inevitable. Most of the time it’s harmless woodland creatures, but there’s always a possibility you’ll encounter a bear, coyote, snake, or even mountain lion.

If the animal hasn’t spotted you, back away slowly until it’s safe to return the way you came. If you’re running with your dog, keep it on leash to protect your pet and avoid provoking a wild animal. Don’t approach the animal, turn your back to it, or run away. Shout or speak in a firm voice and throw rocks, sticks, or other large objects at a coyote, bear, or mountain lion to scare it away.

Urban animal encounters happen too: If you come across an aggressive dog, stop running and assume an assertive stance with your arms across your chest. Keep your eye on the dog, but don’t make direct eye contact. Keep your dog restrained and calm, but if the two dogs start fighting, don’t try to intervene. Instead, find someone to help and have each person pull a dog away by its back legs, wheelbarrow-style.

 

 

How to Recover like a Pro

From Boulder Sports Clinic

As an athlete of any kind, we are always pushing the limits of our body. Workouts break us down. In order to reach the finish line of our next race we need our body to adapt to the stress of training.

Have you ever been sore after a workout? Of course! That soreness is a sign that you’ve successfully broken down muscle tissue during your activity that is required to become better, faster, and stronger.

We frequently read about the latest training recommendations in the world, which claim to shape you into a better athlete: training supplements, nutritional fads, ice baths, muscle rubs, compression garments, and stretching……

 

What is the optimal recovery routine? To answer that question we sat down with top American professional triathlete Justin Metzler.

In addition to year-round training, Justin raced twelve 70.3s, or half Ironman distance triathlons last year on five continents with multiple podium finishes. This level of consistent racing requires massive weekly hours of swimming, biking, and running with many of those days having multiple training sessions. In order to recover from one session enough to hit the next just as hard, he has dialed in the most effective recovery tools-and he is sharing his secrets with us.

How do you recover from a typical training session?

Immediately following a training session or race I have a recovery drink. Regardless of the type of session or which sport, any type of workout will break down muscle and deplete glycogen stores. My immediate goal is to replenish the glycogen and supply my body with the amino acids it needs to rebuild the muscle I just broke down. After trying a lot of different flavors and brands, I prefer First Endurance Ultragen. It has the optimal balance of carbohydrate to protein in addition to a number of essential vitamins and minerals to help rebuild for the next session. Not to mention, it tastes great!

When I can, I tend to structure the training to have enough down time in between the workouts to allow me to relax, put my feet up, and grab some food. In between sessions I am primarily focusing on foods high in protein and nutrient density. Some examples include lean meats, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.

What is a typical routine after your training is completely done for the day?

After the training is done I try to relax, answer emails, talk with my nutrition and coaching clients, and make a healthful dinner with my girlfriend- fellow professional triathlete, Jeanni Seymour. Just like everyone else, our day-to-day is quite busy and we often are out training from dawn to dusk. But we always try to make dinner a time that we can cook together, eat together and catch up on the days activities. Once or twice a week, we have a glass of red wine to help relax!

Before bed, I always try to use my Normatec boots for somewhere between 30-60 minutes. On harder days I go for less time at a softer setting. On easier days I bump up the intensity and sit in them for a bit longer. The boots are a great tool to aid in recovery but I try not to disrupt my body’s natural recovery process.

I always have some form of protein before bed. Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or whey protein are my ‘go-to’s. The protein helps give my body what it needs recover over night, the time when the majority of your recovery gains will be made. People often overlook the fact that your ability to improve is dictated by your ability to absorb training load. So recovery is equally important to any hard training session that you may do.

How much sleep do you get each night?

As I mentioned, sleep is a big priority for me. I have spent the money necessary to have a great mattress, sound machine, ear plugs, etc in order to try to get the most quality sleep I can every night. I aim to get 8-10 hours a night, and I don’t usually nap unless I fail to get my normal amount of sleep.

Do you have recovery days built into your training plan?

My training is structured to have some days of active recovery. On recovery days, I use the lighter workouts as a warm up for any foam rolling, stretching, or rehab exercises I may need to focus on. I also try to schedule chiropractic and massage appointments every week to help address any small issues before they become something I actually have to worry about.

Do you take any supplements?

The only supplements I take are fish oil (I like the KLEAN or Zone Labs brands) and a multivitamin (First Endurance multi-v is my favorite). As a professional who gets drug tested regularly, I watch what I consume carefully. I find that with a proper healthful diet, most people don’t need many supplements. Shoot for a minimum of four fruits and four vegetables every day.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to any runner or triathlete about recovery?

Nail your nutrition. You should have just as much importance placed on fueling correctly as you do building a training schedule. The worst thing to happen to any endurance athlete in a race is hitting the wall and having to slow down or get the dreaded DNF.

In every workout you use stored glycogen for fuel. If you deplete the glycogen stores you hit the wall. To fully come back from depleting your stores, it takes days or weeks. This means your next workouts suffer or you’re not able to complete them.

The key is to never let your glycogen stores get too low. Think of it like the fuel gage on your car. Try to never let it dip below 25-50% capacity.

I try to have a form of carbohydrates every 30 minutes during a workout. A gel, half a bar, banana, or sports drink, helps to make sure my “fuel tank” never falls below the level I am shooting for.

How does Boulder Sports Chiropractic help you?

It is so important to stay on top of injury risk. My body is my livelihood and if I’m injured, I can’t race! Getting weekly treatments to focus on any tightness I may have from shoulder pain to calf tightness keeps me from having any injury set backs. I love the Active Release Technique and dry needling. In addition to massage and rehab; chiropractic care and the modalities Boulder Sports Chiropractic rely on are a critical part to my body work protocol.

More about Justin…

In addition to professional triathlon, Justin has a degree in human physiology and nutrition. He has a unique set of skills developed through hours in the classroom paired with 10 years of multisport experience. When he is not training, he helps athletes like you build customized nutrition plans to address any weakness in training, racing or general body composition.

Services Justin offers: one-on-one monthly coaching, race specific training plans, race nutrition strategies, race weight planning, daily nutrition strategies for optimal body composition and general nutrition guidelines.

If you feel like you could benefit from building a proper nutrition plan for training/racing, or to learn more about the services that Justin offers, contact him at:

Contact Justin

At Boulder Sports Chiropractic, we use movement screens to biomechanically evaluate how your whole body is moving and how it works together.We use the best techniques to address your source of pain and dysfunction including Active Release Technique, Graston, and Dry Needling.

We send every patient home with the rehab exercises or stretches to give you the tools to fix the problem, not just treat the symptoms! Contact us today to schedule your appointment.

Roaring Fork Women’s Tri Team Training Begins

REGISTRATION OPENS MARCH 7TH, FOR THE 18TH ANNUAL ROARING FORK WOMEN’S TRIATHLON TEAM TRAINING PROGRAM. THIS PREMIER SUMMER TRAINING PROGRAM TEACHES THE BASIC SKILLS OF HEARTZONES, SWIM, BIKE, RUN/WALK, AND MENTAL SKILLS, TO COMPLETE A SPRINT TRIATHLON. ORIENTATION IS APRIL 27TH. TRAINING BEGINS WED. MAY 10, 2017. PARTICIPANTS TRAIN TOGETHER TWICE WEEKLY AND FOLLOW THE PHILOSOPHY OF FUN, FITNESS AND PHILANTHROPY THROUGHOUT THE SEASON.

GET ALL THE INFORMATION YOU NEED ON SCHEDULES, TRAINING, COSTS AND MISSION AT FAQ, TESTIMONIALS, STAFF, REGISTRATION AND MORE ON THE WEBSITE AT WWW.ROARINGFORKTRITEAM.COM

Get Techie: Why You Should Love TrainerRoad Almost As Much As I Do

by Alison Freeman

I will be the first to tell you that my love for my indoor bike trainer borders on unnatural. I can justify this in three ways: (1) I am terrified of bike crashes; (2) I am a serious wimp about the cold, the wind, and anything wet; and (3) my indoor bike training is very, very focused. Reason #3 is why my love for my trainer goes hand in hand with my love for TrainerRoad. It’s also why, even if you’re fearless about cars and downhills and weather, you should love it too.

WHAT IS IT?
TrainerRoad is an app (Windows, Mac, iOS and Android) that provides structured workouts for use with your indoor bike trainer. You know how the great thing about Masters Swim is that you just show up, someone tells you what to do, and you get a great workout? TrainerRoad is like that, but for your bike trainer.

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
If you want to improve as a cyclist, you need to do more than just go out and bike. Yes, time in the saddle is a key driver of bike fitness, and yes you need to go out on the road to hone your bike handling skills. But if you no longer tip over at stop signs and your fitness gains from time in the saddle have leveled off, then it’s time to get more precise about how you train.

As an athlete, I reached this point a few years into my triathlon career and I soon learned that trying to do specific interval repeats out on the open road was seriously hampered by the existence of stop signs and hills – both up and down. As a coach, I rely on indoor bike workouts for the precision of structured interval workouts as well as the intensity limits that are imposed from doing endurance-level work indoors.

HOW DOES IT WORK?
TrainerRoad one uses of many sources (see table below) to arrive at a basis for power-based training. Translation: with Trainer, Road you don’t need a power meter or a smart trainer to train with power! (ICYMI: Power-based training is the Holy Grail of bike training, because – unlike heart rate – it is an instantaneous measure of effort that is not affected by the weather, your fatigue, your hydration level, or the state of your immune system.)

Knowing your power output is only meaningful if you know where that output falls relative to your ability, so you’ll start off your TrainerRoad career by doing a test to determine your FTP (Functional Threshold Power). Yes, it’s a pretty brutal workout, but knowing your FTP is mission-critical to dialing in the rest of your training. Once you finish the test, TrainerRoad will automatically update your FTP setting and all future workouts will be based on this number and your associated training zones – as in, all workouts are now personalized to your current fitness level.

OK, so now you need a workout. This is where TrainerRoad provides a ton of value: they have a library of over 1,000 workouts, hundreds of which are an hour long, that are all designed to make you a better cyclist. The majority of these workouts include written instructions that function as a virtual coach. It’s kind of like having a coach whispering in your ear during the workout, keeping you focused and educating you about purpose and benefits of the training you’re doing. Many workouts also use the instructions to walk you through cycling drills or specify cadence targets throughout the workout, both of which will ultimately make you a better, stronger cyclist.

So then, how do you decide on which of their 1,000+ workouts you should do today? If you already know the focus of your training, you can pick a workout based on training zone: Endurance, Tempo, Sweet Spot, Threshold, VO2 Max, Anaerobic Capacity, or Sprint. No clue what type of workout you should be doing? They have over 100 training plans you can follow, which vary based on your cycling focus, training volume, and where you are in your training season. Trying to dial in some race-specific intervals? Or maybe your coach has specified a very detailed set of intervals for you? TrainerRoad also allows you to create custom workouts if one of their existing workouts doesn’t meet your needs.

HOW DO I GET STARTED?
First you’ll want to confirm here, https://www.trainerroad.com/equipment-checker, that your equipment is compatible with TrainerRoad. Once you’ve confirmed that you’re good to go, you’ll set up a subscription with TrainerRoad ($12/month or $99/year) and fill out your profile. You can set up auto-sync with TrainingPeaks and Strava so that you get credit for all your hard work, without doing any extra work.

Now that your profile is ready, you’ll want to download the appropriate software for your laptop / desktop / tablet / phone here: https://www.trainerroad.com/download. The last item of business is to pair your ANT+ or Bluetooth speed sensor / power meter / smart trainer to the software. Then just knock out your fitness test and you’re on your way to becoming a better cyclist.

Racing Burnout and Mid Winter Blues

By 303 Ambassador Marty Rosenthal

I am often asked, “Aren’t you going to burn out?” “Don’t you need a break?” “How can you enter 2 or 3 full distance Ironman races in a year? I need to take a year off after each race.” My reply is typically No, No and it’s easy….

Truthfully, I think it is all a mindset and how one goes about their training and racing. Quite simply, I love it! I love to train and I love to race. I enjoy the comradery. I like staying healthy and fit. I am humbled by the challenges and obstacles that many have overcome to just make it to the starting line of any race, let along a full distance triathlon. I am in awe and inspired by the thousands of people that stand besides me at that starting line.
I believe that people shouldn’t race, if they don’t love it. Why put yourself and your family through months or years of stress and training if you don’t truly love it and desire to be a part of it? Why get monkey butt for hour upon hour of riding unless you love taking it all in and feeling alive. I could not image enduring anything for 10+ hours let alone 2 hours if I didn’t find enjoyment and satisfaction in what I am doing. There is no medal they could give me after crossing a finish line that would be worth it, if I didn’t relish in taking flight and flying to finish with a smile on my face.

Training and racing are times for us to truly be free and experience life and explore our minds our souls and wonderful regions of this world we might not otherwise get the opportunity to experience. This is why for the 3 years that I have been racing, I’ve done it non-stop and toed the line for 7 Ironman races and a countless number of sprints, Olympic distances and half ironman races.

Mindset is not the only way to keep the mid winter blues from destroying your training. I like to mix things up. So besides
just doing triathlons, adding cross training into my routine, is extremely helpful and an essence of me staying fit and having fun. Hitting the slopes, snowshoeing, going to the rock climbing gym, trail running are just a few ways in which I like to stay active in the winter. Another favorite activity for me to do is to enter in ½ marathons in warmer climate cities and plan a great 3 day weekend with my wife. It gives us some great quality time to share together. Visit a city we may not have been to before. Forget about PR’s and racing and age grouping and just enjoy being with one another and having fun running together. Screaming for more cowbell, flying to the finish and sharing Bloody Marys afterwards.

 

Joe Friel rewrites The Triathlete’s Training Bible and updates Training Diary

from Bicycle Retailer
http://www.bicycleretailer.com/new-products/2016/11/23/joe-friel-rewrites-triathletes-training-bible-and-updates-training-diary#.WE9HtfONpc9

BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) — Coach and author Joe Friel has completely rewritten his popular guide to triathlon training, The Triathlete’s Training Bible.

VeloPress said Friel rewrote the book to reflect recent and rapid changes in endurance sports science and practice, including new ways to personalize training, speed recovery, boost strength, improve skills and technique, use power meters for cycling and running, save time, and cut out the noise in a flood of training data.

The all-new fourth edition of The Triathlete’s Training Bible has a newly updated companion, The Triathlete’s Training Diary. Both are now available in bookstores, in triathlon shops, and online. A preview is available at velopress.com/tribible.

Tri Women’s Wed: Lisa Ingarfield’s Year In Review

By 303 Contributor, Lisa Ingarfield

If you have a Facebook account, many of you have likely noticed Facebook is sharing with you a collection of memories from 2016 as part of its Year in Review user engagement strategy. As a thanks to you, dear user, they have compiled your best memories from the year for you to share with your networks. Many of my friends have shared their Year in Review videos on their timeline with fascination, happiness, or comments such as “I guess 2016 wasn’t as bad as I thought.” For me, my recap included pictures from January and November/December. Apparently, I did nothing between February and October. This is curious, given this is prime time triathlon season, and I am fairly sure I remember entering a few of those.

Despite Facebook’s flawed attempts to reflect back to me the greatness of my year, it did give me pause to review and reflect. I just completed my last “A” race of the season, the California International Marathon. This was a mixed bag of PR, disastrous shoe tying skills, and a cavalier “let’s see how long I can maintain this pace” attitude. I am in the post-marathon “take a break” week, and so Facebook’s presentation of my year is timely because 2017 is on my mind. What do I want 2017 to look like? What races should I register for, and do I want to do another marathon? Like many of you, I imagine, I have a love/hate relationship with the marathon. During the race, I ask myself why I signed up for this distance again, and then in the hours and days after the race, the amnesia sets in and I move from “never again” to “maybe again” to browsing the list of popular Boston qualifying races and musing how they might fit in with my triathlon schedule. And so it begins.

This mental progression complemented by reflections on the year has led me to ponder where I want to invest my time in 2017. I think this is a question that we all should ask ourselves in an intentional way. Sometimes, the adrenaline of a good race or the competitive push of our community can have us moving from race to race with little down time or little attention to where our time is best invested. Like my Facebook Year in Review skipped February to October, it sometimes feels like I skipped February to October in a broad sense. All aspects of my life orbited training and racing during those months.

Those nine months, while punctuated by other events in my life, were largely oriented towards races and training goals. As I search the filing cabinet in my head to retrieve files from 2016, I struggle to put my hands on something that isn’t shaped by triathlon or running. That isn’t necessarily a wholly bad thing, as for many of us, these activities are central to our identities and how we show up in the world. Training and racing creates a sense of purpose. However, I do think that moving from “season” to “season” each year can limit our engagement with the vastness of human experience.

Is being singularly focused on one activity necessarily the way to engage with the world? When we review our year, shouldn’t we be able to point to a diversity of memories instead of just one repetitive experience?

Last year, I used one of those applications that compiles your Facebook hashtags. I was alarmed to see that my number one hashtag by far was that of my sponsor. Could 2015 be reduced to the repetition of one particular hashtag? Was I that predictable? For 2016, I am not sure that I improved much. While my hashtags may be more diverse, clearly, my activities weren’t. I certainly acknowledge that Facebook is not the sole definer of what interesting events and activities I completed in 2016 and nor should it be. But what it reflects back to me, or in this case doesn’t reflect back to me, is thought provoking.

Are the absence of memories from the middle of the year because everything I posted was repetitive and Facebook’s algorithm couldn’t distinguish between events? Or perhaps their algorithm is just flawed. Whatever the reason, I do know that I want 2017 to be full of learning and practicing to do and be more. This time next year, when I look back, I want to see multiple anchor points that my life experiences orbited around, not just racing and training. My identity as triathlete will be but one marker of who I am. That said though, 2017 may also include a marathon…