Strike With Strength

As I sit here, currently trying to make my way through my taper, It’s hard not to over analyze  all the training I’ve put in up to this point. I had a few injuries in the fall that stemmed from some hip bursitis in my right hip, causing me to throw my left knee out at my fall half marathon. This rocked my base training period and cause me some loss of fitness and speed.

Couple that with the winter that never freaking ended, and my training season got off to a bit of a rough start this year. Not ideal with a 70.3 to kick off tri season, but what can you do.

One of my New Years Resolutions this year was to learn to swim like a “not loser” anymore. I can only suffer through so many triathlons doing side stroke before I fold. So despite the fact that my running had taken a hit, I started getting myself in the pool. I was going solo for a while, just swimming laps to build my endurance. I went to a few of the swim clinics with my tri club then started doing regular week day morning practice sessions with the club and Coach Fish. Fast forward to present day and I’m doing well in the pool. My speed is respectable, I can keep up with the drills in practice, and I can swim the distance I need to for my 70.3.


I also invested in a new bike this year. I’ve spent a great deal of time on my bike, learning her gears, feeling her out, and becoming one with her so we can crush us some bike courses this summer. My biking skills have improved as well as my speed and stamina on the bike.

I focused on my swim and my bike knowing I come from a strong running background and that no matter what I can always run. But now, less than two weeks out from race day I’m realizing I slacked on my running a bit too much. I’m a strong runner thanks to well over a decade of running under my feet, but that doesn’t mean I should have put it off so much these last few months.

There’s this notion that one should train their weakness. On the surface, working on our weakness makes complete sense. It’s a lot of what I did this year so far. But guess what? This is only an idea for most of us amateurs and age group athletes. Because elites and pros play to their strengths. Mirinda Carfrae won the Ironman World Championship in Kona this past October by playing to her strengths. She was 8 minutes behind the leaders coming out of T2 and came from behind to win setting both a new course record and new marathon record. Her strongest discipline is running and she used that to her advantage, trained to strike from behind on the run because that is where her strength lies.


And the funny part of it all is, we may not be “weak” at any of these sports. But by process of elimination we will pick which one we naturally excel the least in and deem ourselves “weak” at that particular discipline.

I do believe you need to work on whichever sport of the three you are less proficient at, but you can’t let the other things fall by the way side. There’s a reason why a good triathlon training plan has equal numbers of workouts per week in all three disciplines. And obviously there’s something to be said about playing to your strengths and training to take advantage of them.

Do you develop your weakness, take advantage of your strength, or a bit of both when racing and training? 
If you could offer one piece of training advice, what would it be?

16 Replies to “Strike With Strength”

  1. Good questions Courtney. I struggle with this too. I spent the winter shoring up my swimming and running (only to injure self running). Now I’m wondering if I should have been (should be?) biking more, bc it is my strength and what I enjoy most. And the longest leg? Who knows? We are all doing just fine 🙂

    1. Oh yeah, no matter what your training strategy, just finishing and having fun what’s important. The rest is just fluff!

  2. I think I have done a combination of working on my weakness and developing my strengths for this season. With my weakness being the swim, I spent a lot time in the pool over the winter, when most were taking a break from the pool. I hate going to the pool when it is cold outside, but I knew I needed the work, even before my IM training plan kicked in. I spent time on the bike as well, which is my strength. I had build up my bike fitness over the prior season and did not want to lose too much in the off season. My current training plan is smart is that it gives good times to all three disciplines. I am been dedicated to my plan and have seen improvement in all areas. My biggest advice is to keep your goal in mind everyday. It is easy to slack off on training and then come race day, wish you had done more. Stay focused on what you want and work hard to reach your goal!

    1. It’s definitely easy to slack off! Keeping that goal always on your mind is important. Eye on the prize!

  3. I have never done a triathlon (I am a terrible swimmer.. like really terrible), but I can totally relate. In life in general, I tend to focus on the area I excel in least and call myself weak, when really, I am not BAD at it, I just am not fantastic (except swimming… I am bad at swimming haha). Because of this, I will focus on my weaker areas instead of strengthening my already strong points.
    Carson recently posted…Total beach babeMy Profile

    1. I also tend to fixate on my weaker areas. Hopefully my run legs of my races this year don’t feel that too much since I slacked on running knowing it’s my strength.

  4. I’m not a tri athlete, but I do OCRs. I try to make it a point to practice/work on the obstacles I am weaker at (rope climb, monkey bars, etc.). I get in normal practice on the main aspect of OCRs almost daily: running. I guess you could say I work on obstacles and running, but I do one intentionally and one unintentionally.
    The Famous Mudder recently posted…Week 13 RecapMy Profile

    1. I would think for OCR it’d be important to work on and learn the obstacles that are more difficult. Especially in terms of confidence AND ability.

  5. I have completed 119 tris-just came back from the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. I have completed two IMs and 6 half IMs and countless of other distances, marathons, half marathons, trail runs, open water swims and century rides over the last 40 years. I have podiumed (is that a word?) in most of my races.
    My training advice is to go with your gut, have fun and don’t put too much importance on something that isn’t.
    It’s just playing. Keep things light and smile along the way…
    There are many other (and more important) things to focus on in this short life.

    1. Yes, always have fun! No sense in going through the rigmarole if you’re not enjoying yourself.

  6. I can 100% relate to this post. Running is my strength and I definitely play to this in my racing (and training). I have always looked up to Rinny because running is her strength too… and she crushes it at the end of every race.. no matter how far behind she might be on the bike. I have also been working hard on my swimming and biking all year long, and it can get discouraging at times! I want to be faster, but I’m not a naturally fast cyclist and it takes WORK and a lot of time. The best part is, seeing the progress, no matter how slow it takes to get there. I wish I could be equally as strong at all 3 disciplines, but then I guess I wouldn’t be challenged… and I like a challenge!
    Kristin (@SweatCourage) recently posted…Knee Update & Goals for this WeekendMy Profile

    1. The challenge is what makes it fun! I love Rinny, so inspiring! And the hard work that pays off is what makes everything so worth it in the end =)

  7. Like you, I am first and foremost a runner who also happened to be an OK cyclist and decided to do a triathlon. Swimming has been the only thing holding me back these past years from even considering a triathlon, but I finally sucked it up and wanted a new challenge. Although I want to become a better/faster swimmer, I also realize that it is the smaller leg in the grand scheme of things and I can make up a lot of time my capitalizing on my two strengths. Don’t get me wrong, I desperately want to improve my swimming speed and technique. However, hours and hours of effort in the pool may only earn me a few extra minutes, while hours and hours of effort on the bike and run could gain me 15-20 minutes. I do like balance and feeling comfortable on each of the legs. That is what is important for me.
    Kristen @ Glitter and Dust recently posted…Ironman 70.3 Boise Race Recap: Bike, Run, and CelebrationMy Profile

    1. I have the same feelings about the swim. I may save a couple of minutes on it with some work, but I can easy take 10, 20, 30 minutes off my bike time with equal amount of work on the bike. But I agree, finding the balance for all three is what makes for well rounded training.

  8. I go back & forth. I’m a runner (no biking or swimming for me) (yet) and my strength is endurance for long distances. I love the long runs and try not to worry about my speed. But I also want those PRs. So then I’ll get an itch about speed and I’ll focus on that for a while. But I don’t enjoy it. So I always go back to what I love doing the most, which also happens to be what I do best.
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