Your Tri Season Post-Mortem Worksheet
For a successful season next year, experts agree that you need to objectively and subjectively evaluate your last season. We have the steps (and a printable worksheet) on how to do it right.
The point of looking backward is to figure out how to move forwards. That, in a nutshell, is the reason you conduct a post-season assessment (or post-mortem): you look back on the past year to determine what you want to do differently next year.
But as straightforward as the concept may sound, determining how to properly conduct a post-season assessment is actually quite complex. The scope of what to look at, through what lens, and for what purpose spans a massive range of possibilities. Many of these questions are what you’d expect a very very good coach to ask, so if you’re self-coached or maybe have a basic training plan only, this exercise is particularly important!
What to expect
Across the board, no matter what angle of attack you take with your post-season assessment, you should walk away with actionable insight. Insight into what you intended to do last year, insight into what actually happened last year, and insight into what you do or don’t want to do next season.
If you have already decided on the problem you’re trying to solve, your post-season assessment might focus narrowly on that piece of the triathlon puzzle. Two common examples:
- Maybe you take a deep dive into your training within a single sport so that you can get faster next year. You look at your past training volume, how and when you incorporated intensity, and what tools you used to support your training. You might decide that to improve in swimming, you need a combination of one-on-one swim lessons to improve technique and a double-dose of volume. For cycling, you could determine that an improved indoor cycling setup plus more outdoor hill work will improve your power and lead to more speed. Or that more time in the gym and weekly plyometrics are your keys to faster run paces next year.
- Maybe you take a deep dive into your race execution so that you can move up within the age-group rankings in the coming season. You scour several years of race results to determine whether you perform better on hillier or flatter courses for the bike and run and sign up for races that play to your strengths. You review your on-course fueling with a nutritionist to optimize that formula for cool, warm, and hot races. You look back at your training and see relatively few runs off of long bikes, and add not only runs off of every long bike but also several race simulation days into your training plan for next year.
On the other hand, if you can lift your gaze from the obvious questions and approach your post-season assessment more broadly, without assuming in advance what you’re going to discover, the exercise can yield some surprising and extremely effective insights.
The post-season assessment
And that’s exactly what we’re going to do: Take a step back and review your season without knowing where the questions might lead us. We’ll approach a few different topics from both a subjective and an objective point of view, zoom out to look at the big picture, and finally use that big picture as a lens through which we’ll observe and reflect. As we go through the exercise, use the provided PDF to note your responses.
If any of the questions are impossible to answer because you haven’t been keeping meaningful records, that’s probably a big red flag to start. Begin by putting this statement at the top of your list “Log my training/take notes better.”Section divider
The subjective take
We’ll start with a “Subjective Take” on each topic, which will pose a series of questions about how you feel. Yup, we’re going to talk about your feelings. This piece of the exercise shouldn’t be rushed; you may be a person whose initial, instinctive response is often the most true, or you may be someone who has to sit with an idea for a while and run through a few levels of responses to arrive at the heart of it. Either way, give yourself the time and space to arrive at your destination, and—most importantly—do not look at your objective data before responding to the subjective questions.
Topic 1: Your Training Execution
Whether and how you execute your training is the foundation of basically everything else in your triathlon season. So it seems logical to start by digging into this topic. Answer the following questions about your training execution, both overall and also specifically about swim, bike, and/or run (and strength, if that is part of your training), if your responses to the individual sports differ from the overall picture:
- How did you feel while you were training?
- How do you feel about the amount of training you did this season, relative to the amount of training that was intended and/or planned? Where would you ballpark that proportion?
- How well do you feel you adhered to the details of your workouts – everything from distance/duration to pace/power/effort-level targets to intervals to route requirements?
Topic 2: Your Training Progress
The point of training is, of course, to make gains in the areas of swim, bike, and run (and strength). Answer the following questions about your training progress, both overall and also specifically about the individual sports, if those responses differ from the overall picture:
- While you were going through the season, how did you feel about the progress you were making in training?
- Looking back on it now, how do you feel about the progress you made?
- How would you describe that progress?
Topic 3: Your Race Experience & Results
Thinking about your “A” races or up to three races from the past season, answer the following questions about your race experiences and results, both overall and also specifically about swim, bike, and/or run, if your responses to the individual sports differ from the overall picture:
- How did you feel while you were racing?
- While you were racing, how did you feel about your race execution (pacing, fueling, etc.)?
- While you were racing, how did you perceive your effort level?
- Looking back on your races now, how do you feel about your performance?
- Do you feel that your races accurately reflected your training?
The objective take
For better or for worse, if you track your training and racing then you have a recorded history to compare to how you perceived and remember it. We’ll use your training log and race data to gather an “Objective Take” on the same set of topics. Do not judge your responses to these questions; just note them and move forward. And no need to compare them to your Subjective Takes, we’ll get to that in a bit. (If you don’t track your training and racing, then you can skip this section. In which case, again, one clear insight from this assessment is: You will learn more about your training and racing if you do so next season.)
Topic 1: Your Training Execution
- Review your training log for the past season to determine what proportion of your planned workouts you showed up for. So yes, you get credit if you showed up but didn’t complete the entire workout. This is tricky information to get out of a summary chart, but scrolling through your calendar should give you a decent ballpark: 50%? 80%? 95% or more? If there are trends relating to when or which workouts didn’t happen, either overall or within a specific discipline, make a note of that.
- Now go back and review in more detail the workouts spanning the final eight weeks leading into your “A” race. First, spend a minute or two and tighten up your estimate from the first question. Second, give yourself a score on a scale of 1-5 for adherence to workout details. If there are trends as to where your execution differed from the details—either overall or within a specific discipline—make a note of that.
Topic 2: Your Training Progress
- Within your training log, review benchmark workouts, race results, and summary fitness data (shown in the Performance Management Chart in TrainingPeaks or the Fitness & Freshness Chart on Strava, for example). Relative to the start of the season and/or to your prior one or two seasons (not five seasons ago), where do these objective measures show improvement overall and for swim, bike, and/or run (or strength) in terms of power/pace, endurance, and/or overall fitness?
- List any specific improvements in skills or “triathlon IQ” that were made this season, such as definable improvements in swim or run form, bike handling skills, or workout execution skills, including pacing and fueling.
Topic 3: Your Race Execution & Results
- If you wrote race plans, compare those plans to your race data. Give yourself a score on a scale of 1-5 for how well your actual execution followed your planned execution. (Don’t write race plans? That’s another good insight: you will execute better on race day if you do so next season. For now, just score your actual execution.)
- If you had specific outcome goals for the races, note where your results fell relative to those goals.
- If you completed this year’s race distances in either of the past two years, note how this year’s results compare to those results.
The big picture
You’ve taken the time to think subjectively and objectively about your season of training and racing, and you’ve probably already noticed that there are some differences in the stories that are told through those answers. We do want to dig a little more into that, but first we need a lens through which to do so.
Understanding the role that triathlon plays in your life helps you determine which stories to prioritize and which narratives you actually care enough to change.
As with the Subjective Takes, the answers to the questions below might come to you instinctively, or you may need to take some time to let your mind wander toward its final destination. It should go without saying, but there is no right answer to any of these questions. It’s your life, and you get to engage with triathlon in the way that works for you.
What Is It About Triathlon That Fills Your Cup?
It’s all too easy to summarize what we got out of a triathlon season through our race results. But that is just one piece of information about each of a handful of days in our year; they hardly tell the entire story of a season and they rarely reveal the most meaningful parts of that story.
So now I’d like you to think about your engagement in triathlon and ask yourself: What is it about triathlon that fills your cup? What do you find rewarding? What are you getting out of triathlon that you’re not getting elsewhere? Ultimately, what is about participating in the sport of triathlon that makes you happy?
Where Does Triathlon Fit Within the Rest of Your Life?
Every age-group triathlete conducts a balancing act between work, family and friends, other hobbies, pursuits, and interests, and the sport of triathlon. But no two juggling acts are going to look quite the same.
So, where does triathlon fit within your life? Do you revolve everything around your involvement in triathlon, does triathlon exist in the space that’s left after everything else, or is the balance somewhere in between? Which pieces of your life absolutely must come before triathlon, which pieces have equal pull, and which do you allow to come after? Be honest, here.Section divider
Observations and reflections
Here, here is where it gets interesting. You’ve done an enormous amount of thinking and digging and have peeled back some real truths and realities about your training and your racing and how you engage with the sport of triathlon. Some of the stories told through your responses will have clear takeaways, others might be more nuanced, and some responses may even tell opposing stories. All of this presents a wide range of possible insights and potential directions for next season. We can’t possibly uncover all of them, but by observing and reflecting on how triathlon fills your cup and where it fits in your life, you can start to align both of these things with the ways you engage and move forward within the sport.
Your Subjective Takes
First, look at how triathlon fills your cup. Is what you are getting out of triathlon more experience-oriented or more outcome-oriented? If your rewards are more experience-oriented, you may want to listen more to the stories told through your Subjective Takes; if your rewards are more outcome-oriented, the Objective Takes may take precedence.
However, it should go without saying that any topic where your overall feelings were negative is something you want to look at addressing next season. At the end of the day, this is a hobby and if you’re not enjoying it then you’re not going to continue doing it. Going back to the Big Picture and understanding what about triathlon makes you happy can help identify where to focus moving forward. Additionally, ensuring that the expectations of your outcomes are aligned with how you prioritize and invest in triathlon can potentially address some frustrations and feelings of dissatisfaction.
Your Objective Takes
Here, start by looking at where triathlon fits within your life. This honest assessment can provide guidance about your level of investment in the sport in terms of time and emotional energy and help you to understand whether your expectations about training hours and progress and outcomes align with that investment. Specifically, this is where to look to confirm that the number of training hours on your calendar aligns with what you have to give.
You can also dive deeper into when triathlon fits within your life. See if there are specific times of day, days of the week, or times of the year that have both a larger proportion of missed workouts and non-triathlon demands on your time. Structuring the pattern of your training weeks and the seasons of highest training volume to fit with the rest of your life instead of fighting with it can reduce obstacles that stand in the way of execution and therefore progress and outcomes.
Finally, there are a wide range of details within your Objective Takes that you can explore further to pinpoint specific actionable changes for next year, including:
- Addressing training execution challenges posed by the equipment you have or don’t have and/or the availability of equipment and resources such as your gym and pool
- Addressing training progress by improving the quality of your planned training and/or focusing to address specific limiters, including strength
- Addressing race execution by incorporating more race-specific training days as well as race simulation days to practice race execution, including fueling
- Addressing race outcomes by revisiting how you are choosing races to make sure you are setting yourself up for success with regards to course profile, travel logistics, and even race distance
- Addressing overall motivation challenges by revisiting your goals and specifically tying them back into how triathlon fills your cup
Aaaannnnnd … We’re Done
PHEW. That was a lot. Your head might be spinning with information overload, or you may be so energized by the insights you uncovered that you can’t wait to plan out your season and get started. Or maybe you need more time to sit with the narratives and to find the more subtle meanings within the nuances of your responses. Regardless of where the journey led you, the time you spent responding and reviewing and observing and reflecting should have provided some thoughts on what you want to do differently next season, and that was the entire point.
Alison Freeman is a co-founder of NYX Endurance, a female-owned coaching group based in Boulder, Colorado, and San Diego, California. She is also a USAT Level II-certified and Ironman University-certified coach as well as a multiple iron-distance finisher.