A Wicked Perspective on USAT National Challenge Competition by “Wicked” Courtney Connolly – TriCoachGeorgia

(As seen by TCGA’s “Wicked” Courtney Connolly)

Long distance triathlon racing season normally ends late in the year.  Endurance athletes often take a long break, gain a few extra, and then start back as it begins to thaw. What if you don’t want a long break? What if you realize that the key to improvement is consistent training? What would you do then? I used to take a break come back to normal human living for a bit. Maybe walk the dog more, more time to clean the house, spend time with loved ones. Now this doesn’t appeal to me as much. I have found a better thing to do with my time.

I am not an “off” season athlete.  As I have progressed, I have learned that I prefer to maintain a certain level of fitness throughout the year. In 2018 I completed my Ironman and fell in love with 140.6.  This is my place right now, as I love long course. The long hours, the alone time, the mental grind, I love all of it. So that brings into question at the end of my season, what do I do?

Bring on the USAT NCC or the National Challenge Competition. This was designed to keep triathlete’s training during the “off” season. Typically, the NCC starts in December and ends at the conclusion of February. Each month teams across the nation compete in a discipline either swim, bike or run. Then an overall is awarded each month and at the end of the three month period. TriCoachGeorgia has performed spectacularly in the competition the past few years as a team and on the individual level. This competition is a blessing for the long course athlete and for camaraderie amongst your team, which is rewarded by throwing down miles and yards. It’s quite simple and fun, especially with a team that is hungry!

There is a certain strategy required.  It’s basically a game of Triathlete Survivor. In order to play you really do need to Outwit, Outlast and Outplay the competition. Lucky for me my coach, Coach Slayer, is a genius at all of it as he used it to KQ.  We use NCC as part of my aerobic base building. These three months give my body the aerobic conditioning I need to get a jump on IM training for my race season.  Go slow to go fast so to speak.

I am not a naturally gifted athlete like some, so it takes work for me. This competition really sets me up nicely for my race season. I also may never be an Ironman podium finisher like many of my teammates but NCC levels the playing field. It’s not about speed – it’s about endurance.  You can go head to head with the pro’s and actually do quite well if your endurance allows. In fact, in the 2018 competition, I was honored to place 2nd female overall in the nation, a huge feather in my cap as I am proud to be known as a grunt.

It also takes certain level of discipline and dedication to make NCC work for you. You can do your regular training and use it to keep yourself accountable with your team members. Some go for gusto with above and beyond work. I have been known to be on my bike at 3am and I have put in 25 plus hour weeks of training on a regular basis during these three months. The key, I have learned, is live to train consistently, even if that means easy but long days rule the time period of the challenge.

Some have asked me for advice.  It is quite simple.

  1. ALWAYS listen to your coach – (if you have one… and keep them informed on how you feel).
  2. Monitor yourself closely for niggles.
  3. Remember safety, health, and your mental well being comes first.
  4. Don’t be afraid to be different.

On our team we go by the saying, Reap what you Sow. NCC is a prime example of this. The TCGA team fully intends to Reap in 2019. Thanks for reading and see you out there this year.