Thursday, February 25, 2010
2010 Working Hard & Productivity
I've been reflecting on the ingredients to a successful triathlon career. Certainly you get out of it what you put in. I find triathlon to be a fun hobby, the intensity and commitment can certainly be addictive. I have to chuckle, I recently commented to a friend that if you want to succeed, you have to be willing to train so much that you almost lose your job and unsettle your marriage. I haven't had to sacrifice that much partially because of a flexible job and a wife who's a fellow triathlete. Plus, and this is a big one, we don't have any kids. Throw that into the scheduling book and any sort of long-term aspirations of becoming a front-of-the-pack racer is gone. Be real, do you want to sacrifice family time to practice countless hours for some upcoming softball tournament, opps I mean an IM race. Doing well in triathlon is not much different than doing well in a local softball tournament. Keep perspective.
But just in case you're starting out and wanted to know what worked for me in the beginning, I jotted down some notes.
The work of a triathlete is no different than the work of a sole-practitioner. I should know, I do both. Often times, it's done in solitude. Sometimes I stumble across others, individuals like myself who are on the same journey. Maybe our paths cross for a brief moment at a stop sign when on a bike ride, or it's at the pool when you got into the lane next to me, or maybe it's at the track when you showed up to do intervals. While our interaction may be brief it's not because we're rude or mean, it's because we're wolves. Legs fed the wolf so our time together is short by our character. It's time to move on, to keep ourselves strong, to find another meal, to live another day. In this game we got lots of work of do.
The experience of "Hard" is a personal experience. Nobody knows how hard you or I am working. A lot of the time you need to workout at a semi-comfortable pace; at other times you need to work hard and I mean really, really hard. Those that succeed in triathlon are committed to maximizing their training hours. Each gesture, each stroke, each stride is calculated for its value. 80-90% might be zone 1-2, the remaining 10-20% is zone 3 and 4. Experience shows us the foolish things we did in the past. I recall doing 8 weeks of training to race my first half ironman. I also remember doing 4.5 hour bike rides in February for a September race. Our previous errors help us to refine our training process and race strategy.
How much work does it take to be good is a common question. The most important ingredient for triathlon success is innate talent. Either you got it or you don't; no way around it. Next is dedication. Consistency of training is directly tied to your dedication. Week in and week out we need to be training. The amount of training usually parallels the distance of our A race. For short-course triathletes, that's usually 8-12 hours a week. For those at the half-ironman and ironman that means 12-25 hours for the pointy end of the age-grouper field. As for the pros, they seem to float between 20 to 40 hours a week regardless of the distance.
The accomplishment of goals is not a solo effort. It requires the support of a team. Support can come in many forms: money, gear, advice, recommendations, strategies, constructive criticism, and praise. In the world of triathlon, team means all the things listed above but also implies expectation. Without it, we have no one to answer to besides ourselves. While we may be able to muster up enough vital force to have a few conquests, the team environment makes the process easier, more enjoyable, and often times more successful. My first mentor in the sport was Paul Eckerle. His words of wisdom still resonate true for me today. Find somebody to help you along the way.
We might ride the same bike, wear the same gear, or even be on the same team, but when the gun goes off the prizes are limited and I happen to want one of those shiny trinkets. The competitive spirit has always resided within me. While I might not push you off your bike, I may turn myself purple to pass you while riding mine. And if I don't say anything when passing you on the run, it's because the pain reaches a level where it's a spiritual event. You're going to want to find a way that makes pain/fatigue/high intensity an ally. A race is a situation for testing your training program. It's important to recognize this is the time to over-reach. That might mean coming out of the water with the lead pack, not allowing yourself to be dropped on the bike, or it may mean trying to lead the race start to finish. Going for it means... going for it. You should never feel embarassed by blowing up, especially in C or B level races. Hang your head high for trying to "go for it."
In summary, I would like to say all the training and winning is worth it regardless of some of the really low points. I have experienced a great deal of personal joy and happiness in my spare time by participating in triathlon. Equally true are the numerous friends I've come to make along the way. I continue to be impressed by the quality of the people in the sport. The same traits of competitiveness, integrity, and competency that they bring to the sport are often reflected in their professional careers and personal lives.