Monday, March 15, 2010

Training for training

This past Saturday morning, some friends and I rode the hills of Westlake, chewing our respective stems up Terrance Mountain, Redbud and Toro Canyon. Not really talking, just feeling the burn of long slow climbs, and the sting of the steeper pitches. There were a few deer still feeding on the side of the road and hardly any traffic at all. People walking their dogs, and houses with mortgage payments that I can not fathom. A couple of the out and back climbs so steep that we stated laughing and collapsed on our bars at the top. No heart rate monitor. No computer. No zone to stay in or planned route.

At Taco Cabana then, before work. Checking Paris-Nice updates on Twitter and talking to one of our customers about his race schedule. The blur of work, and laughing with the guys (and girls) about some of the crazy questions we get. Brian, showing me the old steel framed Colnago that he is bidding on. Checking the Chronometro results and talking to Sam about the course at Fayetteville next weekend. Bikes, bikes and more bikes. I love it...

This is not the training plan to win races. This is the training plan to stay fresh in the sport. According to Jack, the average customer in our shop has a life span of about three years. Since I've been working here over two years now, I assume that some of the friends I've made will be gone by seasons end. Triathlon is, quite simply, a sport that breeds neurosis. It can consume our lives and all of the endless details can keep us awake at night. Three complete sports, done back to back, without stopping. It really is a lot to wrap your head around.

After my first three years racing and, unbelievably, never wining Kona, I was fairly spent. Workout schedules are still schedules, it seems. 6am runs never really get easier to wake up to. Essentially, the sport was turning into my grandmother. I loved it to death, I just really didn't want to hang out with it anymore...

Just a reminder to everyone feeling the same this season. It's OK to not race and just have fun. Explore new bike routes. Rent a canoe at Zilker, instead of doing core class. Dodge boulders on the greenbelt, instead of strollers on the trail. Endurance sports are all developmental and as long as you stay relatively fit, sliding back into the sport will be quite easy. Triathlon is only getting larger, the performances more unbelievable and the training methods more scientific. Go out, explore the world, be a spectator for a while and remind yourself what got you started in the first place.



Mark C. said...

Thomas, when I was Chairman of UK Triathlon club Tri-Force which had a 150 members give or take, I developed the 3-year rule which applies here.

1. First year people love the sport, they love the positive feedback, the new friends they make and how fantastic the sport is.

2. Second year people make big improvements over their first year race results, with little extra time spent training. They get faster, they go faster, they buy faster stuff, they learn how to cut out all those wasted seconds doing things like tying shoe laces, putting on socks; they fit aero bars to their road bikes and swear they make them faster... even though their AMPH is only 16.

3. Third year they think if they just put in a bit more time they'll make the same huge gains they made in their 2nd year, buy a real tri bike, buy running flats etc. But they don't, it's not that easy, you can buy a few seconds here, a few seconds there, but you need to work much harder, more structured which doesn't mean longer but can. Then, half way through the season they get injured or a bad race result.

It's those that come back the next year, work a real training program, get a coach that helps them focus on their real needs that can call themselves triathletes. Triathlon is not defined by distance either, way too many people think that if they go longer it will be harder and they may do better; in reality you can go much harder in training and racing at short distance, sprint and Olympic and have a much more successful and much more balanced life.

Isn't it great though being there at the start, and those people you have been helping, when they come back year after year will remember what you did, what you said, and the time you spent with them. One of the reasons people love Jack and Adams!

Skeese Greets said...

Agreed, Thomas. & Mark - good insight. I wish fewer people would put so much emphasis on distance. When I used to race the 800 in track, it was way harder than any 5k I'll do these days. Distance definitely doesn't make it harder (or better.)