I feel like it has been years……
That’s because it has since I’ve wrote a blog. I honestly got away from this because life is just too busy sometimes. And truthfully, I’m not sure I have tons of new stuff to say all the time. But after a few years, some life changes, and still trying to compete at a high level…I feel like there some things I’ve learned that everyone can benefit from. So here we go….
This is not a plug for me to Coach you. This is a plug for you to figure out if a Coach is right for you. In my case, I’ve been coaching myself for the past 2 years. I’ve had wonderful experiences with my previous coaches (Matt and Jen), but I felt with the birth of my son, our 2nd child, I needed to take a break from the responsibility I felt to my Coach (Jen) to get the work done. Things were changing; life was difficult learning how to parent 2 kids! Sleep? What the hell is that? I knew I still wanted to compete, but I needed to take it down a notch. And man was that refreshing after 8 years of pushing the limits. The freedom I felt to write whatever workouts I wanted, to experiment with different types of intensities to see what worked, and guiltless pleasure of missing a workout and only having to answer to myself was AWESOME.
Fast forward 2 years and I’ve learned a few things as well. My life is a little more stable now and this year was a BIG year of training and race goals. I saw my mileage ramp up and with it, expectations went the same direction. The difference (from having a Coach before) was I was in too deep in my own head. Was I doing enough? Was I doing too much? Am I writing workouts that are truly challenging? It wasn’t on purpose, but it is REALLY hard to write a workout that you know is going to crush you. So I found myself doing a lot of 90-95% stuff…when maybe I needed to be doing just a little more. Or as you will see, quite possibly a little less!
That is the benefit of having someone outside your own world to do the Coaching for you. As a Coach, I can assess my athletes’ body of work, expectations, and life balance to determine what is possible. Countless times I’ve had an athlete say that they thought there was zero chance they would make it through a workout…but then they smashed it. That’s what a good Coach does….they see the potential and dial it up at just the right time. Based on my experience over the past few years, that is almost impossible to do on your own.
So in summary, not everyone wants a Coach. Some don’t need them. But for those of us with busy lives, dedication to our sport and high expectations of excellence….this is the only way you will achieve your potential in my opinion.
There is no single magic workout that will help you achieve your goals. I have athletes all the time get panicked if a workout goes sideways or doesn’t happen at all. My favorite is when I get a phone call in February from an athlete doing an Ironman in September.
It goes something like this:
“Oh my God Dave, I’ve missed the last 3 workouts because I was sick. I couldn’t even get out of bed. I had to hire a nanny for the week just to make me soup. I threw up 18 times in 18 minutes. But, I’m going to try and run 10 miles this afternoon because I know that my Ironman in September is totally ruined.”
“Go to bed. It’s only February.”
Yeah, it is about that short :) For ANYONE getting into Endurance sport…it really is about the body of work, not the individual workouts. Are there “key” workouts? Absolutely. But is it much more important that you put a consistent 10 MONTHS together, not 10 days leading into your taper.
Personally, I had a really rough year with consistency. First off, unless I was injured or sick, I never took a day off. That is HORRIBLE. I pride myself on the recovery aspect of this sport. Going back to my coaching topic, I failed myself in this area. Looking back on the year, I was consistently fatigued. And that led to a lot more small niggles and injuries than I have ever had in this sport.
Just when I was starting to fire on all cylinders, I hit that motorcycle in the Lake Zurich Triathlon head on. This was middle of July, Racine was my big triathlon of the year being raced the following weekend, and I smashed into a motorcycle in my lane at 25-30mph. So I took a month off and healed right? NOPE. I took 1 day off and got back at it and tried to race Racine. While I don’t regret giving it a try, looking back several months later it wasn’t the best thing to do. I took 1 week off after Racine and started training for the Chicago Marathon.
During the Chicago Marathon training I was sick for 3 weeks in the middle of it. That is a massive disruption when you think about what amounted to an 8 week training plan. More to come on this, but it is no surprise that the Marathon went sideways on me.
So as you can see, the only thing that was consistent this year was fatigue, setbacks, and honestly, some bad choices.
So as you line up what 2017 is going to look like for you, remember, it’s about the body of work not small snippets of time along the way. If you can take a big picture look…you might have some better results than I did. Food for thought.
“If you do enough of these events, you are bound to lay a turd sometimes.” That is my new favorite quote that I made up all by myself yesterday after struggling to the finish line of the Chicago Marathon. There is a lot of truth in it…but under it all, I learned HUGE lessons training and racing for Chicago…I think you can learn a little from them:
What you did in the past means nothing in the present. My last two marathons were 3:03 and 3:01. So it seems very reasonable to set a goal for 2:59 based on past experience. Here is the problem though; if you base your future goals on what you did…not what is happening now…you are in for epic failure. I went through my Marathon training STRUGGLING to hold my marathon pace (6:53 per mile). I had every excuse in the book: it’s too hot, it’s too humid, I’m sick, I’m tired, I’m stressed, I’m sore…..the list goes on and on. The hard lesson, if you can’t hit your pace in training you WON’T hit it on race day.
If I look around at my athlete’s, and others, that crushed it yesterday, they hit their marks in training. So don’t let your ego guide your goals…be honest with yourself and let the past be the past. That is how you get the most out of today. Hindsight is 20/20…but I should have started on a 3:10 pace and built from there. I probably would have finished 3:04-3:06 and would have been very proud. Instead, I ended up blowing at mile 16 and had a 10 mile death march to the finish…which I eventually did in 3:25. Learn from this….it is an important lesson.
You CAN’T RACE a marathon with 8 weeks of training. You can finish a marathon respectably on 2 months of training…but you can’t “race” it. I spent the last 2 months putting in BIG miles for this race….but the body of work I keep talking about was pretty limited. It had been 2 years since I raced anything longer than a half marathon. Most marathon training programs are 4-5 months long. I guess I didn’t respect the race as much as I should have…and I put too much stock in my “Triathlon base” to really go get my marathon goal. I’m convinced that marathon training and racing is the HARDEST training you can do in this sport. The simplicity is awesome. The toll it takes on your body is awful. It is really hard to get through it. So in the end, my body said ENOUGH at mile 16….and you know what? I don’t blame it. After the year I had and the limited build….it makes sense. My body was never in 2:59 shape…but my ego was.
Gratitude. This is the lesson I was reminded of yesterday. I am so thankful I have the opportunity to do this. To push myself. To compete with others and to share my passions with a truly awesome network of friends and family around me. And ultimately, to set a wonderful example of what hard work and reaching for goals means to my kids.
I had an athlete remind me yesterday that my last 10 mile “death march” would have been a 10 mile PR for them! WOW….I needed to hear that. Perspective is a great thing. So while I am very disappointed in the result, the journey was great. I’m grateful in a weird way that I can barely walk today. I choose to do this, many cannot make that choice. And for that, gratitude will always be one of my core values in life and sport.
Well, if you hung with me this long, good for you! You have way too much free time and I’m totally jealous :) It was nice to get this out of me and on paper. Recapping a race or a season is a very healthy thing to do. I have some big ideas for 2017 and I’m looking forward to getting my “mojo” back.
I am also going to try and blog a little more often this year. I learn so much through my racing, my coaching, and the feedback of those around me…it would be a shame not to share it. If even one person is inspired by this…it was well worth the time to put it together.
So enjoy some time off this fall…I know I will. While the weather in Chicago is about to turn ugly, it is the perfect time to assess and build the body and mind back up for 2017!
See you at the races!