Monday, May 26, 2008

putting my triathlon puzzle together

I thought this to be an appropriate metaphor. My long-term triathlon goal is the completed part of numerous intriciate details that can only be fitted once at a time. Some parts are tougher to piece together than others, namely my swim. Others come more naturally like the bike and run. But regardless of which are strengths and which are weaknesses, the optimal combination of all three for my peak performance can only be derived by hours of quality training over a long period of time (not days, or even weeks as my impatient self desires).
As opposed to last season when my long-term goal was months in the distance, my coach and I are now focused 4 years down the road to the 2012 London Olympics. To see the perdiodization of my training in a 4 year block (macro scale) is hard to do at times as, like most athletes out there, a part of me wants to be in peak condition at every race. You should have seen my face when Ahmed showed me a graph sketch of 2008-2012 and said, "see you're only going to start sucking more every year, that's not to say your performance in races within the year, but your closest to peak won't arrive until here: trials time". Nice, my stomach sank at seeing the vertical drop until then, haha. This year has been tough going through off-season weight gain, accepting the concept of training races, new stroke technique, different race strategies, and more importantly, learning an entirely different way of racing that is short course ITU (which btw, as of last weekend, I love!!). It all has me feeling like I landed on a strange planet where nothing makes sense.

My first two years in the sport went by so smooth. Everything was handed to me on a silver platter. My first year, 2006, I won my age group at pretty much every local race, so I decided, heck why not try and go to Kona (not like that's the natural sequence of things when you win your age group in a couple local races, but I thought so at least).

So, on to train for Honu 70.3, 2007, it was. I did one or two races before that, saw the sudden dramatic improvement in getting a coach, and went into Honu confident and full of beginner excitement, ignorance, and with nothing to lose. Result: I get my Kona slot. It also did help out a lot that I was able to train in San Diego for a week before that race with some of the best in the sport. On to Kona- the story is old news, I had a fairy tale prep, spending the summer out in SD again. The race went incredible for me, I had no nutrition issues, no flats, etc. I was rested, ready, (again) excited, ignorant, and with nothing to lose.

Before this gets boring, the point is, things seemed very easy...winning, or placing among the top seemed do-able in pretty quick training periods. So after Kona, my distorted brain thinks "hmm, what's after Kona? the Olympics!!" Note: this was first offered by Ahmed as I never thought I could get my swim to that level EVER in a lifetime, but I was quick to say, ok if you think I can, then I do too, and I will. Either way, my plan was to back off long course for a good 2-3 years so as not to trash my legs. I've had the dream of going pro ever since I started winning a couple of races (and yet again, not the normal sequence) but racing Ironman professionally was not looming in my head until my late 20s.

So now, I'm here mid-2008 on the road to London. The difference from this time last year to now is dramatic, not only in terms of the goals, but my overall situation. I'm approaching graduation in December, so I have to a) find a job that fits my training and/or b) piece a s**tload of puzzle pieces together and get my pro card by then and start winning some $ OR c) win the lottery and lose some of my impatience. Last year I had an incredible financial sponsor otherwise all of the above mentioned would not have been possible. I've been wanting to start my nutritional consulting company but since it helps to be certified, haha, I have to wait because it's pay for equipment for my races, racing fees, travel fees, etc etc etc, (oh, and eat) or pay the certification. So, yea it's complicated, but everyone that wants to get to the top bad enough takes hard times as challenges and not obstacles and gets through them, thus I'm keeping it day by day just giving the best I can.

At the moment, I have Vancouver Age Group Worlds in two weeks. That's by big "A" race of the year. How am I feeling going in? Well, I don't really have a clear answer :) My training has been practically flawless...bieng a true perfectionist I refuse to change workouts that my coach gives me and won't miss a beat unless I'm sick, which thankfully was only 2 slight 3 day colds in early January and March. I've learned so much about the meaining of "racing" as opposed to my old approach (especially in short course) of just going all out in my own little world for the entire race...using other athletes that are dying to pass you on the bike and let you sit there comfortably behind them the entire time is phenomenal. The endless "kill yourself" swims at the camp in Hawaii in January and a couple recently at the lakes here in TX gave me an entirely new view of open water swimming and proper drafting. But this coupled with my new stroke is going to take time to piece together. When you throw that much information at someone like me who is already analytical and control-freak enough and who, since word association and the thinking process got going in my brain during childhood, has over a trillion thoughts going through her head every second, it's hard to just put my head down and swim like I used to and have it work, since these new methods are far from instinct as of yet. My bike has improved. I started working with a powermeter and have been reaping the benefits of doing the 3-4 weekly rides with the group of local cyclists and playing paceline until I can't feel my legs :) My run has expected, not a dramatic increase from last year, but I'm feeling confident, and luckily it wasn't very hard to lose the weight gained during winter.

Tonight we got back from Captex Olympic down in Austin, so I can take a look back at all the previous races leading up to Vancouver and try and absorb all of the lessons fully. I had an ok swim today, finally coming out in the middle of the elite wave, a great bike, and stomach issues on the run. Up until this race I've never had stomach aches (not talking cramps) but the type where I had to walk and stand and kneel over for a few minutes, so i guess it had to happen sooner or later and better now than in two weeks. Lesson: don't swallow lake water from Town Lake.

So my plan the next few days is to relax, quite over-thinking things, and just flow with it. I've done the work I know what I have to do at each leg of the race, and with proper focus, it should go how I want. Either way, it's one piece of that large puzzle that will have to fit somewhere and it can either be part of the mistakes/lessons, or the achievements/also lessons.

happy memorial wknd