"The Training Diaries" is a monthly series of posts by Zachary Britton, a DC Tri Club member who was a participant in the New Triathlete Program in 2007 and is currently attempting to qualify for the Olympics. Read the previous entry.
I raced this weekend. I took fourth. Jarrod Shoemaker took first. The race showed me a couple things.
First, my fitness is not where it needs to be to do ITU racing. I planned to race in Spain on July 31st, but I have cancelled these plans. ITU racing requires you to be on top of your game. The competition is fierce and mistakes become magnified. Seconds lost during the swim can turn into minutes on the bike.
The race also forced to face reality. It will take time to regain my race fitness. When I was injured I convinced myself that I would be racing again soon. I only looked at the positive.
For example, although I was unable to bike or run last summer I viewed it as an opportunity to focus on swimming. Even more troubling, I couldn’t push off the wall. Thus, I convinced myself that each wall-less flip turn made me better at accelerating. When I tore my rotator cuff, I told myself that it was an opportunity to hone my focus through law school.
I never acknowledged how long it would take to get my fitness back. I held on to the glimmer of hope that nothing had changed. The race this weekend forced me to face reality, however. It will take time to get my race form back.
I read an article about Lolo Jones, the Red Bull sponsored Olympic hurdler. The article was dedicated to describing her non-existent social life. I go back and forth on this issue.
Basically, coaches and athletes often believe that isolation leads to excellence. The athlete’s life is reduced to training and racing—no dating, no drinking, etc. Each day the athlete trains and recovers, all the while visualizing the perfect race.
My old coach more or less adhered to this philosophy and it never really gelled with me. I always found myself yearning for some semblance of normalcy. I found that part of me rebelled.
In short, when I ignored my basic needs—like friendship, sex, socializing, etc.—I found that the subconscious (I believe it’s the subconscious) part of my brain began to drive things. It bubbled over. And it showed itself in strange ways.
For example, I hurt myself more in training. I took unnecessary risks on the bike. I pushed myself to the point of puking.
Long-term, the effects were insidious. Mentally I checked out. I stopped looking for speed. I stopped tweaking things. I stopped doing the little things that make a difference.
On the other hand, when I go out with friends, date, socialize, etc., I train better. I take better care of myself. I am more focused during workouts. Of course, what works for me might not work for others, and vice versa.