Early in my triathlon career, my mind was capable of more grandiose results than my fitness produced. After repeated failures to obtain desired results, an appraisal of my ability and fitness produced more realistic expectations. Though my race results still fell short of my desired goal, I created a strategy to improve.
Instead of lowering my expectations, I reached out to those who were more successful in gaining results than I had been. From their mentoring, I was able to identify common characteristics that seemed to provide improved fitness and race results. Simply, consistent training volume over a long period of time and a strong mental game were the key components.
Gordo and I created a simple Basic Week training schedule during Epic Camp Australia 2005. This allowed me to immediately improve consistency by realistically assessing my week and organizing training sessions that were accomplished >95% of the training year.
The Basic Week also provided an assessment of my life schedule. It was apparent that the desired fitness was going to require more training volume. My initial reluctance to increase volume was that I would compromise my work and family life. However, a critical assessment of my day allowed me to add training sessions by replacing things in my life that weren’t providing any additional happiness or success. Getting faster and fit made the “sacrifices” easily justifiable as I began experiencing a level of success that my goal oriented self was content.
As I improved, I was still leaving some of the fitness on the table during races.
Through assessment of my strengths and weaknesses, I was able to clearly define areas that focused preparation would result in race day improvement.
My strategy had to consist of something beyond more training, because I wasn’t seeing a linear increase in my performance by just putting in additional training time, and with those attributes in mind, I critically assessed my strengths and weaknesses and devised a plan to address them.
Once I realized fitness gains evidenced by faster benchmark training sessions, I began searching for areas to improve that did not require more training volume. Recovery techniques, improved nutrition, mental strategies to push through barriers were all areas that provided continued improvement.
And it seems, that is the key…continuing to forge ahead in search of ways to push through barriers.
This weekend’s IM Canada’s results demonstrate that to me. Justin Daerr is one of the guys that I was privileged to train with and put on a few camps this past spring (Endurance Corner Camps in Tucson & Boulder in 2009). During one of our recovery swim sessions last year, I remember asking him what his long-term triathlon goals were and he very clearly stating his lofty goals in an unwavering fashion. (I will leave that for him to achieve or share). I was impressed with the clarity in stating those goals, mostly b/c to that juncture, there wasn’t a lot of results to back it up. At that time, Justin hadn't run under 3:00 hours and barely cracked 9:00 hours at Florida.
Fast forward 12 months and he has run twice under 3 hours and now has a PB in the 8:30's. Unbelieveable...and his goals seem ever so much closer.
If you look at his results from 2003 to Aug 2007, there was only a 20 minute improvement despite 4 years of hard work. And I remember him saying before his first breakthrough performance Florida 2007, that he had to do something different…to really lay it on the line to continue his dreams. And he did it…how, I’m sure it has to do with in believing in himself, perserverance, sticking to his plan/dream...all of those and things only he can share. But if you look back where he was on that summer day in 2007, there are literally thousands of people who had achieved what he had at that point. But he found a way.
Michael Phelps was interviewed and talking about how he was (is) this dorky little 13 y.o. kid with a dream of swimming in the Olympics. And yet 10 years later, he achieved one of the most memorable accomplishments in Olympic history.
You got to believe in dreams. Not all of us will go 8:30 in Ironman or win 8 olympic golds, but isn’t that what it all about?