Monday, June 20, 2016

Confidence and My Athletic Endevors

I've been missing for a while. It has been more than three months since I last posted. THREE MONTHS!!! Time flies I guess. But it wasn't a planned hiatus, just one of time, or lack there of, and desire to write. More to the point ... Ironman training. More specifically, Ironman Lake Placid on July 24. The MIA act started with the workload increase necessary to have a good day come 7/24. These days I'm a bit more tired, certainly more fatigued, and from time-to-time a little less focused.

But I'm back. In the coming week(s) I'll be caught up with my monthly training reports as well as recaps of the three races I have done since I last posted. With the large amount of time I have spent doing swim/bike/run there are other things I have been thinking about which could easily turn into a post or three.

Today I want to talk about a pretty lousy week in the pool. A few weeks back my normal training schedule got screwed up because of a combination of work commitments (gotta hate when that happens), a pool shutdown due to over-chlorination, and no desire to swim at 7 pm on a Friday evening. When I did get to the pool at a more routine time/day the workout was crap.

Like I said, not a good week.

It happens ... more than I would like ... but like I said, it happens.

Right now my main focus is training for Ironman Lake Placid, my sixth time preparing for this grueling distance.  In preparing for these events I have had my fair share of good workouts, great workouts, and workouts from hell. Two weeks out from Ironman Coure D'Alene my final 5 hour bike turned into 38 miles of hell, where I actually stopped and laid down under a tree in someone's front lawn for almost a 1/2 hour because I bonked.

Seriously, that happened.

Then I freaked out a bit.

Then I pulled it together, figured out my final two weeks and raced a good race.

What I learned from that horrible bike ride is that fitness is important, but can be utterly useless without the confidence to deal with the day-to-day, week-to-week, month-by-month grind of training for a big event. Yes, you may look back on your training and only remember the good. But really, in real time, we all have bad days, bouts of anxiousness, and the occasional freak out.

Nothing good comes from succumbing to those voices in your head. That's where confidence comes in. Losing confidence can absolutely destroy any chance you have of reaching your goals as you do what can only be called "stupid shit" in an attempt to get your confidence back.

What is "stupid shit?" Doing hard intervals three days out from your "A" race to "test" your fitness. Overly long, long runs every weekend for weeks on end to "make sure you can make the distance" (whatever that distance may be) falls into that category as well. Or just as common, running through a minor injury because three days without running will completely rid you of all your fitness.

So what is confidence?

Confidence is knowing that a bad workout is just a bad workout.
Maybe you didn't get enough rest or are a bit dehydrated. Or maybe your legs are tired from that long ride you did over the weekend. Or maybe you just mentally weren't where you needed to be. I had a hard "long" run recently because I made the rookie mistake of not getting enough food in me the day before. Pretty obvious in retrospect. Instead of getting down about it, try to figure out the why and move on.

Confidence is knowing that a bad week, or a bad week in swim, bike or run can happen.
Just like a bad workout you can have a bad week. In my case this tends to happen because I have over-cooked my body and the bad week is my body's way of telling me to back off.

Confidence is being able let your peak fitness go as you take a much needed off-season where you let the body actually heal itself.
Fitness is fluid. It comes and goes with the amount of training stress you put on your body. Ideally we would like to have this be a continuous straight line up, but that's not how it works. The body needs a break from time to time. And by break I mean a real break from the stress of training, not an easy 10 days followed by an "off season" trying to PR at the 5k or 10k distance. It takes true confidence to let your peak fitness go away, understanding you can get it back after the body and mind

Back when I was focused on marathons I would always shut things down between crossing the finish line of my fall marathon and January 1. Nothing structured. Nothing long. Nothing very intense. I could do this because I knew over the first few months of the year I would regain that lost fitness.

Confidence is knowing that you don't have to be in Ironman shape in February when your race is in July.

This ties in with letting your peak fitness go in the off-season. Fitness takes time to build, brick by brick, one day at a time. If not taking an off-season will break you down physically due to the continuous stream of stress put on the body, trying to whip yourself into shape too quickly puts your body at risk. The "real" training didn't begin for Lake Placid until April 4th.

Confidence is having the discipline on race day to properly pace your day.
One of my favorite bonks of all-time happened at the Philadelphia Marathon (I forget the year). Looking to run a 3:10 Lo-Jack and I hit the half way point in 1:29:xx. We did this to "bank some time," thinking that extra 10 minutes would be helpful on the back half. What happened instead was an ugly, ugly final few miles with more walking that I would like to admit, some of which was more like staggering.

Being fit is vitally important to athletic success but so is the ability to have confidence in your ability to perform. By trusting in your program, trusting in your body, you give yourself the best chance of success come race day. If you let something get in the way - a bad day, a bad week, or just that little voice that tells you you need to do a little more - your chance of success goes down drastically. Pretty soon you are adding "junk" miles, hard workouts and your off-season becomes non-existent. Not good for the body; not the formula for a PR.

I have found I do my best when I keep the workload in perspective, listening to the signals my body is giving me. If I need some extra time to recover, I take it. If I feel a twinge in my calf I take a few days off from running. But if I bonk because it's 87 degrees outside I see it for what it is and move on.


Thanks for reading.

Train hard. Stay focused.

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