I’ve had several conversations recently about the challenges of IM training. When I was home, one of my parents’ best friends — who is sort of my second mom — mentioned that one of the videos that plays while she runs on the Alter-G is recent Kona race highlights. Basically, a sufferfest captured on camera. Her reaction?
“That doesn’t make me want to run faster, it just makes me want to stop.”
On our long/hot/flat bike ride, Lauren and I talked about the mental aspect of training and racing. She said that one of the reasons she wanted to start her blog is to show people what it’s really like to do IM. There is a growing number of blogs devoted to triathlon, but guess what no one ever tells you?
This shit is HARD.
Sure, everyone knows that training 10-20 hours a week is going to be tough. But you can’t really conceptualize this until you’re in the middle of it. And some athlete-bloggers make it sound like it’s all puppies and rainbows and pink roses. It ain’t.
I appreciate reading about people’s successes in training and racing — it’s superb motivation and definitely shows how hard work pays off. Obviously I love sharing the good details with you all. But guess what? I also have a full-time job to work around. I still have to feed myself, do laundry and pay the bills (basically, be an adult). I’m not a pro and don’t have someone taking care of my every need who can give me massages after my hard workouts or cook me dinner when I finish a late track session. I spend every last penny of disposable income — of which there isn’t a ton — on gear, race fees and nutrition. There are mornings that my alarm goes off at 5:20am and my immediate reaction is to throw my phone across the room and go back to sleep. More often than not, I’m cranky about swimming until I’m down to the last few yards of my workout. It’s tough mentally. It’s tough physically.
None of this is bad, just par for the course and an important aspect of the whole experience of this crazy sport. So here’s my goal: make sure to incorporate the reality. Sure, I want to talk all about how awesome triathlon is and how much I love it and how rewarding it is to kick ass and see how training breeds results. But I wish someone had told me that being dehydrated makes it hard to sleep at night. Or that there will be days on which your body just won’t cooperate no matter how hard you will it to. Or that the heat will make your heart rate do crazy things.
I’ve been thinking about how to keep my head in the game in the face of all this, and here are a few things I’ve come up with:
— Stay focused on the goal. Every time I hit a wall, I remember the end game and why I’m doing this. Motivational videos don’t hurt.
— Keep your non-tri life intact. I promised when I started this insane journey that I wouldn’t let my social life and friendships slip away. I think — and my friends probably would agree — that I’ve been fairly successful at this. Sure, I’ve backed out of a few things after particularly tough long rides (thanks to Rachel and others for loving me anyway). But for the most part, I’ve managed to attend happy hours, wine tastings, book club, etc. and actually enjoy the mental respite from training. I’m flexible enough to arrange my workouts around these events so I get the best of both worlds.
— Know when to take a break. This is hard, but I have to give myself permission to back off if my body just can’t take it. It’s ok — preferable, in fact — to call it quits if a workout is going to do more harm than good. Sometimes all it takes is a good warmup and a mental game (if I swim 1000m, I can get out — at which point I’m more than likely going to finish the whole thing), but on other occasions I’d rather rest than burn out.
So here’s what I’m asking from you:
What’s your training challenge? What do you struggle to get through?
What do you wish someone had told you before you started a training cycle?
How do you make it through the down days when it comes to motivation?