Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tough is learned

During a kick set in masters the other day, I had the pleasure of eavesdropping on two other swimmers. They were discussing which races to do.  

The conversation went like this:

"How about PelicanFest?"

"Oh that's too cold"

"What about the Peak?"

"Are you kidding? Too hilly and windy along that stretch."

The first thought that popped into my head was, "Maybe triathlon isn't the sport for you."

I think this point needs to be stressed: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PERFECT RACE. EVERY RACE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT. 

None of us were born with a "tough" gene. We've learned it from training and racing in really bad conditions. 

Last year, someone that I really respect as a person and athlete said to me, "You don't want to do that race. It's too hot."


I've got news for you. I don't choose a race because of its relative ease or difficulty. I pick races based on my schedule and on locations that I might want to visit. 

Anything else is a mental game. Do the training. Follow your plan. Know your fueling strategy. Control what you can control....which is your reaction to things that happen. 

SO many times I've read race reports saying, "That was the hottest race I've ever done" If you read the report, they were looking for an excuse for their slower finish time.

I take issue with this for several reasons:

1.) We race in the summer. EVERY race is hot. WE KNOW your time will be slower. A dry heat is as horrible as a humid heat. Climbing 5000ft is as tough as riding 100 miles of flats....all for different reasons. Last year, I did a race that was 107 degrees when I got on the bike. I messed up my fueling underestimating my sodium needs for that level of heat. (A DRY heat. If you've never raced in a desert type environment, it's a heat that will take your breath away....literally). That was on me, but I didn't feel bad about the race. NOR did I even mention the temps to anyone because I'm not a fan of the "fighter" comments. I don't do this because I need my ego stroked when I finish in tough conditions. My goals way beyond finishing. Finishing in tough conditions is the norm. The unusual is having a perfect race with perfect conditions.

2.) Did you NOT train in the heat? If you did you would have been acclimated. Triathletes should ride and run in the hottest parts of the days (specifically HIM and IM triathletes). Even doing so, we're going to make mistakes. MOVE ON. 

3.) How on earth do you expect to improve if you don't experience at least a little bit of discomfort? Train in a snowstorm. Ride in the wind. Swim in below 60 degrees water. Race in a hail storm. Push your heart rate up. Make your legs burn. Run in the hottest part of the day. Go on a long ride, get lost, run out of fuel and figure out how you're going to get YOURSELF home. WANT to give up.....but don't. 

There is no such thing as an easy race. The assumption should be that the race will be hard.

The sooner you can accept that, the better an athlete you'll be.