Friday, June 17, 2005

Note to 'correre'

'Correre' posted a comment after the Galena race asking what advice I would offer a friend who finished the race last in his age group. Without knowing anything else about the friend, let me offer the following:

Often, the toughest hurdle to improvement is to stop beating yourself up. Finishing first, last or (more likely) somewhere in between, you still accomplished something that only a tiny fraction of people even attempt, let alone finish. Be proud of that. Satisfaction with a job well done is a huge problem for me, so for now it's 'do as I say, not as I do'!

Next, realize that improving performance is usually a matter of pulling many different levers:

  • Equipment: does it support or hinder your race goals? Triathloning is expensive but you don't have to break the bank to assemble equipment that isn't a limiting factor.
  • Overall training plan: are you training enough and/or correctly? Does your training push your limits? Do you always train at the same speed? For motivation, do you train with a group?
  • Day-to-day nutrition and eating habits: are you fueling your energy and recovery needs? Do you eat a balanced, healthy diet, heavy on the freshest possible foods?
  • Form & technique: are you using energy as efficiently as possible? Swimming, especially, is a very technical sport where subtle refinements can pay big dividends.
  • Mental attitude and preparation: is your attitude positive? Can you visualize race-day success? Do you prepare for success or fear failure?
  • Race strategy and pacing: do you know your gears and what pace you can comfortably sustain?
  • In-race nutrition and hydration: for longer races especially, do you have a plan to stay fueled and hydrated during the race?
  • Fun: do you have a smile on your face? If you're not having fun you won't be motivated to improve.

Most of us are working on most of these things most of the time. Each day of training and each race offers the chance to learn something new. The challenge, then, is to apply that hard-won knowledge in ways that lead to higher performance. But it's a journey, not a destination. And, inevitably, in triathlons as in life, some days are better than others.

In my races this year, I've finished first in my age group after two hours sleep and zero preparation. I've finished nearly last in my age group in a race where I REALLY wanted to do well and prepared like it. And I've spent lots of time in the middle of the pack - about where I deserve to be. I'd like to think that the list above explains everything, but the real explanation stares back at me from the mirror each morning. And that guy is totally, maddeningly inexplicable.

So arm yourself with some knowledge, a plan and the support of tri-colleagues around you and I'm betting you'll start to see those results moving in the right direction. Best of luck.


Comm's said...

very well said.

I think I better review my position based on those criteria.

Wil said...

Hey, great post. Way to put things in perspective! I'll do a little thinking about this myself.