Sunday, July 6, 2014

On naivety

This has been something that I have been thinking a lot about recently when trying to put together a race plan for Ironman 70.3 Racine.  I have been trying to workout how I want to approach the race in terms of pacing, power, nutrition, etc.

I have learned a lot in my second season of racing. Between my coach, reading, and talking to many others, I am significantly more prepared to go into this year’s race than last year.  However, this has also helped me to realize how naïve that I still am with all of this. 

I finished my final big block of training this week and was trying to pick a race plan based off of those numbers.  After the workouts, I emailed my coach and said, “I think with taper that (XXX)ish is doable.”

Her response, “Do you think you can run a great half marathon off of that?”

And I thought.  And thought.  And thought some more.   I couldn’t come up with a good answer. 

To me, It seems reasonable, but to be honest, how could I know? I haven’t tried.

We discussed a bit more and worked together through some best and worst case scenario pacing due to weather conditions, etc.

This is where my naivety comes into play.  And to be honest, I don’t mind being naïve with some parts of this sport still.  When I did my first half Ironman, I did it with trainer wheels, some Gatorade, two sleeves of Shot Blocks, and no real plan.  I was just hoping not to drown.

I ran my first marathon with a long run of 15 miles, a nutrition plan of taking water and Gatorade when I was thirsty and hot, and a race pace plan based off of “I think that this seems like a reasonable pace.”

I would go to these races and see things that were just confusing and weird.  I kept looking at all the people around me with Alien helmets, disk wheels, power meters, shaved legs, speed suits, etc. and just thought that the gains received from these they were negligible at best.   When I looked at their times and compared them to my own, I assumed that they were just that much fitter(still was the case for a majority). 

Seeing this gap in time especially on the bike and swim, helped me to make many decisions that at the time ultimately helped me.  I just thought I wasn’t working hard enough or working hard enough in the right way.  Instead of looking for ways to find “free speed” in the forms of bike and swim gear, I just tried to work harder(again, because I was too naïve to believe in the results that could be produced by all of these equipment adjustments). 

This led me to join a master’s swim group, hire a great coach and push each day.

I made more fitness gains in this time that I could not have imagined because I didn't believe there was any other way. 

In some ways, I miss that naivety.  Although the knowledge of all the marginal gains that can be made with equipment, nutrition, etc., has led to time gains in my races that I would have never achieved through simply working harder, I believe that so much can be accomplished by simply being naïve and innocent.

I remembered times when I was younger playing in a weekend soccer tournament.  We played 7 games in 3 days.  Granted they were only 35 minute halves, but that equals over 8 hours of working out in 3 days.  We weren’t concerned about proper nutrition.  We didn’t think about getting enough salt.  We didn’t even think about how tired your legs were from the previous games.  You would eat at Jimmy John’s, because that is what our parents believed to be a good meal between games.  You just went out and played.

It is in these moments of purity that you truly learn to love the sport.  You do it because you just do.  You don’t overthink.  You just get out there and run until you are tired and then you run some more.  You don’t think about bonking and blowing up because it just isn’t an option.

Sometimes, I(and I am sure many other people) get way too caught up in numbers.  I need to hit XXX watts and X:XX pace or this race/training session is a failure.  I miss the moment when those numbers were foreign to me and I just ran without consequence.

Those moments when it was just you and your friends sprinting around the block, biking to the park, or swimming to the other side of the pool.  You just went.  You didn’t think.  You just knew that there was someone next to you that you wanted to beat. 

One goal that I have in relation to this is when I become a parent one day to put a Garmin on my kid when he goes to play a pickup game of any sport or a game of “Ghost in the Graveyard.”  I would love to know the amount of miles and time that were covered simply fueled by Lemonade, S’mores, and Chicken Nuggets. 

I really started to think about all of this this past week on my final build week leading to Racine and I looked at my workout for Thursday.  It was a brick that I had done plenty of times before.  And I normally like this workout a lot.  However, when I saw it, I thought about how my body was feeling and immediately emailed my coach to ask her if I could change it.  My wording was something along the lines of “I won’t be able to hit that pace.”  It really bugged me. 

She talked through it with me and told me to either take a rest day or to do an easier bike.   I chose the latter.  When I got to my bike, I was riding around and actually felt pretty good.  And as one tends to do on bike rides in the middle of nowhere, I began to think.

What would have happened if I missed the pace for the brick?  Would the world have ended?  Would my coach yell at me?  Would I have to quit doing this sport forever?  Would people dislike me?  Would anyone really know?

When I realized the answer to all of these was a resounding NO, I began to reflect on how I miss the moment of pure naivety and bliss in exercise.  Sometimes it just takes getting out of your own way and relaxing your mind to all the excess information to truly remember that this is something that you like to do and choose to do.

I was able to remember why I love to do this and get to do this.

Exactly 2 weeks to Racine where I get to remember why I love racing.

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