1 week until I my first Tri of the 2017 season.
I always get most nervous for the first race back after a break, even if it isn’t my A-goal. It will be interesting to see if I feel the same way going into Winchester Tri next Monday, as I have still been racing in small local single sport or duathlon events during the build phase of training. But I know I am certainly excited to put a full swim-bike-run together again, and it will be great to finally see where my fitness is at after a really solid training block.
I have high hopes/aspirations for my performances this year. I have never really been the sort of person to speak openly about my goals in sport, choosing to stay silent about them in a bid to potentially avoid the embarrassment of having to explain a failed attempt at achieving what I set out to. It is much easier to talk about putting in the hard training hours over so many weeks if they have actually amounted to some measurable form of “success”.
However, there is something about triathlon that has made me a bit more willing to discuss my aims. After finishing my third and final triathlon of last year, I was reviewing my race data on Strava and thinking about what events I wanted to enter for 2017. I decided that I wanted to try to:
A) Qualify for the GB Age Group team for sprint distance, and
B) Compete for podium positions at smaller races like next weeks Winchester sprint tri.
But arguably more significant than the goals themselves is the decision to tell people about them. I have been trying to put my finger on what has made me decide to be quite so open about this, putting myself at risk of publicly being seen to fail at achieving something. After all, triathlon is a sport where hard work and discipline are rewarded as much as talent (i.e. if I don’t achieve my goals, the only person or thing that I can blame for that is myself). I have tried to summarise what I think the key factors are that have influenced this:
- I think I can actually achieve it with a bit of work. As much as people like to talk about setting themselves challenges to push their limits etc, I think it is actually quite a rare thing for someone to enter an event/openly state that they will try to do something that they genuinely believe they can’t complete (assuming they have some knowledge of what is involved to get there).
- Triathletes seem to be a very welcoming bunch, who have a lot of first hand experience of failing/having bad races/overtraining and getting injured. They are therefore more likely to understand the difficulties of juggling training, a full time job, relationships and friendships, and that this balancing act means that sometimes the preparation needed to achieve a tough physical challenge just doesn’t happen.
- Telling people about my aims makes me accountable. I know that I need to put in a lot of hard training to qualify for the GB AG team, and if I don’t do that then I won’t qualify. That doesn’t mean that I am doing it to save face or appease anybody else; amongst the many reasons I do triathlon are my genuine love of hard training and the adrenaline-induced buzz of competing. But I don’t know anyone who would want to tell people that they are aiming to achieve a certain standard in sport and then not at least try to put in the training needed to get there. This accountability helps get you out of the door on the days you would otherwise skip, and 90% of those times I am grateful for that motivation once I actually make it to training.
I am acutely aware of my weaknesses and deficiencies leading into this first race. I have gotten used to being nearer the top of results sheets for my swims and runs recently, so getting my ass handed to me in my first cycling time trial last week by the majority of people there (including the other 2 members of my club) has served as a reminder that although my cycling has vastly improved, I am not the cyclist that I would like to be. A minor hamstring strain in that same race has meant that this week is going to be a much longer/easier taper than I had planned for it to be. Wednesdays brick training will be skipped because I am going to a gig that I booked long before my races.
But being open about my goals keeps me honest in training, and helps to keep me going when all I want to do is lie on the sofa and watch Netflix. Winchester was my first ever tri last year, and I finished 15th in 1 hour 20 minutes. I intend to smash that time, and I cannot wait to get out on the course.
Tri season is finally here.