Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Locking it in

It's weird to transition so abruptly from one discipline to another.

One year ago, I was preparing to schedule a time for the GRE; I was looking at Yale, Stanford, Berkeley, asking professors about what graduate English programs might suit my skills and interests, and writing my senior thesis. I was almost positive that I would be going to grad school, or at the most taking a year or two off before continuing my studies.

To tell you the truth, I can't even remember exactly what or how everything changed . . . I remember being really sick of school. I remember being frustrated with L.A. and wanting to get out. I remember gradually falling in love with training and racing, mostly because of the awesome team with whom I was privileged to race. Whatever happened, I changed, and so did all my plans.

As a result, I've found myself very suddenly having to establish a professional image and ethos from scratch. I'm sure that all recent graduates go through this process; it just seems a bit riskier because the field in which I'm working isn't even remotely related to the field in which I built four years (well, probably more like two and a half) of expertise. Consequently, I can feel myself shifting and considering, weighing different considerations as I try to establish a philosophy for my coaching and teaching style. It's very much like starting to take some of your resistance work onto a wobble board or other stability tool; I can feel things shifting and changing as I try to find my equilibrium.

But along with that reflection on coaching ethos, I've also found myself thinking about my training goals, my process, my strengths, my weaknesses . . . the essence of my training. When my wanders as I swim or run, I find myself thinking about race goals and plans, where I should take my training in the next months, where I'll be in this sport in five years. Then I tell myself to focus on my form and stop thinking so damn much.

The questions remain after the workout, though. The primary realization I've come to, and the one I want to share here and now, is that I want to continue to focus on short-course racing. If you've been reading for a while, you know I've been considering--and had more-or-less decided to go ahead with--the 70.3 distance at the Las Vegas triathlon this year. I've changed my mind.

This will only be my third year racing. I don't come from a running/swimming/biking background, really, so the only long-term aerobic base I have has been built in the past two years. I'm still young; I can still demand a lot from my body. I am short, stocky, and muscular; I am built for short, intense bursts of speed, not sustained performance over 70.3 (or 140.6) miles. Taking all of that into account, I am 99% sure that Olympic distance and shorter is where I'm going to see the most success in racing. Could I make it through a half iron distance race? Absolutely! Would it take me eight hours or more? Yeah, in all honesty, it probably would.

I am young, in terms of my athletic career. I am also young in general :-). I want to be competitive, and I think that I can be if I work hard over the next several years. But it's not going to happen if I devote several months in this, my third season, to building enough base to make it through my first half ironman. At this point, I'd rather go fast than go long (I have years and years and years to build up to long course events!), which is why I will not be racing anything longer than Olympic distance this year.

Just like when I tell my bike classes to lock in perfect form before we start working hard, I'm locking in my coaching and training ethos. Which isn't to say that they won't change; after all, aren't we always looking for ways to improve our technique? But I hope that these ideas and decisions will carry me through the coming season with stability and purpose. And I'll share some more of my coaching ideas in the next few weeks, also.

Thanks for reading, guys!

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