March 29, 2009

It's Not Just About the Race

I always seem to write better when I plan my blog entries and this one is sort of planned. I have an idea of what I want to write about but I didn't create it before I signed on. That seems to be my life anyway, doing things without any plans in mind. Trying to pull it off with no plan in place. Well, that works in some things but it's not a good recipe for your entire life. It is especially not good for completing an Ironman race. Although, I do know a guy that does it. Sort of. He doesn't follow any formalized plan but makes sure he swims 3 times a week, gets in several 100 mile bike rides and runs far enough. He's one of those gifted runners who can turn in a sub 4 hour marathon without really training. But one thing is sure, he doesn't start his training like I did the week of Thanksgiving for a July race. He gets to it when he gets to it.

There is a great article in the Winter 2009 issue of Triathlon Life. This is the publication of the USAT. On page 114, Jeff Matlow writes an artilce titled "Beyond the Pain." It is largely a story about a Tri Coach named Tony that Jeff hired to help him train for triathlon racing and other endurance events. Tony was an ex-military guy so that right there should tell you the kind of coach he was. Jeff said he was tough but also knew when to back off if the training was pushing too hard. One time during training for a marathon and an Ironman, Jeff gets hurt and is told by his doctor to stop running. The doctor allowed him to do pool running but that got boring. So, he did what every bored, tough triathlete does when they are injured and can't run outside. He hit the elliptical machine.

There was one specific training session when Jeff decided to go for 26.2 miles on the elliptical. It took him 3 hours and 28 minutes. If that mind numbing exercise can't prepare you for triathlon when half the time you are battling yourself and the other half the course, then I don't know what will. I've personally been on a few 6+ hour rides that get old after awhile but the elliptical? I can't even last 2 hours on my trainer. But this is precisely the point that Jeff wants to make. It was his coach Tony that prepared him for this. As he said, "he was proud of having pushed forward when every cell in my body tried to convince me to fall back."

The training sessions with Tony taught him more than how to swim, bike and run. All the pain, anguish, and tears accumulated during endurance training eventually add up to something. Yes, it hopefully gets you to the finish line but there is more. As Jeff said "....Triathlon isn't just about the race. Rather, it's about what you learn from the race that you can apply to the rest of your life."

This past Saturday, four of us showed up at the usual parking lot we meet at for our long rides. It was finally warmer than the usual '27 degrees" that it has been all winter but still chilly out and overcast. We're half way to Ironman now but all so tired of waking up at 5:30 and riding in the cold. In any evet, we somehow mounted the bikes and headed out. It warmed up some and the time went quicker than we thought it would. We pulled back into the lot and commented aloud that the ride wasn't that bad and actually enjoyble. But that's what triathlon teaches. When everything seems impossible, it's the strong that continue on.

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