I will not be racing at Kona in 2011. It’s a big step, but the decision is made.
For two years I’ve travelled, trained hard with my only concern being how could I go faster? Life was about using every minute of time in an attempt to be a better athlete. It was a lot of fun. It was tiring.
I’ve lost some of that fun. Numbers that were interesting to look back on are increasingly dictating every minute of my day. I think I’ve stared at my Garmin more than the scenery on recent rides! Training has become mechanical, constantly comparing the feel in my legs against the wattage on the screen. I remember the pleasure of my running block or the moment things clicked in the pool, but lately that’s been absent.
What I’ve been missing in training I’ve found in coaching. The last six months have transformed this into a genuine job. Despite modest expectations I’m far further down the road to a sustainable athletic lifestyle than I anticipated. Putting time and energy into developing as a coach was one of the most rewarding aspects of 2010. I’ve no doubt that when my body is long past ten hours of racing I’ll still be helping others on their way.
The passion for triathlon isn’t gone, but change is needed.
My annual goals shouldn’t be defined by what I won’t be doing, I need to avoid negatives and focus on positives. I won’t be racing in Kona, but I’m not announcing my retirement from sport. I want to remove the pressure for a year and allow myself room for a broader focus. I want the time and energy to improve as a coach, this is what’s going to sustain me in the long term. I want to rediscover the fun of training and be in a position to explore new approaches.
In training I’ll aim to deliver the kind of consistency I write about for the entire year. I’m particularly putting an emphasis on swimming and running. I’ve reaped rewards from blocks of focussed work in both, expand that to a year and the potential is huge. I want to end this year a significantly better swimmer and runner than I started. The training may not pay off immediately, it may rule out breaking 9 hours, but long-term I believe it has the most potential.
I’ll still be racing in the summer. Ironman Austria and Challenge Henley are already entered and I’m weighing up between Ironman UK and the Outlaw Triathlon. I’m racing for fun, not performance and I’ll pick my events on that basis. I may break some of my own rules and indulge in races I’d not normally consider during an Ironman build, I can’t deny the appeal of an Ultra. Whatever choices I make will be weighed up against the aim for consistency.
To support the change and help rediscover the fun I’m reducing my time on the bike. I’ll ride, but no more than the minimum needed to maintain fitness. Focussed work on the turbo to get the job done and allow me to swim and run as I need. In the short-term I’ll lose a little on the bike, but this is about making an overall shift as an athlete. It’s going to take time, I can’t achieve everything at once.
Beyond training I’ve taken steps towards a sustainable athletic life, but there’s a way to go. I aim to develop my abilities as a coach, learning from others and gaining experience. I want to improve as a writer, enhancing my skills and looking for opportunities to reach a wider audience. A combination of knowledge and clarity of communication provides a sound platform for long-term sustainability.
I will race at Kona in 2012.
I’m not retiring, Hawaii remains the major draw. I’ve yet to give it my best and I don’t intend to leave things that way. Over time my aim has transformed from completing an Ironman, to qualifying for Kona, to performing there and earning a podium spot. Stepping up to qualify took dedication and hard work, placing in my age group requires more. I need to be a better athlete and to achieve that I need time to improve in each sport. That’s a two year project.
It’s a year of big changes. Finding a balance between developing my career in coaching and as an athlete. Putting an emphasis on enjoying training and racing to their fullest whilst not worrying about performance. Consistent work in all areas of my life to ensure long-term success. When I set my goals for 2012 I’ll confidently write about achieving a breakthrough performance and expanding a successful business.