I came into the year with expectations that, deep down, I knew I could not meet. I think I wrote down that my goals for the season were to 1) to not get injured, 2) to win a race, and 3) to get on the podium. I did not accomplish any of those goals. Not by a long shot. However, if I’d written “have a good learning experience!” like every glass-half-full newby pro, I’d have had to slap myself in the face. I’ve yet to meet a major goal in sports, so the day it comes, it will be all the sweeter. If it doesn’t come, well then I guess I’ll be bitter.
Training started much later than ever this season. At the end of 2015 I took a full month off after Los Cabos (and a month before actually). After that I took an additional two months training very, very easily. After being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s early that fall, I wanted to make sure that my thyroid medication had time to take hold before I dug deep. That huge quarter year of rest took me to the end of January, when I was lucky enough to be partake in a trip down to the Tucson Cycling House for a five day block of big rides in the sun. I got back and immediately began training with Michael Lovato and his group of triathletes, including Adelaide. We both benefited greatly from having someone to wake up with at 5:30 for morning masters workouts, wolfing down second breakfast, kitting up for rides afterwards, and getting to bed early so we could do it all over again the next day. Somewhere in there was work. For the time being, we’re both lucky to be able to work part time, otherwise this training load lifestyle would not be at all sustainable.
It took a while to get used to those early mornings and the all too common three-a-day workouts, but I could tell it was paying off a few months in. Unfortunately I got sick forever in March/April and missed my first planned race in Texas. Then I injured my back from swimming and missed another race in Utah. Despite seeing some decent swim and run gains, I was not off to the stellar start I was hoping for by May.
I won a few local sprint races and a bike race in mid May and early June, before completely flopping at my first half-distance pro race of the year, Boulder 70.3. Last year I was 9th without nearly as much training, so I was confident that I’d be able to pull off a top five this year. Ha. The field was super stacked, and on top of that I wasn’t able to run faster than a jog due to the first of the year’s crippling lung cramps, a feeling I’ll describe as hyperventilation, constriction by a 30-foot boa, and being repeatedly stabbed in the chest with a jagged spoon shank in the prison cafeteria.
That takes us to late June, where I came in 6th at Coeur d’Alene and earned my first paycheck in triathlon (still haven’t received it though). Any profit I came away with was spent on physical therapy for the hip injury that resulted from that race. The hip was my second injury of the year and took over two months to heal, causing me to miss two more races. I rode and swam throughout the summer, and even did some easy running in the later weeks, but the lack of competition got to me by late August and I had a few moments of lost passion.
Thankfully Santa Cruz was just around the bend and my hip made the last of its recovery in the week leading up to the race. I came in 10th in another stacked field, out of the money but the best I could realistically hope for. I had a solid swim and an even better run, and the race left me with confidence leading into Cozumel, which was three weeks later.
I sucked at Cozumel. I had a bad swim, my glutes cramped on the bike, and I had to jog the first seven miles of the run. My last hope of the year was Los Cabos, four weeks after.
Going into detail about Los Cabos isn’t necessary since I just wrote about it. I had a good swim, great bike, and horrible run due to the dreaded lung cramp.
Training with Michael has been better than I could have expected. I thoroughly enjoyed his humor and the energy that he brings to every workout. It rubs off on the rest of us, and at 6am it’s a necessity. Another thing that I didn’t expect was the intensity of the workouts and the lack of recovery days/weeks. It was game on from day one to day 287. During that time period (just over nine months), and including all those sick and injured weeks, I averaged 19.2 hours a week (788 hours). The entire year will be 900 counting all the easy months last winter before I officially started training. This apparently isn’t very much for a triathlete because 1) I only spent nine and a half months training instead of 11, and 2) I skipped or shortened multiple workouts pretty much every single week this year due to physical or mental fatigue. It will take time to build the stamina needed to do 25+ hour weeks, week after week with only race weeks in between as “rest” to break them up. I wouldn’t have thought that this quantity and intensity of training would be beneficial, but the proof is there if you look at the huge progress I made and the quality of Michael’s other athletes.
Triathlon is all about having the patience and mental fortitude to put in the time, and to make that time high quality by achieving pain…without overdoing it and cooking yourself for the next training session. I struggled with that balance, as well as adapting to the new strains caused by running and swimming. One hour on the bike does not equal one hour in the pool or one hour slamming the pavement with your feet, especially if your body is not accustomed to anything but hunching over a set of handlebars. I was not very consistent this year, in racing or in training, and I was constantly plagued with injuries, which killed my morale at times. I’ve finally come to realize that next year I need to focus on stretching, a lot of gym work, and regular massage or at least foam rolling.
I guess this year was about learning. Damn it.
Something I like about triathlon is its simplicity. It’s a sport for dumb missiles. Compared to bike racing there is almost no strategy, there’s no teamwork, there is no conniving within a peloton, and there is no peloton to hide within. If you do well or if you do poorly, there’s only yourself to blame or congratulate. The same cannot quite be said for the training involved, and for that I have my coach Michael, Adelaide, Chris, and all my other training partners to thank. Thank you for helping me permanently deform my toenails.