Monday, January 27, 2014

For the Love of Training

So I was thinking about what to write for today's blog post. I think next week I'll do the next installment in the "Things I Love" series (need to do some photos for that ...), but for today?

Then I saw that the hubby blogged yesterday - "When do we become champions?" - and it made me think of my own training journey right now.

As I mentioned in last week's featured workout post, I asked myself why I was waking up so early to swim, but that I never answered the question. I think Brandon's post does. I may not specifically be training for a certain race (like IMAZ last year), but I am training. I'm training for the next time I descend into the pool, the next time I lace up my running shoes, the next time I hop on my bike. I'm training for the next race, whether it be a 5K or Ironman*.

It's the reason I don't do a pool session without my "toys"** right now. I do kick drills with my fins and am learning to love my paddles and pull buoy.

It's the reason I'm doing a lot of technique work on the bike trainer right now.

It's the reason I've slowed down my running a lot - to build up my engine more efficiently so it will be faster when I need it to be.

It's because, though I may never win a race or qualify for Kona***, I can always be better. While I may be quite lazy (seriously, it's true), this month has confirmed what I've always thought - I am a competitor.

I think it's also why I love triathlon.

When I first started playing hockey, I was bad. My first year in college, I probably shouldn't have made the club team, but I did, somehow. The summer between freshman and sophomore years, I played in a rec league, went to hockey camp and never went more than a week without skating. In fact, in all four years of college, the longest stretch I had off the ice was two weeks.

The work paid off; I was noticeably better my sophomore year (and in subsequent years as well).

Ultimately though, it didn't matter. I moved from the fourth to the third line (and eventually to defense after essentially out-stubborning my coach) ... but I never was a top player. I was steady enough on the blue line and got some decent penalty-killing time (particularly on 5-on-3s), but I was never "good." I just got to the point where I wasn't a liability when I stepped on the ice.

In triathlon, I'm definitely mediocre. I've somehow managed to get myself into the top third or quarter of running races, but I'm completely bottom-third in tris****. But that's okay. I'm not physically built to be super fast and I accept that. But if I screw up, it only screws over me. If I do well, I'm the only one who benefits. It's the beauty of individual sports, especially for us back-of-the-pack'ers.

Inside the insanity that was Ironman training, I learned that I loved the hardest weeks the most. Peak? Was my favorite time. Give me that 14, 15 hour week and I will be the happiest I can be. I thrived under the crunch of training, even as much as it wiped me out. I felt rudderless after the race without something to train for.

That may still be true, but I'm training again, and that's enough for me. I'm at three, four hour weeks right now and can't wait to jump that up to six, seven, eight hours ... even though there's no need. I'm enjoying the 6am Sunday swims. I'm enjoying running right now ... now that I've convinced my brain there's no need to go fast (running pain-free, helps, too). I'm enjoying time on the bike trainer and outside when I can get there. I'm enjoying lifting right now, each repetition reminding me, once again, why I love the iron.

I'm also enjoying not having to do any single bit of it. I don't have to train as hard as I am right now (although comparatively, it's still not that hard), but I want to, and it's fantastic.

So why am I training right now?

I'm training, to use Brandon's words, to be a champion next time I race, though for me that means a season hopefully full of PRs.

I'm training, quite simply, for the love of training.

* I really wish I had another IM on the schedule ... stupid expensive race.
** If I call them toys, that means they're fun, right? All about perception.
*** For another 35 years, at least.
**** Except in transitions. Always top-third in those.

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