The good, the bad and the dream crushing – One year of Life@Steady
After a couple years of getting out and logging some trail time and races I had a focus in 2009 of completing the Xterra Off-Road triathlon series and trying to get enough season points to complete at the Xterra USA championships. By the end of the year, I found myself qualified for the USA Championships and also Xterra World Championship race. A bit more than I set out to do originally but that is usually how it works when you can just get yourself started. Leading up to the World Championship race at the end of the year I had finally managed to log some consistent 10 hour training weeks and it was the first time I started looking at training as a process…a learning process and easy example to follow when achieving a goal. I did not think I could get any more fit or do anything different but when I look back now I can see how inappropriate the intensity and structure of my training was at the time. However, they were only a small part of what was wrong and that’s where the learning comes in. The endeavor proved to be a powerful example and the entire process, the approach to reflection was a lot of fun. The race did not go so well but what I learned got me going on goal setting inside and outside of racing. As much as it looked like the race day had my focus, I realize now it was the process that caught my attention and captured my excitement. I wanted more…of all of it.
Two days after the race while Monique and I were still on Maui we decided to go for a ride up Haleakala (having no idea how long the climb was at the time!) and the wheels in my head started turning. That long ride was satisfying and deep with blueprints and questions for the year to follow. How much actual “work” did I get done leading up to the race this year? Was I using excuses to excuse myself? What is the real work I need to get done in my life? Was I willing to change? What were the things that limited the amount of work I could do? Who’s team was I on? What did I like best about the process?
I was originally planning to spend my next year of sport just riding and racing bikes. I felt like the bike was my strength and if I stuck to this one sport I could get “good” at it and the science of sport would even back this up. Except “good” is relative and being “good” at something was not reason enough for me to pursue it. The multisport and multiple sports I have been involved with over the last few years come from some deep internal motivation and spirit of play that some good friends instilled in me early on. The path became very clear even while enjoying a bike ride. I was happy sucking at multiple things. As much as I love riding there was just too many other internal passions that made me want to explore so much more. I have also wanted to “go long” in some races and training and this too came from an internal curiosity but it was a big question. I had even signed up for an ironman a couple years back but I never got to the starting line…and never mentioned it until now. I had no idea where to start for something like that and I didn’t know if it would be something that I liked. I had so many questions and a healthy fear about going long but I have found that the pursuit of both of these is where the excitement comes in and a deeper, longer process of learning.
I realized by the time we finished the ride that we had put in a big climb! Taking out the inappropriate intensity, distractions of the busy life we often lead (we were still on vacation in paradise after all!) let us knock out a climb that even looking back at now seams a bit overwhelming to attempt on mountain bikes. We had no idea where the top was and I can honestly say we enjoyed the view along the way just as much as the summit. If you ever get a chance to climb Haleakala you will know what I am talking about. It was never too steep at any given point but requires climbing from sea level to beyond 10,000 feet in elevation so making the grade requires a lot of work over a long period of time. Not hard to do if you keep a steady pace most of the time. We enjoyed the day and there is nothing in this world I love more than getting into adventure with Monique. Somewhere along that ride the weakness of chasing the balance of multiple sports and multiple goals became strength and the fear and unknown of going the distance became an anticipated excitement from deep within me. I was giddy as a school girl to get started with the next year.
By the time we got down the mountain, I had planned on a few goals and committed to a focus for the following year of going long in multiport. Some of these goals were to always keep and follow a compass pointed towards fun. I am a full-time network enginerd so this “work” would be all for fun. The fun was my decision maker for races, a warning for when to back off and how to stay motivated. One thing that got me started getting outside was the amazing people I was meeting and another goal was to expand the team of these inspiring people and build relationships. I also wanted to keep a quality log of the process, training and lessons learned. This would provide a good example for some focus times later in life for me and hopefully I would not have to repeat a lot of the same mistakes. These and a few other goals were loose guides that allowed for flexibility but supported a steadfast focus, on the focus…Going long. This above all things required a good deal of learning how to pace and live life at steady. No rockstar workouts, no high intensity intervals, no sighting the completion. This was about Slater vs. Slater in going the distance. Here are some of the things I did that were a help along the way.
I Left my excuses behind. By committing to a year, I would give opportunities to pursue my new focus a priority. The first step in shedding excuses was to look at what was reasonably possible for ME to do. I had to be realistic by taking stock of what my complete environment would support: mentally, physically, socially and spiritually. Would my wife, family, friends and employer support this? Life balance is the start and end of any focus in my life and when it goes things get ugly fast. How much time, energy and focus could I give to this without loosing balance? This was the hardest part in getting started and required some deep honesty with myself. Setting up my life so that I could do the work and keep the balance was a big process in itself and started more than a year ago. I still believe this is the hardest part of any process because it takes some investing before the specific tasks start. I had put in some solid years at work already so that I could have the trust to get a flexible schedule and then banked some comp time and projects at work so that I could do the bulk of training when it mattered most. I worked more than a few nights and weekends over the winter! This also required a lot of simplification of my life. I tried to keep a simple schedule and shed bad habits early on so that I could make changes stick, not for weeks but for months and hopefully dig into a lifestyle change. Consistency is huge!
Ironman St. George was the only race I had planned for the year and my goal was just to finish. Simple! When I got back from Maui I saw a post on Endurance Corner about an Ironman camp for St. George and it looked like a fitting opportunity. I listed my kayaks on craigs list the next day and thought that if I sold them I would use the money to go. I got a call the next day and it funded my camp. I was willing to give things up and commit to changing. I learned more at that short camp than I would have learned in months…maybe years of trial and error by going about it myself. I also had some questions answered about if I would like living life at steady or going long over the course of a weekend without spending a year wondering if it was a good fit. It did not take long for me to realize I REALLY liked this! I was lucky enough to stay with Gordo at the camp and another opportunity presented itself to get myself a coach by the guy who wrote the book on going long. The month before I had just joined masters swimming and was already seeing the benefits. I was joining teams around me and as Nova master’s moto states “creating a positive environment where excellence is inevitable”. Not that I was getting excellent but the mental side of knowing I was without excuse was a bit motivating! It was time to do work.
The Good (the lucky)
Things just started to work out after I started working within my focus. After climbing Haleakala I had logged 32 hours of training over the next seven days. Over three times my normal weekly volume. I got a little excited to start; however, I soon found that 20 hour something weeks were just rolling by week after week. What felt like a long process of getting started by adding one thing at a time grew into something that felt natural and effortless. I believed that God had something for me to learn beyond being able to hold 300watts on the bike or win some silly race. Going out for a ride with friends, knocking out 4 con-calls, eating my face off (with quality real food) and then finishing some proposals before learning how to improve my swim stroke were just part of a normal day. I got lucky again and again that things were just working out. It was easy on the mind just going with the flow and picking up some lessons along the way. I did not get lost in the details of individual workouts. It was about “work before work rate”, and at times “making it work” but “always being strong in the end”. I could hear the “suck it up buttercup” and reminders like keeping “races for racing” but not being afraid to “go fast and take chances” at times while remembering that “stress plus rest equals success”. All of these phrases began to fill my head and took meaning from the people who were stating these things. I was lucky to be surrounded by inspiration. The extra time I was putting into training forced me to get balanced in my life and has never been better. Training life at steady was letting me stay consistent and injury free and the time I was spending now at work was very focused. I learned as much about training from the pro’s at my work than from my training buddies.
The Bad (the learning)
I learned a lot about myself the last year and some of these longer races. I have had plenty of time to think out on the road when I am stripped down a bit and I made plenty of mistakes in the process this year. I won’t share them all here and I realize I’m usually a bit overly optimistic and would count it as all good anyways but there are some warnings I try to keep clear on.
As much as I talk about balance, it can be a tricky thing. The more flexibility that you have the more you can trick yourself into thinking that everything is okay when really things are about to fall apart. I have a lot of flexibility at work, with my relationships and the abuse my body can take. That is not the place to try and find your limits! There were many times this year when I was out of balance and again my team graciously helped me see the light before I was too deep in the hole. What I learned from this was to take note of the early warning signs from within and from the people closest to me. It is a lot easier to get back to balance when you keep it all close to your heart. One thing that Gordo would remind me of was to “back off before you need to” and that could go for all areas of my life…invest in the people around you before you need to, simplify before you have to and so on. Take care of the important before it is urgently overwhelming.
Not everyone is going to be on your team but you have the choice. The only thing that could go wrong with team work is if you pick the wrong team! The people around you can inspire you or feed the negative side of dream crushing (giving up on dreaming). I had to make some choices this year and unfortunately mentally set some people on “the other team” when I deal with them. We cannot always pick who we are around all of the time but we do control weather or not they are on our team.
Not taking a structured break all year from training was not that much of a drain on me. When I was tired I rested. Not having a structured training plan most of the year or schedule also made things interesting. I like adventure but I had to learn that there is a time for adventure and a time to follow a plan. Monique and I made some spontaneous trips for training camps, races, and purchases that were pretty darn exciting but there was a heavy cost physically, mentally and financially. Heading into Maui I am already minus four days PTO and at times always feeling like I am catching up because of these unplanned times. When you are in the rhythm there better be a good reason for breaking it. Sometimes change is good and getting out of your normal area and routine can be refreshing but no matter how trivial it maybe travel is stressful. Love where you live because some of the best gains you can make in life are right out from your front door.
By the time July rolled around, I was feeling pretty fit and with no mid-season break, a few back to back weeks of camping and some long summer days I got stuck chasing numbers to see just what “more” would get me. Unfortunately, I was looking at the numbers to tell me just what more was and found out a learning lesson the hard way…Don’t get stuck on numbers! The numbers can be helpful with training and tracking stuff but some of the best things in life cannot be recorded and simply must be enjoyed. No set of numbers can tell you when you are ready, behind or about to reaching your potential. There are simply too many factors at play and the experience of you knowing you must take priority. There can also be a fine line between love and lust when you go after something with a passion that someone from the outside may perceive as crazy. I had to be honest with myself about obsession or if I was getting weird(you know what kinda guys I’m talking about). I was willing to walk away from a race, goals or the idea at anytime if I got like those weird people or lost the balance. This was one of my checks outside of the numbers.
The DREAM CRUSHING (the unexpected)
As I found myself falling forward to achieve each of these goals, I found a melting of the goals together that created some sort of synergy as they were working back to me. The process became effortless. Striking a balance provided a consistency fueled by the team work and passion from learning about what it takes. I was no longer planning, thinking, dreaming…I was doing. As I strived to meet these goals I often found that they were often exceeded far beyond what I set out to accomplish in the first place. Often times as I looked back throughout the year I had to ask myself…”how in the heck did I get lucky enough to pull that off”? Enter the realm of dream crushing. The good happened but the list below was nowhere on my radar and simply crushed my dreams.
I was planning on trying to sleep more and eat better and not getting fired but there was more bonus to the balance of keeping it rolling. I was going longer but also getting stronger and without speed work I was getting faster at the same time. After doing 30 days of running at a humbling pace I ran a half marathon that was honestly faster than I ever thought I would run. Then I beat that time a month later off the bike at Oceanside Half Ironman. My only goal for my first ironman was to finish and I was lucky to race along side my wife and friends. Getting on the podium for my age group and a slot to Kona was no where on my radar. Racing with team DartNuun through the wilderness in the middle of the night was a treat only someone in the AR world would understand. Crushed! I have logged almost 70 hours of racing this year and never took a mid-season break (this should be under the lessons learned section) and I am now just weeks away from the starting line of the Ultraman World Championships a 3 day stage race in November! I love racing so this was bonus, bonus, BONUS! It’s been a long year of going long and it crushed my dreams!
There was plenty in my world of sport that was benefiting from the balance. What I did not plan on was the focus I have had at work, making the top producers, the improvement from changing my eating lifestyle rather than gutting out a diet, the enrichment I get when I have a conversation with someone I truly care about because I am more time conscious(read: strapped for time!). This also forces me to make time in my daily schedule to write, read and dream. Travel was also on the list but I am glad Monique and I were open to the destinations…we had a few trips planned this year but we didn’t have any of the four trips to Hawaii planed at all. Dream crush sneak attack! The diversity of people I have gotten to know over the last year have given me a lifetime of inspiration because of their unique perspectives. Some of the things that mean the most to me are always hard to talk/write about and these people definitely fall under that category. They pull something out of me that is the deep motivation I talk about. Dream crushing becomes the norm. If you tip the balance in just the right angle the momentum becomes effortless. The difference between being efficient and being effective was put into the light and I was thriving on defining it. These are the little details that I did not expect from a tight schedule and a focus on sport but now I would not want it any other way.
In the end my goal was to learn it, log it and share it so I hope in someway that my mistakes can be taken out of your next process whatever that maybe. It really is fun once you get going and I am sure you will end up climbing a lot higher than you set out to do in the first place. Chances are good that you will crush your dreams along the way! I am stoked about the work that I got to get in this year and I have learned so much from sport this year and I hope it continues to be a good school master for whatever the next stage in life is for Monique and me. I will probably not have as much time next year to devote to training but my goal for sport next year is to “get fast”. Plenty to learn there! I also need to setup my life to get ready for the next step. Good thing I have some notes on the process!